A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
In the not-so-distant future, overpopulation has led to draconian laws limiting families to no more than two children, and Population Police ruthlessly enforce the law. Thus Luke, his family's third child, has lived his entire life in hiding, and now that a new development is being built on the edge of his family's land, he can't even go into the yard anymore, nor can he go into rooms with windows, as the neighbors grow suspicious if the shades are pulled all the time.
This miserable, isolated existence is interrupted when he discovers another shadow child living in a nearby house, and risks his and his family's lives to meet her. But this other shadow, Jen, child of an official with the Population Police, is less passive about her situation -- she is organizing a protest march to try to free the shadow children.
Is it any good?
What makes this stand out among others in the dystopian genre (at least for children) is that it doesn't shy away from the bleakness or hopelessness of Luke's situation. It also doesn't avoid the logical consequences of the situation the author has set up. The first third of the book chronicles Luke's living situation, as his loving but terrified family increasingly constrict his world until he lives almost entirely alone in a windowless attic room, and readers can feel the arid claustrophobia of his life. But she does it in a way that is fascinating and suspenseful.
Along the way the author raises many issues -- none of them are simple -- which makes this a good choice for reading groups and book discussion groups. It's never clear, for instance, how real the overpopulation crisis really is, and both sides put out exaggerated propaganda that makes it hard to find the truth. There are no easy answers or pat endings here.