Haddix sequel is no Imposter

Among the Imposters by Margaret Peterson Haddix; published by Aladdin Paperbacks, an imprint of Simon & Schulster Children’s Publishing Division, New York, 2001; 172 pages.

Luke Garner is now Lee Grant. Jen’s father, George Talbot, arranged for the boy to assume the identity of a young man, the recently deceased son of Barons, so that he may escape the fate all third children are destined for: death.  Mr. Talbot delivers Lee Grant to the  Hendricks School for Boys.  Immediately, Luke/Lee is out of place, struggling to “blend in,” as Mr. Talbot’s sneaked note advised.  He is bullied by a roommate but ignored by virtually everyone else at the school: by students and teachers alike.  Even with all the struggles he finds at school, he deeply misses his family and cannot let go of his grief over Jen’s death; he wants desperately to make her death mean something.  Luke/Lee finds respite in sneaking out of the windowless school every afternoon.  He is comforted by doing familiar tasks: clearing the ground to create a garden.  When the garden is destroyed, he meets a group of boys and girls (from the neighboring girls’ school) who are all shadow children, like Luke.  Something about Jason, Luke’s abusive roommate and leader of the shadow boys, is not right.  After overhearing a terrifying phone call, Luke realizes that Jason is an officer with the Population Police.  A frantic call to Mr. Talbot results in Jason’s arrest with the secrets of Hendricks revealed: The school is a haven for shadow children.  When Mr. Hendricks and Mr. Talbot tell Luke/Lee that he is ready to move out into the “real world,” Luke proposes a way to stay and help the other children: teach them how to garden.  Since a food shortage was the impetus for the restrictions on family size, Luke reckons that fighting back with food is the logical first step in regaining independence and identity for all of the shadow children.

I finished this book in a flash.  It is the next title we’re discussing in the middle school book club I am participating in.  The tension from the opening pages set my heart pounding and it didn’t stop until the meeting with Mr. Talbot and the philanthropist Mr. Hendricks.  Haddix’s prose is spare but tight; she only provides enough information to set our “spidey senses tingling” to warn that something is not right, but she hasn’t given away the fateful twist.  I actually found this book better written than the first.  I cannot wait to hear what the teens have to say about it!  I’m not surprised that YALSA included this on the Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers list in 2002!

4P     5Q     Grade Level: 5-8 (and older Hi-Lo readers)

Cover Art: The crack of blue sky through the doorway is intriguing, as are the blurry images of the children.  Of course, anyone familiar with the first book will realize that these images depict the shadow children.  I think this cover works well for the readers of Haddix’s Shadow Children series but I don’t think it’s images would draw in other readers.

Suggested Reading List: The Way It Could Be (Science Fiction or Fantasy)

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