Among the Free
Margaret Peterson Haddix
Simon & Schuster Books, 2006
This is the seventh and final book in the Shadow Children Sequence; the first book is Among the Hidden. If you have not read the earlier books, you should read them first. This book, and this review, will make very little sense otherwise. If you continue to read, be warned, this review contains spoilers for the series.
Wrapping up the series, we return to Luke, who is isolated and feeling somewhat useless. During the past few books we have seen all the adventures that his friends have gotten into, but when he infiltrated the Population Police Luke was assigned a low and rather unimportant duty -- cleaning the stables. This has kept him out of all the action, prevented him from gathering any useful information, and kept him absolutely out of the whole overthrowing-the-government thing. This changes suddenly one morning when he an a handful of other boys are yanked out of the stables and pressed into active duty.
Well, it changes a little. At least he finds out that big things are happening -- apparently his friends have made some good progress -- but his adventures are mostly of the getting-something-to-eat and trying-not-to-freeze sort. After the action of the past few books, Free is a bit of a slow-down, with lots of pondering over morals, personal responsibility, and what it means to be free. Luke spends a lot of time being pushed around, chased, and in hiding, and it is sometimes frustrating how little a hand he has in the events of the story. Things do eventually pick up, but this book is a considerable change in pace from the earlier books. Which doesn't mean that it is boring, but it did take a while for me to get used to the idea that this series was not ending with a sudden burst of everything coming together quickly and neatly, but rather in a slow and complicated series of setbacks.
Obviously, Free contains spoilers for the whole series, so I will skim over nearly the entire book, and simply say that it is a satisfying conclusion to the series. We do not see many of the others, and when we do see them we don't see much of them; this is very much Luke's story.
Obviously, if you have read the first six books, you should read this one. In theory you could skip directly from Among the Barons (Luke's last real appearance) to Among the Free, but the intervening books are a lot of fun and contain some very important events, so I would not recommend this unless you are in dire straits indeed.
Among the Enemy // Among the Free