When I first started teaching, there was a “trouble” student (he did wear a nail through his ear and he did have a penchant for destroying things) who was reading this book called Among the Hidden. The cover had this scared looking boy looking from behind the shadows. I thought it was a horror book.
These 8th graders didn’t know anything about Shakespeare or The Odyssey, unlike my freshmen honors class from student teaching, so how would I reach them? The Outsiders continues to sell itself for student appeal, but what do you teach the other eight months of the year? (especially when students need an independent reading novel as part of the curriculum)
I sat down to read this one Saturday morning in my apartment when my wife and I were first married. (Before lawns, diapers, and dog food – no particular order.)
I read the entire book that Saturday morning. I was very surprised that it wasn’t a Goosebumps/R.L. Stine or Christopher Pike-type book. This was a book that challenged the extent of the government, what freedoms we sacrifice to be comfortable, and told a great story interwoven through the ideals. Sure, I knew that The Giver and A Wrinkle in Time were young adult books that we learned about in college (a woot! to my Transall Saga group from Jean Boreen’s class is in order), but could current authors educate beyond an Avedra Kavedra curse?
- Luke is your typical YA hero that gets caught up in a story that is bigger than himself, but this one broke the mold when main characters can actually die (no actual spoilers in that statement, I swear). This realism pulls on kids.
- Students love to read a series. This is my “go to” book to get a student hooked on reading. Many will love this, just like The Outsiders has staying power.
- There’s not much action in the first part of the book. The exposition sets up an idyll lifestyle on a farm that gets trashed when the Barons bring in their malls and uber-suburbia. I remember having to tell my student, Dallas, “No, I swear it’s a good book. Just wait ’til the people start dying.”
- The series really comes into its own in Among the Betrayed, Among the Brave, and Among the Enemy when the reader follows different characters. If you read the series too quickly, you’ll realize some similarities start to become cliche in the stories around Luke, but they’re so minor that students could care less. (Series of Unfortunate Events in point: orphans are brought in by idiot relative, idiot relative is offed by Olaf, Olaf escapes, orphans still have Unfortunate life – truth in advertising) Give some time between the books and you realize that Haddix is re-hashing things for students to remember what type of world Luke lives in. We have the luxury now of reading all seven at a glance. Imagine having to wait a couple of years to find out what Luke did after he fell down the shaft when Vader revealed that he was the father. (I have Luke obsessions.)
Overall: Still my “go to” book throughout the years for both boys and girls.