Among the Free Summary

Margaret Peterson Haddix

Among the Free

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Among the Free Summary

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Among the Free is the seventh and concluding novel of the Shadow Children series of dystopian science fiction novels by Margaret Peterson Haddix. The series describes a country where overpopulation and constricted resources have led to drastic measures to reduce the population, most notably the law that any child born to a family with two existing children—the so-called Shadow Children—must be taken into government custody where they are frequently killed.

Luke Garner, an illegal third child, is awaiting his assignment with the Population Police. Garner has been undercover working with the police at their stables in the hopes of finding a way to strike a revolutionary blow. Luke is ordered to accompany an officer on a seemingly simple mission to distribute new identification cards to citizens at a remote village. The villagers are openly resentful of the police, and an old woman openly defies the officer’s orders. The officer orders Luke to shoot the old woman, but Luke refuses. Luke runs away, and the villagers swarm the officer.

Luke knows he is in trouble and remains in the wilderness, hiding. He contemplates the fate of his old friend Jen Talbot, who is dead. Jen was a Third Child, but born to a rich and powerful Baron family, whom Luke became very close to; Jen was later executed along with dozens of other children by the police, right outside her home. He meets a boy who also works at the stables and has to get away from him before the boy realizes what’s going on. He makes his way to a nearby village where everyone is starving. Luke discovers that his act of defiance has sparked unrest, and the villagers are very welcoming to him. Eli tells Luke that as far as the villagers are concerned, Luke is more important than anyone in the village. When the Population Police arrive looking for Luke, the villagers risk everything by hiding him. Eli tells Luke that long ago, the village gave up the names of families hiding Shadow Children in exchange for food, only to find their own children taken away. Eli helps Luke sneak away.

Making his way to another village, Luke is stunned to hear that there has been a large-scale revolution and the Population Police have been overthrown. Families appear on television telling their stories about illegal third children. Luke joins a contingent of villagers who march on the government center, where Luke is dismayed to discover that Oscar Wydell, the former bodyguard of Smits Grant, the spoiled son of one of the most powerful baron families in the country, is working behind the scenes to seize power. Oscar is conspiring with Aldous Krakenaur, the leader of the Population Police, with a scheme to blame the Third Children for the crimes actually committed by the Population Police. They are manipulating the news broadcasts that are supposedly allowing families to tell their stories; Wydell and Krakenaur are twisting this to sow propaganda.

Luke realizes that the only way to combat the lies being spread is to risk his own life in a dramatic and very public way. Luke sees a horse he named Jen after his old friend and climbs onto it to rush the stage where the television broadcast is being filmed. Using the horse’s intimidating size the same way the police always did, he rushes past the guards. Once he is on stage, Oscar and the other conspirators cannot do anything without it being seen by everyone, so Luke knows he is safe for the moment. On camera, he tells the truth, relating everything he has seen. He reveals that he is a Third Child himself. The risk of admitting this immediately lends credibility to everything he has said.

Philip Twinings, a famous newscaster who remembers life before the famine that saw the rise of the Population Police, protects Luke from retaliation and urges him to sit for an interview to tell his story. Wydell and the other conspirators hesitate to do anything on camera that would betray their true intentions. Luke agrees, telling his life story, which is the plot of the previous books in the series. He also tells what he knows about Smits and Oscar Wydell, as well as all the other Third Children he has known.

Moved by Luke’s story and convinced that what he says is true, the crowd seeks out Oscar and Krakenaur, discovering that the pair, realizing what was happening, has already slipped away, fleeing into the countryside.

Luke meets up with his friends Nina and Trey—also Third Children. They gather at a house for a celebration, and Luke is stunned to realize that all of his dreams are now possible to achieve.