Among the Hidden Luke asked again. “Why’d you have to sell the woods?” Luke’s dad harrumphed, and paused in the midst of shoveling forkfuls of boiled potatoes into his mouth. “Told you before. We didn’t have a choice. Government wanted it. You can’t tell the Government no. Mother came over and gave Luke’s shoulder a reassuring squeeze before turning back to the stove. They had defied the Government once, with Luke. That had taken all the defiance they had in them. Maybe more. “We wouldn’t have sold the woods if we hadn’t had to,” she said, ladling out thick tomatoey soup. The Government didn’t ask us if we wanted houses there.” She pursed her lips as she slid the bowls of soup onto the table. “But the Government’s not going to live in the houses,” Luke protested. At twelve, he knew better, but sometimes he still pictured the Government as a very big, mean, fat person, two or three times as tall as any ordinary man, who went around yelling at people, “Not allowed!” and “Stop that!” It was because of the way his parents and older brothers talked: “Government won’t let us plant corn there again.” “Government’s keeping the prices down.” “Government’s not going to like this crop.” (p2) .... There was a law against Luke. Not him personally – everyone like him, kids who were born after their parents already had two babies. (p6) …. “Want something to eat or drink?” she [Jen] asked, hesitating at the doorway to the grand kitchen. “I was so surprised, I forgot to be a good hostess the last time. What’ll it be? Soda? Potato chips?” “But those are illegal,” Luke protested. He remembered reading something about junk food in one of the books in the attic and asking his mother about it. She’d explained that it was something people used to eat all the time, until the Government shut down the factories that made it. She wouldn’t tell him why. But, as a special treat, she’d brought out a bag of potato chips she’d been saving for years and shared them, just with him. They were salty, but hard to chew. Luke had pretended to like them only because Mother seemed to want him to. “Yeah, well, we’re illegal, too, so why shouldn’t we enjoy ourselves?” Jen asked, thrusting a bowl of chips at him. To be polite, Luke took one chip. And then another. And another. These potato chips were so good, he had to hold himself back from grabbing them by the handful. Jen stared at him.
“Do you go hungry sometimes?” she asked in a low voice. “No,” Luke said in surprise. “Some shadow children do because they don’t have food ration cards, and the rest of their family doesn’t share,” she said, opening a refrigerator that was bigger than every appliance in the Garners’ kitchen put together. “My family can get all the food we want, of course, but” – she looked at him in a way that once again made him conscious of his ragged clothes – “How does your family get food for you?” (p79-80) Source: Haddix, M. P. (1998). Among the Hidden . New York: Aladdin Paperbacks