My 12-year-old son (& fellow participant in our year-long reading streak) and I read this book as a break after the very long conclusion to the Harry Potter series. This is the first book in Haddix's six (?) book long series about Luke Garner, an illegal third child in Haddix's dystopian world where families are only allowed to have two children.
We both really enjoyed this book. In fact, we picked up because, as I said, we were looking for something quick to read after we spent almost an entire year reading Harry Potter aloud. We finished The Deathly Hallows the day before I left on a four trip to Vegas. The terms of our reading streak require that we read at least 5 minutes every day, even when we have to do it by phone, and I wanted a book that would move quickly, since I foresaw that we have only brief opportunities to read while I was gone.
We ended up starting the book while I was on vacation, got through around the first 1/3 of it on the trip, and then powered through the remaining 2/3 in three days.
There is a lot of content to this slender book. Haddix does a good job building her world in very few words, and the entire book is basically seen through the perspective of Luke, who knows really nothing about his world when the book begins. He is 14, and hasn't left his property during his entire life. His world changes when houses are built next to his property and he loses the ability to go outside and eat dinner with his family because of the fear that he will be seen and reported by one of the new neighbors. Any pretense of normalcy for Luke disintegrates rapidly.
Haddix deals with issues of population control, totalitarianism, propaganda and information control, discrimination, and inequality in this short volume.
We originally intended to stop reading the Shadow Children after book 1, and to start on Gaiman's The Graveyard Book for Halloween. Last night, after we finished this book, Nick - looking rather longingly at the other five books on the bookshelf - sighed, and said "I wonder what happens to Luke next."
I can see where this is going to end up . . .