Monday, September 30, 2013

Among the Betrayed by Margaret Peterson Haddix

Among the Betrayed
I am teaching two history courses in addition to my regular day job and I really don't have the leisure time to read.  Of course, not having time to read has never stopped me before.  I read Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire in one day when I was in high school.  While attending all seven of my classes.

I have never lost my love of juvenile or young adult fiction.  Now that I am older, considerably older, I like to read juvenile and young adult fiction when I am too busy to read.  The shorter lengths and sheer fun make them like miniature mental vacations.


This book was . . .  not.

Hated it Strongly Disliked It
I originally started reading the Shadow Children series years ago and I came across it again while browsing in the library.  The first book in the series was also on the summer reading list for put-upon school kids across the great state of South Carolina.  I couldn't recall finishing the series and that is unusual for me.  I like to stick things through to the bitter end.  I plowed through the first two books in the series.  Among the Hidden and Among the Imposters were both great reads.  Then . . . Among the Betrayed.

It suddenly came back to me why I stopped reading this series.  Among the Betrayed put me in the fucked up position of kind of wishing a child would be put to death.  There-I just said it.  My main problem with this book was not the plot, not the supporting characters, and not the suspense and drama.  All of those things were present and pretty damn great.  My problem with this book is that the main character, Nina Idi, was just so lame.

One of the more interesting factors of the Shadow Children series is that Haddix has not chosen to present her characters as superhuman or even exceptional juvenile badasses.  They are not overly mature for their reported ages.  Their reactions and responses are not out of sync with their imagined realities.  They are real characters who suffer fear, doubt, selfishness, greed, and anger like actual people.  These characters are thoughtful.  They have some depth.

That does not seem to be the case with Nina Idi.  This character was introduced in Among the Imposters as a possible spy and informant for the Population Police.  We don't see very much of her in that book, but she comes across as confident, competent, relatively resourceful.

That girl was not in this book.  If this were a romance, this chick would be TSTL. (too stupid to live)

She's so bad that Alia, the six year old street urchin supporting character, was like, "girl please."  Think of every negative stereotype applied to your average middle school girl and combine that with an inexplicable helping of privilege and you get a character who is really kind of insufferable.

I was like, "okay. . . maybe this is just a thing."  One of the interesting features of the Shadow Children series is that a character might be introduced in one book and the next book might be told from that character's perspective.  Again, I appreciate the realism and I understand that we are all generally about 12 times more awesome from an outsiders perspective.  But . . . this chick made me tired. 

I finished the rest of the series and I would highly recommend all the other books.  This one, not so much.  It doesn't do girls any favors and it also seems really out of step with the larger story that is being told.  

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