44 pages 1 hour read

Margaret Peterson Haddix

Among the Impostors

Fiction | Novel | Middle Grade | Published in 2001

A modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, SuperSummary offers high-quality Study Guides with detailed chapter summaries and analysis of major themes, characters, and more.

Summary and Study Guide


Margaret Peterson Haddix’s Among the Impostors is the second book in the Shadow Children series, following Among the Hidden. The titles published after Among the Impostors are Among the Betrayed, Among the Barons, Among the Brave, Among the Enemy, and Among the Free. Haddix is also the author of several other books for young adults and has won several awards for her work. They include the Reading Association Children’s Book Award, ALA Best Books for Young Adults, and Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Adult Readers citations.

Plot Summary

Among the Hidden picks up the story of shadow child Luke Garner as he takes on a false identity and enrolls in Hendricks School for Boys. Shadow children, or third-born children to parents who already have two children, are illegal. The Population Law in the dystopian society where Luke resides condemns to death any shadow children who are discovered alive. Luke’s only options are to spend his life in hiding or adopt a fake identity. The beginning of the book starts with Luke’s first day at Hendricks as Lee Grant—his new false identity. The real Lee Grant died in a skiing accident and his family decided to use his identity card to help a third child. Luke enrolls in the school with the help of George Talbot, the father of his deceased friend Jen Talbot. Mr. Talbot is a member of the Population Police, the entity that enforces the Population Law, but also devotes his time to illegally helping third children. His daughter, Jen, was a third child who died leading a rally to help fight for the rights of all third children.

The first chapters of the book chart Luke’s difficult initial weeks at the school. Mr. Talbot secretly hands Luke a folded note on his first day that Luke is unable to read because he has no privacy. He experiences bullying, particularly by his roommate, whom he calls “jackal boy,” and feels overwhelmed with confusion, loneliness, and fear. He doesn’t understand the layout of the school or any of the material taught in his classes. He wants to help third children like his friend Jen, but feels he’ll never be as courageous as she was. Luke’s experience begins to change when he discovers an open door to the outside and discovers the woods by the school. Most of the schoolboys do not go outside—the school has no windows, and all of the doors are locked, except for the one Luke finds.

Once in the woods, Luke finally reads Mr. Talbot’s note. He is disappointed and discouraged by the note’s message, and he plans to return to the woods. He sneaks out daily and starts planting a garden, which helps to give him confidence. When he finds his garden destroyed one day, he angrily vows to find the culprits. He follows some boys out the open door one night and confronts them in the woods. However, he realizes that they aren’t responsible for destroying his garden and learns that they are third children, like himself. One of them is jackal boy, who says his real name is Jason. All the boys have multiple identities, but not all of them are willing to give their real names. They meet regularly in the woods, with Jason telling Luke that their goal is to subvert the government and help third children.

Luke finds school much easier to navigate with his newfound friends. Jason stops bullying him and Luke begins to settle into his classes, learning information that he didn’t know before. The night before his finals, he notices that Jason is not in bed. When Luke sneaks out to search for him, he overhears Jason on a cellphone reporting the identity of four of the boys in the group that meets in the woods. Luke then overhears Jason say he’s a member of the Population Police. In disbelief, Luke confronts him, calling Jason an informer. When Jason tries to approach him, Luke hits Jason with his textbook and knocks him unconscious. Luke then quickly drags Jason to the nurse and formulates a story about why Jason is unconscious, then breaks into the front office for Lee Grant’s personal file. He retrieves Mr. Talbot’s number and calls him, cryptically warning him that something is going on at the school.

The next day, an officer from the Population Police shows up at the school to arrest third children. However, Mr. Talbot comes in behind him with Jason in shackles, telling the officer that Jason is the illegal third child he wants. After Luke takes his final exams, his history teacher asks him to stay after class. He takes Luke to a cottage behind the school where Luke meets Mr. Hendricks, the founder of the school, who is joined by Mr. Talbot. Mr. Hendricks explains that he founded the school to harbor third children, as well as other children society has deemed undesirable. Mr. Hendricks tells Luke that they have noticed that he is different from the other third children. They think he’s now ready to move on to another school. Luke objects, telling them he wants to stay at the school and help the other children. At the end of the book, Luke is teaching some of the other boys how to plant a garden, having gained the courage and confidence he once thought he lacked.