For me the most affecting part of Among the Hidden is Luke's isolation, how he spends the beginning of the book in a strange sort of limbo that's drawn more and more tightly around him as the story progresses. First the outdoors are taken away, then the ability to eat in the kitchen, then he can't even walk by a shuttered window for fear of someone seeing his shadow.
What's left? He sits in his room. He rereads books. He eats in the stairwell. There are some attempted conversations with his brothers, but really, what is there to say?
Everything changes when he comes into the orbit of fellow 3rd child Jen. Jen, though Hidden like him, is allowed outdoors on shopping trips and interacts with a large number of other kids online. It struck me how much bolder Jenny is in terms of characterization than Luke. She's brash, smart, passionate and more than a little entitled while Luke is basically a nice young man, dutiful and curious. Put next to Jen he seems sweet if a little bland. That starts to change though once they begin to interact. Jen offers him new ideas about the government's laws and their fairness, she gives him new books (leading to his attempt to get his Dad into hydroponics) and finally she offers him a way to act that might change his world for the better.
It's not until Luke begins the struggle to assimilate these ideas that we see him come into focus and his characterization broadens and deepens.
I think this is a great look at how all of our personalities are built. We grow up at home with our families, safe and sheltered, and it isn't until we start venturing out on our own and encountering new disruptive ideas that we begin the process of becoming who we are. One person after another crashes into us leaving little behind bits of their personality, their values and beliefs. You take some whole or in part, you react against others, you leave others behind.
I know, for me, my interest and pursuit of the arts was inspired by people I met growing up. I can't even begin to imagine all the ramifications of that. My sense of humor was seriously informed by watching endless Steve Martin movies with my high school friends. My analytical nature was focused and intensified by experiences I had with teachers and fellow students in college. Some early awkward attempts at friendships and dating also made me a little shy, a little tentative, a little slow to get to know people. I finally became comfortable with who I am and where I am in life because of my wife.
It's hard to even conceive of myself without these experiences. Without these people in my life I think I'd be about as blank as Luke seems before he has that first encounter with Jen.
What do you guys think? How much of who you are is because of the effect others had on you? Who would you be if you were one of the Hidden?