In Margaret Peterson Haddix's The Shadow Children series, it's a dystopian world where people aren't allowed to have more than two children. It appears as if it's set in the future of our world.

When are they set?


It's deliberately left unclear, but maybe ~2020.

Ms Haddix used to have the answer to this question published among the FAQ on her website (you can still see a snapshot of the page here using the Wayback Machine):

What is the setting of Among the Hidden?

You may have noticed that I never actually gave an exact time and place for the story. I didn’t just forget to—I did this on purpose. I wanted readers to think about whether this is something that could happen in the United States, if there were droughts and famines and an extreme change in the government. But I didn’t want to come out and say that, partly because all the explanation would have bogged down the story, and partly because I thought a lot of people would think, “Nope, that could never happen here!” and then dismiss the whole book. So I wanted to make readers think.

I could have given an exact year—I was picturing everything as happening twenty or thirty years in the future. But it’s always bothered me that the book 1984 lost some of its effect after 1984 came and passed, so I didn’t want to be that precise.

So the author imagined it as being 20-30 years on from when she wrote them (the late 90s to early 2000s), but she didn't want readers to think of it that way, but rather as a vague 'future time'.

I don't know of any indicators in the text itself which point to a particular year or period. However, even if there are such indicators, I would consider them to be of lesser value than the author's statement in this case. Given that she intended not to set a precise date for events in the book, it follows that if anything in the text does suggest one, it must be a mistake or accidental, and therefore unlikely to be as consistent with other things as if it were calculated.

If, for example, there was a mention in the text of the centennial anniversary of something that happened in 1960, I wouldn't take this as evidence that the book is set in 2060, but rather as an unplanned oversight or even a mathematical mistake (it has happened with other authors). It's more important that the author had "twenty or thirty years in the future" (i.e. ~2020) in her mind while writing - this might have influenced the text in other, more subtle and more deliberate, ways, while anything which definitively dates it would only be by mistake.

So I feel that for this particular question, and given what exactly the author has said, authorial intent is the best lens to be using, rather than examining the text for (inadvertent) hints and clues.

  • Can you please edit this so that it shows some support from the text? – Mithical Apr 17 '17 at 19:19
  • @Mithrandir No, because a) I don't have the text and b) as suggested by that very quote, the text itself is deliberately vague as to when it's meant to be set. I do, however, plan to edit this answer to include some explanation as to why, in this particular case, we should take the author's word for it rather than trying to spot things in a close reading. – Rand al'Thor Apr 17 '17 at 19:23

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