Luke is the third child in his family, the youngest of three brothers, which makes him illegal. Only two children are allowed in each family — additional children are usually prevented from being born or are killed. Luke's family lives on a farm, where isolation and a ready food supply have helped hide Luke. When his family is forced to sell part of their property to the government, a new neighborhood springs up behind their house.
This starts a chain reaction that puts increasing pressure on Luke and his family. Luke can no longer go outside — it's not safe with so many new neighbors. The government decides that Luke's family can no longer raise pigs in addition to their crops, because the smell will offend their wealthy new neighbors. Large, new houses in the area mean their own family's farmland increases in value, which sounds good, but also means an increase in their property tax. With less income and access to food, along with higher bills, Luke's mom must take a factory job to help make ends meet. Then she tries to squeeze a day's worth of chores into the evenings, after working 12-hour shifts.
Meanwhile, Luke is increasingly limited in his activities. First he is unable to go outside, then even into a room with windows (because suspicions are raised by closed window shades). This means he can't join his family at the table for meals, and it becomes difficult for him to carry on a conversation with them from the attic steps. Slowly the isolation the family has been playacting begins to affect the reality of their relationships as well.
Being largely confined to the attic, and alone much of the day, Luke gets cabin fever. Longing for contact with the outside world, he regularly watches the new neighborhood through vents in the attic walls. Doing so, he makes the surprising discovery that one of their neighbors appears to have a third, hidden child as well. One day, after weeks of careful observation and planning, he sneaks over to their house,...
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