Publication date: 10 May 2011 by Farrar Straus & Giroux
Category: Young Adult Verse Novel
Keywords: Kidnapping, friendship, forgiveness, compassion, camp
Source: Purchased from Vroman's Bookstore
When Wren Abbott and Darra Monson are eight years old, Darra's father steals a minivan. He doesn't know that Wren is hiding in the back. The hours and days that follow change the lives of both girls. Darra is left with a question that only Wren can answer. Wren has questions, too.
Years later, in a chance encounter at camp, the girls face each other for the first time. They can finally learn the truth—that is, if they’re willing to reveal to each other the stories that they’ve hidden for so long. Told from alternating viewpoints, this novel-in-poems reveals the complexities of memory and the strength of a friendship that can overcome pain.
I once had a parent tell me that she did not want her daughter (14 at the time) reading verse novels as they were "too short" and "too easy". I tried to tell her they are just different--that the form of the novel does tend towards brevity, but that extracting meaning from verse is sometimes a more difficult skill for kids to pick up. The parent was adamant, and I felt bad for her child--she'd be missing out on some great stories just because they were told in poetry format, or would at least until she is able to choose her own reading material. I hope that girl gets to read Hidden someday.
I connected at once with both Wren and Darra. I found it interesting that while both voices are very distinct, they had a lot of commonality, and that's really what a reader will take away from this book. The contrasts between the girls make it easier to focus on the things they share: fear of not belonging, love for their families, and a need for closure. Frost expresses their emotional state so well that most readers won't be able to put this down until they have cried at least once, and read it through twice (though the 2nd time is a special type of re-reading I can't tell you about. You will just have to try it yourself).
The realistic social situations the girls later find themselves in at camp counterpoint the strange and unpleasant circumstances under which they are first brought together, but bring to the fore the same questions and choices they originally faced: Am I a good person?, Should I help this stranger at the risk of endangering myself?, and What is the right thing to do? I found it especially satisfying that the surrounding secondary characters also seem to benefit and learn from the girls' healing process, instead of just conforming to the usual tween and teen tropes (mean girls, etc.).
While the book skews a bit to the middle grade voice, I think the true-crime aspect will appeal to a tougher crowd, reeling them in just long enough to become emotionally invested in the outcome of Wren & Darra's encounters. Frost's words cannot be taken simply at face value, and a desire to unpack the underlying themes will lead most readers to recommend this book to another, if only to have someone else to talk to about this book.
Visit the author online at www.helenfrost.net.