8 year old Wrenn is sitting in her mom's gold mini-van when she hears a gunshot. She quickly hides in the backseat as a man enters the van and speeds off. The man has stolen the van without knowing that there is a child in the backseat. Wrenn finds herself alone, scared and unintentionally kidnapped. Each time the kidnapper opens the door that leads into his house, Wrenn gets a glimpse of his family- his wife Stacey and 8 year old daughter Darra. When Stacey learns that there is a stolen car in her garage, she gets a black eye. When Darra hears on the news that there was a little girl inside that stolen car, she is told to turn off the news. Darra has a feeling that the girl is hiding in the garage and worries about what will happen if her dad finds her- so she is determined to find her and help her escape. Wrenn does escape and the police are lead to the house and the man is arrested.
Flash forward 7 years and it seems that Wrenn has grown up to be a happy, well-adjusted teenager. She is just settling into camp when she notices a new camper who is not at all happy to be there. When the new girl runs off, her mother calls after her and to Wrenn's surprise and terror, the camper is Darra- the daughter of the man who kidnapped her 7 years ago.
The 2 girls end up in the same cabin and in the same activities. They are forced to deal with feelings that they have been hiding all these years. Darra is angry- angry at Wrenn for getting her dad arrested and causing her parents to get divorced. Wrenn is overwhelmed with emotions from anger to terror- she didn't even know she felt that way until now.
That is all I will tell you about Wrenn and Darra. This story begs to be unfolded by the reader and not the reviewer.
At one time, Darra is out on a glass bottom boat- the kind of boat that you can look through and see right into the water. She sees all of these sunken ships that are resting on the bottom of the lake. She realizes that no matter how calm the water looks, you never know what is hiding just under the surface. That passage sums up this novel perfectly. Children (and adults) are walking around this great big world with a whole lot of stuff on their minds- issues from their past, problems they have now and worries about the future. Just because someone puts on a happy face and looks calm on the outside doesn't mean there isn't a hurricane brewing on the inside. This book will inadvertently teach kids to stop and think about other people before they pass judgement. An example from my experience- I am not quick to judge a rude store clerk because you never, ever know what they are going through. May be they just flunked a test or their grandma died or their parents got divorced today. You just never know- you should give people the benefit of the doubt- and I think that is a message that kids will walk away with after reading Hidden.
Hidden is a free verse novel written in alternating chapters. Free verse novels are great for tweens. The spacing of the text on the page is perfect, providing plenty of white space. Kids tend to get overwhelmed by too much text. The second I open a book with lots of small words, they freak out! I love that a tween reader can pick up a book with great substance and not be impeded by the text. And- lots of kids who can relate to this book may be reluctant readers... I will say that I have to talk to my students about a novel written in verse before I just hand it to them. I explain that it looks a little different, but it reads just like a book. Helen Frost worked extra hard on this free verse novel, because upon further reading, kids will discover a hidden story within the story. I would hand this book to any student grades 4 and up. Because the main characters are girls, boys may hesitate to pick it up, unless you can sell them on the great story. I dare the Newbery Committee to snub this book!