Allison Parker's Reviews > Hidden

Hidden by Helen Frost
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's review
Aug 17, 2011

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bookshelves: young-adult, novels-in-verse
Read on August 17, 2011

When Wren and Darra meet in summer camp, a flash of recognition touches them both. What they cannot bear to discuss as young adults is the experience that united them as children: Darra's father, now in prison, in stealing a family car unwittingly kidnapped Wren. As Wren hid in his garage, terrified beyond measure, Darra realized what had happened and left food out for her. After several days, Wren finally escaped and was found by police, who then tracked down the man who had accidentally traumatized the little girl. Now that the two girls are grown and reunited, the shame, anger, and terror of those days bubbles to the surface, nearly preventing each to understand and care about the other.

Helen Frost is a clever writer. The dual story of these girls is a compelling one, especially in considering and comparing the emotional battles in each. But Frost goes further in establishing nuanced layers of character introspection by giving not just individual voices to her protagonists, but individual poetic styles as well. Wren's story, at time both of abduction and of her camp days, is written in elegantly short free verse, while Darra's point of view is told through longer yet more structured lines, in which every third line is longer than the previous two. The meaning of Darra's unique poetic form is made clear in Frost's backnote, where she illustrates how to discover additional hidden expressions in Darra's story. This extra bit of decoding to be done after the book is seemingly finished may enchant some readers, but I found the poetic secret not worth the cost of the first read. Darra's portions of narration might be beautiful prose without the distracting, at first appearances, senseless lines her words are wrestled into. Perhaps there is some additional literary commentary to be made here, about Darra, the unsong and unheard victim, whose poetic constraints mirror that of her life and family, as opposed to the freer expressions of the girl with more wealth, more domestic stability. Yet Darra makes it clear that she doesn't want sympathy and that her father is still deserving as a daughter's love. I suspect that, in unwavering commitment to the "hidden" message readers only discover postscript, Frost made form follow function to an extreme. But that adage only makes sense if the function is known.

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