Hidden by Helen Frost (2011)

8901945A hidden girl, hidden feelings, and messages for the reader hidden in the text itself–there’s a lot to find in this novel in verse.

Recommended grade level: 5-9

Pages: 176 (for ISBN 9781250056849)

Genre(s) and keywords: realistic fiction, verse (partially)

Tone/Style: thoughtful, dramatic

Pace: moderate

Topics: summer camp, kidnapping, incarcerated parents

Themes: facing unwanted memories, facing a person who hurt you in the past, loss

Summary: When Wren and Darra meet at age fourteen, they recognize each other instantly, though they’ve never actually met. It has been six years since something happened that affected each of them profoundly: Darra’s father stole a car and drove it home, not knowing that Wren was hiding in the back. Darra was the only one who guessed that Wren stayed hidden in their locked garage—how could she help Wren and still protect her father?

For Wren, hungry, thirsty, trapped and terrified, not knowing who to trust, the hours dragged on as she searched for a way out.

Now, in Cabin Eight at Camp Oakwood, each girl knows the other’s most private secret—and neither of them wants to talk about what happened.

For the most part, they manage to avoid each other—until their Lifesaving teacher introduces a game called “Drown Last,” and Wren and Darra meet underwater in an intense encounter that leaves them both gasping for air—and answers—when they surface. (Source)

Who will like this book?: The unusual premise of this story puts a twist on the interpersonal struggles common to middle schoolers. The circumstances are dramatic, but not overplayed. Readers who want moderate doses of drama, secrecy, and relationship angst will find it all in this title. The secret messages hidden in the text add an extra layer of intrigue.

Who won’t like this book?: Given the dramatic circumstances, some readers may find themselves craving more explosive conflict.

Other comments: This book contains “secret messages” that can be read using the last word of some lines to reveal more about Darra’s emotions. I booktalked this title to a group of students and some had read it in class the year before; they were fans.


What to read next: Salt and Diamond Willow are other novels in verse written by Frost for middle school age-readers. Those who like decoding messages in poetry will also enjoy  Rhyme Schemer by K.A. Holt. Readers who like the tension and kidnapping element of the early part of the story may enjoy books by April Henry or Caroline B. Cooney.


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