Frost, Helen. 2011. Hidden. New York: Frances Foster Books. ISBN 978-0-374-38221-6
Hidden is an emotionally charged novel in verse about two girls, Wren and Darra, and how their lives intersect at two dramatic points in time. When Wren was eight years old, she was inadvertently kidnapped by Darra's father. Unbeknownst to him, she was hiding in the back seat of her mother's car when he stole it. For two terrifying days, Wren was trapped inside Darra's garage, hungry and thirsty and wondering if she was ever going to see her family again. No one knew that she was even there, hiding inside a boat, except Darra. When she finally manages to escape, a series of events unfolds that lead to Darra's father's arrest and subsequent incarceration. Both girls are left emotionally scarred, and their lives will never be the same.
Now, six years later, Wren and Darra's lives converge once more. They both, coincidentally, are sent to the same summer camp and end up sharing the same cabin. The girls quickly recognize each other, but work hard to avoid any interaction or conversation regarding "what happened." This doesn't last long, however, as they soon share an intense experience during a game of Drown Last. A tentative friendship between Wren and Darra blossoms as a result. Both girls realize they still have many questions about what happened all those years ago that only the other can answer. As they grow closer, Wren and Darra are given some startling and unexpected news. What the future holds is unclear, but they know they can face it together.
Prior to Hidden, I had never read a verse novel before, and I wasn't sure what to expect. I can tell you I wasn't expecting to be so emotionally affected. Frost's story grabbed me instantly and didn't let me go until the last page. I read this young adult novel in one sitting, completely riveted. When I reached the end, I was sad that it was over. I wanted to keep reading about these characters I had quickly grown to love. I am actually jealous of other readers out there who have yet to read this beautiful novel; they still have the chance to experience it for the first time.
Frost's story unfolds by alternating between Wren's and Darra's points of view. She uses a different poetic structure for each girl. Wren's poems are written in free verse. The reader is given her point of view during her entire "kidnapping," as well as her time at summer camp, six years later. Darra's point of view gives the reader some backstory of her father's criminal activities as well as how her life is affected by her father's incarceration. Additionally, we are given her point of view on how she experienced summer camp.
Darra's point of view is written in a structure Frost invented specifically for this book. This innovative structure contains hidden messages that give the reader more insight into Darra's thoughts. I found this to be truly brilliant. The words at the end of the long lines form new sentences that tell the reader both about Darra's life when she was little and how she perceived the events that occurred six years ago.
The language Frost uses really brings this story to life. The imagery was so vivid that I could almost feel the sand rubbing against Wren's face in the backseat of the car; I could almost smell the odor of cigarettes that clung to the gray sweatshirt. When Wren heard Darra's and Stacey's voices for the first time in six years, I was feeling the same anxiety that she was. Frost is truly a master of her craft.
Hidden is intended for readers ages 10 and older. Therefore, this was one book I did not share with my much younger children. I am, however, keeping it on a TBR list for when they get older. In the meantime, I plan on immersing myself in Frost's other works. She is a true gift to the world of children's literature.
2012 Lee Bennett Hopkins Children's Poetry Award Honor Book
2012 ALA Notable Book
A Kirkus Reviews Best Children's Book of 2011
Sylvia Vardell's "Top 20 Children's Poetry Books of 2011"
From BOOKLIST - "Like Frost's Printz Honor Book, Keesha's House (2003), this novel in verse stands out through its deliberate use of form to illuminate emotions and cleverly hide secrets in the text."
From VOYA - "Many teen readers will identify with Wren and Darra and how events that happened to us when we were younger help shape the person we become."
From KIRKUS REVIEWS - "Frost's tale exhibits her trademark character development that probes the complexities of intimate relationships...Both tender and insightful, this well-crafted, fast paced tale should have wide teen appeal."
Read other verse novels by Helen Frost. Discuss similarities in form and which one students liked best.
- Frost, Helen. Diamond Willow. ISBN 978-0312603830
- Frost, Helen. Crossing Stones. ISBN 978-0374316532
- Frost, Helen. The Braid. ISBN 978-0374300715
- Frost, Helen. Keesha's House. ISBN 978-0312641276
Hidden is a fictional tale. Have a discussion with your students about whether or not the events in this story could happen in real life.
Challenge your students to write a poem like the ones Frost used for Darra's point of view, where the last word of each line tells a "hidden" story.
Have your students write about which girl, Wren or Darra, they would like to be friends with and why.
Write a story that tells Wren's family's point of view. What were they thinking when Wren disappeared? What did they do?