This book was so intriguing! It’s described as Romeo and Juliet meets Indiana Jones with dinosaurs – who doesn’t want to read such an epic sounding story? I was lucky enough to win a copy through the HarperCollins Canada’s First Look Program in exchange for an honest review.
The story is set in the late 1800s, around the time when the massive paleontological discoveries of dinosaurs were taking place, historically known as The Bone Wars. Our protagonists, Samuel Bolt and Rachel Cartland are just coming into adulthood, learning under their fathers whom are both famous names in the blossoming field of research. But their fathers are bitter rivals and have no problems taking shots both verbally and physically at one another, with Sam and Rachel caught in the middle.
I honestly didn’t know what to expect from this book, but I liked that the story was told from both Sam’s and Rachel’s point of view, each given a different font to correspond with their narration. Since I have an ARC copy, I did notice times when the font wasn’t changed and the point of view was confusing, or when paragraph spacing was missed between point of views, but that’s to be expected. What I found really interesting about the writing style was that there were moments where both Sam and Rachel would suddenly begin narrating in the second person! The abrupt use of ‘you’ was a little weird, but I actually found it endearing and it brought me into their relationship at the heart of the moment.
The writing was simple but detailed in little ways. Kenneth Oppel is a household name for Canadian children’s novels, and he lives up to his reputation as a writer who knows how to use simple writing to imply details not bluntly stated, such as the sexual portions of the novel. I loved that he didn’t shy away from the sexual moments in the book and knows that teenagers, no matter what time period, are always aware of it. He paints realistic characters into a gritty adventurous world!
While Every Hidden Thing is a love story, I like that the major focus was on the plot and that the characters didn’t have whimsical kisses that moved the earth and the stars – in fact, both Sam and Rachel learn about one another and the way they would like to be loved together, one step at a time. The story was as much a coming-of-age story as it was a teenage romance, which I actually appreciate because that was realistic for teens their age at the time, and also puts weight behind their ambitious and often risky actions. Talk of sex, marriage, and managing money added dynamic to the characters and their story.
Characters were everything to this story! Every action causes a reaction, and personalities are always clashing in this book. On one hand, Sam has a strong spontaneous personality and a temper, but is also sweet, thoughtful, and a hopeless romantic. On the other hand, Rachel is intelligent and logical while also being passionate and emotional. Both are extremely ambitious characters and I love that Oppel never portrays either of them as perfect! The two grow to understand both their faults and embrace their strengths, and it made for a sweet romance.
That being said, both their fathers had strong personalities as well, and were definitely far from perfect. Cartland was scheming, arrogant, and patronizing, while Bolt was clumsy, dismissive, and headstrong. But I love that, as the novel went on, though the story is narrated through the point of views of Sam and Rachel, their relationships with their fathers also go through ups and downs of their own. Both fathers become dynamic supporting (or antagonizing) characters, and their rivalry is given it’s own story which in turn impacts Sam and Rachel. No plot is wasted in this story.
Every Hidden Thing is no doubt an adventure, embracing gritty imagery that is never completely perfect and beautiful, but is heartwarming. The realistic events and characters throw the fossil hunts for a loop and I think Kenneth Oppel did a great job at re-imagining The Bone Wars! He created two protagonists who are both less than perfect, but learn to be good for one another. Was this the most epic book I’ve ever read? No, but I definitely enjoyed it and recommend it to anyone looking for a YA read with adventure, grit, and a romance that blossoms in a lovely way. Every Hidden Thing brings something different to the YA book world, that’s for sure.
Overall, I give this book a 3.5!