No matter how many chances you give them or how much you
want to like them, some books straddle that subjective line between good and
not-so-good with wobbly steps, falling into both territories at random. Tomas
Mournian’s Hidden walks that chalk line and stumbles as often as it
Ahmed, a young gay boy, brings up the possibility of his
queerness in his journal, which falls into the hands of his parents. They send
him to a rehab facility called Serenity Ridge, from which he escapes. He lands
in a safe house in San Francisco—basically a small, run-down apartment shared
by several fellow teen runaways. There, Ahmed (now renamed Ben) finds love,
conflict and heartbreak as well as several near misses with the agents send to
The story here is extremely compelling, and Ahmed/Ben’s
voice is fresh and original—perhaps too fresh and original. The slang and
idiomatic expressions are piled on so thickly as to be almost incomprehensible
at times. Don’t get me wrong; I love slang. It allows our language to breathe
and makes it unique, but at many points, I longed for clarity instead of
character. I kept thinking of a butterfly that refuses to land—you know that
it’s amazing but it needs to sit still occasionally so you can see it clearly.
That said, Hidden never panders to any particular
audience, nor does it compromise for the reader, which a wonderful artistic
choice. It’s exciting, vivid and absolutely dead-on as far as its portrayal of
teen angst goes. There is much to admire in this butterfly. The scenes where
Ben and his friends go out to a Halloween party and end up fighting for their
freedom against the men sent to find them are tense and terrific—real
Ahmed/Ben’s escape from Serenity Ridge, however, really
blurs the lines between fantasy and reality. Ordinarily, that would be fine but
as it’s the section that starts the book, you begin with a feeling of
groundlessness and never get a firm platform on which you can gain traction.
The explanation for this is that he’s coming down from the drugs fed him at the
facility, but there are ways to ground the reader and still get that across.
Nevertheless, Hidden is an interesting, if flawed,
read that will definitely speak to teens in the throes of coming out. It spoke
to me as well.
I’m just not sure what it said sometimes.
Reviewed by Jerry Wheeler