There was so much to like about this book, and at the same time, so much to find frustrating.
First of all…19th Century, Badlands, and dinosaur digs! What’s not to love? It’s a great subject, in a wonderfully unique location (I love the Badlands), at a really remarkable period in U.S. history (just after the Civil War). Now toss in a story-line that every student in the country has experienced (Romeo & Juliet) and you have the makings of a really tremendous book. And in fact, author Kenneth Oppel does some really nice work with this.
…except that one of the major flaws (in my opinion) with Romeo and Juliet is the ferocity of ‘love’ two children experience in such a short amount of time. Is it completely unrealistic? No. We understand that youth of this age are just starting to learn about passion and don’t quite understand all that is going on within themselves, and we accept it in Shakespeare’s classic for what it teaches us. But to put exactly that same inflamed passion in a more updated story, and to add some discomfort (she doesn’t like the way he kisses!), but still have children rushing into marriage, didn’t feel natural. I never, ever got the sense that these two youths actually liked each other, much less loved each other enough to get married. And without the honesty of this relationship it was difficult to buy in to the rest of the story. (The scene of virgin sex between the two was well-done, but not really necessary.)
The search for dinosaur fossils is well written and I liked the characters of the fathers more than that of the two young lovers (is it because I identify with the fathers more than the children now? Quite possibly).
I knew nothing about the book when I requested a review copy. I was already familiar some of Oppel’s work, which is what drew me to the book. The Romeo & Juliet parallels were obvious very early on and in fact it was fun to keep drawing the parallels and identifying the different characters in comparisons to Shakespeare’s work. But it also made me nervous, knowing how the classic ends.
Oppel is a fine writer and there’s enough here to draw a reader in and keep them interested, but it would have been so much better if, instead of a carbon copy of Romeo and Juliet, he had created his own characters that breathed a little more life into who they are, making them believable.
Looking for a good book? Every Hidden Thing by Kenneth Oppel has a lot of strengths to recommend it, but the cardboard main characters are a detraction rather than a point of emphasis.
I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.
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Every Hidden Thing
author: Kenneth Oppel
publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
hardcover, 368 pages