Title: Every Hidden Thing
Author: Kenneth Oppel
Synopsis: Somewhere in the Badlands, embedded deep in centuries-buried rock and sand, lies the skeleton of a massive dinosaur, larger than anything the late nineteenth-century world has ever seen. Some legends call it the Black Beauty, with its bones as black as ebony, but to seventeen-year-old Samuel Bolt, it’s the “rex,” the king dinosaur that could put him and his struggling, temperamental archaeologist father in the history books (and conveniently make his father forget he’s been kicked out of school), if they can just quarry it out.
But Samuel and his father aren’t the only ones after the rex. For Rachel Cartland this find could be her ticket to a different life, one where her loves of science and adventure aren’t just relegated to books and sitting rooms. And if she can’t prove herself on this expedition with her professor father, the only adventures she may have to look forward to are marriage or spinsterhood.
As their paths cross and the rivalry between their fathers becomes more intense, Samuel and Rachel are pushed closer together. Their flourishing romance is one that will never be allowed. And with both eyeing the same prize, it’s a romance that seems destined for failure. As their attraction deepens, danger looms on the other side of the hills, causing everyone’s secrets to come to light and forcing Samuel and Rachel to make a decision. Can they join forces to find their quarry, and with it a new life together, or will old enmities and prejudices keep them from both the rex and each other?
Huge thank you to Harper Collins Canada for this ARC!
As a Canadian, I am insanely embarrassed to say that this is my first book by Kenneth Oppel. I work in a public library, and he is beloved by Canadian middle graders and teens and yet somehow I just never got around to reading his novels. That was until I was handed a copy of Every Hidden Thing, his latest YA release, and this is one of the rare cases where the book’s blurb is actually quite spot on.
This book is basically Romeo and Juliet, if it were in theIndiana Jones-verse. We have two star-crossed lover teens whose fathers are bitter rivals in the archaeology business. Convinced that their fathers are both jerks, the two begin to take comfort in each other and romance ensues. The pitch is PERFECT and I will say, Oppel knows how to weave together a story that borrows from so many different genres and make it work.
I will say though, I love Indiana Jones, but despise Romeo and Juliet, and yet this book worked in a lot of ways. I think the story beats were really well thought out, but the characters were definitely lacking for me and I struggled to get attached. I will say, I appreciated the way in which Oppel hands Sam and Rachel’s sexual encounter, as it’s very thoughtfully done, but it’s also very Romeo and Juliet-esque.
I think the main thing I struggled with was the method of how the story was told. Two different fonts work simultaneously through out the story, one representing Sam, and one Rachel. Sometimes I found their voices a bit too similar, and found I had to really pay attention to the font to ensure that I understood which character’s mind I was in. I wish the book had broken up the POVs in a way where it didn’t read so confusingly, and while I think some will like the style, it didn’t jive with me a lot of the time. I enjoyed the story though and that is what kept me going.
Every Hidden Thing is a very interesting read given the genre mashup that it is. While I wasn’t in love with this book, it did make me curious in wanting to check out some of Kenneth Oppel’s other works because there’s definitely a sense of uniqueness that felt undeniable.