Sunday, September 4, 2016

Review: Every Hidden Thing

Title: Every Hidden Thing
Author: Kenneth Oppel
Genre: Historical Fiction, Romance
Release Date: September 20, 2016
ARC recieved through HarperCollins Canada's First Look program.

A Quick Introduction: Legends of a massive dinosaur skeleton take Samuel Bolt and his struggling paleontologist father to the Badlands when they recieve a black, fossilized tooth in the mail. Also on the trail of "Black Beauty" is Samuel's father's long time rival, Professor Cartland and his daughter, Rachel- who hopes finding the skeleton will be her key to her university dreams and life as a paleontologist. Despite their fathers' enmity, and the fact that they're both chasing the same fossil, Samuel and Rachel are drawn to each other. When the truth of their relationship comes out, they have to decide whether or not to allow old prejudices and family rivalries to pull them apart.

Out of Ten: 7/10

Review at a Glance: An engaging novel featuring flawed but human characters and an unusual (and very interesting) setting.

Review: Here it is, my review for one of my most anticipated novels for this year!

Okay, a little background. Kenneth Oppel has been one of my favourite authors for a long time. He was kind of my introduction to YA? Airborn remains one of my favourite trilogies ever, so when I heard about this I was SUPER excited. Because I am also a dinosaur nut. I have been since I was about six, when I somehow managed to pronounce impossibly long dinosaur names, while still unable to spell the word because. So be warned, at least part of this is going to be me nerding out about paleontology... I promise I'll fit the review in somewhere, though.

Kenneth Oppel continues to impress me with his crafting of characters that feel very real. Samuel and Rachel are both very flawed people, but they still ended up being characters who I very much wanted to succeed. They're both driven, ambitious, and also quite selfish... so their relationship definitely had it's challenges. Their entire relationship had a bit of "unstoppable force meets immovable object" going on, with a side of feeling like it was rather abrupt. It wasn't necessarily unbelievable, it just felt like they were rushing into things and acting on impulse... which I suppose is a part of the story.

I think I understood Rachel better than Samuel, and I'm always happy to see female YA characters in science- there just aren't enough of them! It was nice to meet a character who also didn't outgrow her dinosaur obsession, and I quite liked her way of looking at the world. Samuel was a bit harder for me to like, but his motivations generally made sense to me (which is something that I think is sometimes more important than liking a character...)

I really liked the time period in which this was set- dinosaurs were still kind of a "new" thing, they were a sensation and fossil hunting was something alternately grueling and glamourous. The science of paleontology was just getting its start. Academics of all sorts are known to have long-reaching rivalries- ones that were known to end in property damage, physical altercations, and careers left in tatters. Or, at least, some very sarcastic peer-reviewed articles.

This book was completely devoid of action, either. The Badlands were a dangerous place at the start of the 19th century- a rough, forbidding landscape with poisonous creatures unfamiliar to visitors, and with the risk of conflict with indigenous peoples who (rightly) felt that their lands were being invaded and their rights disrespected (like, a lot, and we definitely see some of that in this book). The main conflict in this book, though, was that between Professors Bolt and Cartland, and their children's struggle to find a way to be together despite their family prejudices.

Overall, I enjoyed reading this, and really like the portrait of fossil hunting in it's fairly early day. The setting and time period were well crafted, as were the characters. While the impulsive relationship between the two main characters wasn't necessarily something I'd want for myself, it wasn't totally unbelievable, and it definitely moved the story along and set them both on their path. I'm just going to go ahead an recommend this to more mature YA readers (there is sex, sex happens, we do not fade to black, consider yourselves warned) who didn't manage to outgrow their dinosaur phase.

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