Thursday, 18 August 2011

Hidden by Miriam Halahmy

 Pages - 253
Published by Meadowside Fiction in 2011

Opening paragraph
School's out and I'm waiting for Kim when my phone bleeps. Can't cum shppng. Gran sick. Soz. So I'm stuck here on the High Street on my own, my best friend since forever sucked back into her super huge family.  I need a new top but I've got hardly any money left and Mum wants me home in one hour max, because since she broke her leg she expects me to do everything. Even clean the loo. 

Amazon Summary
Hidden is a brave debut novel, tackling the complex issues of immigration and human-rights laws, through the eyes of teenage Alix. A literary, coming-of-age novel dealing with prejudice, judgement, courage, preconceptions and the difficulty of sorting right from wrong. Challenging, charming, compelling. Fourteen year old Alix lives at the bottom of Hayling Island near the beach. It is a quiet backwater, far removed from world events such as war, terror and refugees. Alix has never even given a thought to asylum seekers, she has enough problems of her own: Dad has a new life that doesn't include her, Grandpa is dead and Mum is helpless and needy. Then one day on the beach Alix and Samir pull a drowning man out of the incoming tide: Mohammed, an illegal immigrant and a student. Mohammed has been tortured by rebels in Iraq for helping the allied forces and has spent all his money to escape. Alone, helpless, and desperate not to be deported, Mohammed's destiny lies in Alix's hands. However, hiding an injured immigrant is fraught with difficulties. Faced with the biggest moral dilemma of her life, what will Alix do, and who can she trust?
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This book is written in first person by Alix and is written in the present tense. I used to really hate books written in present tense but the more I read of them, the more they are growing on me and to be honest I didn't realise this one was written in present tense until I came to review it, which is a good sign for me.

I was attracted to this book as soon as I found out it was set in Hayling Island which is not far from where I live. I will be honest and admit to never having actually visited the place but I do hope to rectify that soon. This book has a strong British feel to it which I loved. The story is very real and at times brutal in its descriptions. 

For me, this book felt like a brilliant modern interpretation of Whistle Down The Wind, the 1961 British film that starred Hayley Mills. The story isn't quite the same but parts of it reminded me of it. The story flows beautifully and I found myself desperate to find out how Alix and Samir can solve their situation without adult intervention. 

The author has given us a real sense of the reality of life in Iraq and contrasts and compares it really well with life in the UK. I hope that any teenager reading this book, will realise how lucky they actually are to be living in this country and we do not have to suffer the painful experiences that families suffer there. 

This book shows how you should never judge a person by what you have heard about them beforehand. Lindy was a prime example in this book, as she showed that deep down she had a heart and knew how to help someone in need. She really stood out in this book for me. 

The friendship that grows between Samir and Alix is just beautiful and develops into such a strong relationship as they come together to fight adversity. 

I found the ending of the book really quite powerful and the last few pages made me feel quite emotional. I wanted to see the Samir's of the UK be able to stand up and do  what he did. I really think it might alter the opinions and perceptions of refugees coming to our country to live in peace.  This book shows just how cruel teenagers and children can be and how they will often take people on face value. Especially in this day and age where we are a multicultural society which we should embrace rather than divide. 

One thing that really hit me with this book is how teenagers view Asian people. I had never considered that they would view and torment many Muslims and Asian people as being part of the Taliban. I know I have said this a lot recently, especially with the books that deal with 9/11, but I will say it again, this book is definitely one that should be in every school library! 

A gripping realistic read that makes you think and stays with you afterwards.


12 comments:

  1. I do like that some of the books you have been reading has dealt with deeper subjects :)

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  2. Blodeuedd - there has been a real influx of them lately. They really have got me thinking about things.

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  3. A modern interpretation of Whistle Down The Wind? I'm hooked already. Sounds like a thought-provoking read Vivienne, thanks for recommending it.

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  4. This sounds really great, tackling important issues that people of all ages, not just the young ones, should be thinking about. Plus that cover is gorgeous!

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  5. I love present tense when it's written well, but I think that's very hard to do because it very rarely is. This book sounds excellent!

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  6. What a wonderful review. This sounds like a great read..thanks Viv :D

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  7. Petty Witter - it most definitely was!

    Mummazappa - I keep thinking of the beach when I look at the cover. Our UK beach huts! It is a wonderfully topical book, just right for the teenagers of today.

    Bermudaonion -they are a bit hit and miss for me. So I am happy when I find one and don't notice it.

    Animewookie - thank you.

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  8. Vivienne, I can tell you really enjoyed this book. Terrific review! It does sound like a great book for students and schools, with important messages or lessons.

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  9. Thanks everyone for your wonderful comments and I do hope you get round to reading HIDDEN and that you enjoy it. Many thanks to Viv for the great review and so interesting that you were not aware of the present tense! Excellent.

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  10. brilliant review Viv! I didnt think this one would be very me until I read your review, now I think I need to read it!

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  11. This does sound like a powerful read Viv, nice review.

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  12. Themes like immigration and asylum seekers aren't discussed enough so I'm putting this on my wishlist.

    I definitely can see what you mean by comparing it to Whistle Down the Wind (love that film!).

    "Mohammed has been tortured by rebels in Iraq for helping the allied forces" - Interesting that the author played it safe there. I wonder what kind of reaction the readers would have if she'd had Mohammed escaping Iraq after being tortured by British/American soldiers.

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