Author: Miriam Halahmy
Release date: UK 31st March 2011
Genre: Realism / Contemporary YA Fiction / Bildungsroman
Target audience: 11+
UK Publisher: Meadowside Children’s Books
Summary from Amazon:
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?
Hidden is a touching and contemporary story about immigration, human rights and the courage to stand up for what you believe in.
Alix is in Year 10 and she lives on Hayling Island. Things are home are becomingly increasingly challenging – her father left, her grandfather passed away and her mother has broken her leg – Alix is finding the responsibility of keeping things together weighing down on her.
One of the themes of this novel is appearances. Or rather the impulse to judge people on appearances – the busybody neighbour, the mad man on the beach, the Muslim boy in class – the story lets you walk in their shoes (if only for a moment) and see the world that bit differently.
At the heart of Hidden is the issue of immigration and Halahmy mesmerises the reader with this tale rather than making them feel they are being “educated”. The right to seek asylum, persecution, what it means to be a refugee are all explained and yet it never once feels like lecture. Samir is a refugee from Iraq. He came to England when he was just nine and he was absorbed by the British system. At school Alix thinks of him as a silent figure in the back row. But when she sees a gang picking on him in the street, she can’t stop herself getting involved.
Alix is such a likable character. She has all these thoughts which she fears may be construed as racist but really it is just the fear of what she doesn’t understand talking. As she gets to know Samir, they become friends and develop a trusting bond. That bond is tested to the very limits when they rescue an illegal immigrant from the sea and try to keep him safe and hidden. It is incredibly moving.
I really empathised with Samir. I’ve never considered how homesick refugees must be when they are wrenched from their homeland. I know how much I love the UK. I would miss it so much if I was forced to go and live somewhere entirely alien and never know if I’d return. It left such a well of emotion inside me. Hidden really is an emotive and convincing read.
Halahmy’s young adult debut left me feeling inspired and empowered to stand up for the things that I believe in and to have to courage to make sure that my voice is always heard. The Iraqi cultural references felt so authentic and vivid that I really feel I know a bit more about their beautiful world.
Everyone should read this book and take a moment to see their world through another person’s eyes. It’s invigorating!
Thanks to Meadowside Children's Books for sending the book to review.
Read for the British Books Challenge 2011
Read for the Debut Author Challenge 2011