REVIEW: #89 These Things Hidden by Heather Gudenkauf
Title: These Things Hidden
Author: Heather Gudenkauf
When teenager Allison Glenn is sent to prison for a heinous crime, she leaves behind her reputation as Linden Falls’ golden girl forever. Her parents deny the existence of their once-perfect child. Her former friends exult her downfall. Her sister, Brynn, faces whispered rumors every day in the hallways of their small Iowa high school. It’s Brynn—shy, quiet Brynn—who carries the burden of what really happened that night. All she wants is to forget Allison and the past that haunts her.
But then Allison is released to a halfway house, and is more determined than ever to speak with her estranged sister.
Now their legacy of secrets is focused on one little boy. And if the truth is revealed, the consequences will be unimaginable for the adoptive mother who loves him, the girl who tried to protect him and the two sisters who hold the key to all that is hidden.
Review: I am going to start this review with a simple request that no one goes Wacky Jackie on me. To be honest, I am not a die hard fan, here. I found quite a few things with the book that were bothersome. But I am just one person. If you are to look at Amazon reviews or those found on Goodreads you will see that there are hundreds of people who think very highly of the book. I was just not one of the overly impressed.
On the surface, the premise of the book seems amazing. Right away you want to find out what Allison Glenn did that was so horrific that it landed her in prison and estranged from all who once loved her. Golden girl, athletic Allison. What does a little boy have to do with all this? What does Allison’s sister Brynn know? The story is intriguing. There truly was a lot of potential. Not often do I read about women in prison, yet alone women who have such likable personality from the start. So what exactly were my issues?
Various Point of Views: There were too many points of view. It switched from Allison (first person) to Brynn (first person) to Charm (3rd person) and Claire (3rd person). That part was very distracting. I don’t mind being directed to various characters, but my gosh — select a viewpoint. For a story such as this, I would have found it more intense if everyone was directed in a third person point of view, so you never know what the characters are truly thinking, leaving much more of a mystery in the end.
As a reader, I need to know “am I the character?” or am I “reading about the character?” It’s hard to do both first and third in a story (in fact, many people would consider that a literary no-no). It didn’t work for me. I need a point of view and I need to be immersed in it, not jostled around.
Character Voice: All characters had the same voice, with little personality to differentiate between any of them. All characters were drowning in perfect and at times it was too much. Not everyone thinks the same and not every parent is so text book. I felt Claire and Jonathan were very textbook parents; the type of parents who everyone strives to be — but it’s not realistic. It’s very possible for two older parents who have tried so hard to have a baby, be blessed with one, and still not be perfect parents but still be perfect parents for that specific child. The dialogue they shared between each other and their adopted son, Joshua, was too perfect. I don’t mean that it the dialogue was perfectly written but that it was too perfect to be true.
I also felt that Allison may be too perfect. Wouldn’t life behind bars have hardened her but at ALL?! Many times through out the novel she reaches out for her family, her sister specifically only to be ignored or denied. If it were me I would rant and rave and get angry especially the reason Allison was in jail in the first place! Because of Allison’s crime, she is tormented and harshly judged — even by other ex-felons at the half-way house and yet, she cries a little but refuses to confront them. Oh, come on!
The characters were too perfect (oh my gosh — how many times can I use this word??!) and I feel they lacked a separate entity and realism in dialogue and actions.
Writing: The writing, itself, was overly simplistic. I feel it’s the authors job to paint the scene with their words. But in These Things Hidden, I had do a lot of the visualization myself. This is the kind of writing that I consider a “light” read which makes no sense when I describe it to others because the topic itself is so incredibly dark and morbid. But you really do not have to do a lot of thinking to comprehend what you are reading. You can almost just about skim it and still get what is going on.
I struggled to decide if it was an adult novel or a young adult. From a subject stand point, I would put it in an adult category. However from the ease of reading ability, I would put it somewhere in the late middle school, early high school age group. There was nothing written that blew me away and made me write down as a “quote to remember”. When I read that the author is a critically acclaimed, award winning, best-selling author — I kind of scratch my head and go, “Okay, but why?” I really don’t at all mean for that to seem harsh, but it’s truly my thought. I don’t get it the hype. It’s kind of like when I read Alice Sebold’s The Lovely Bones. The concept of the story was great in itself — but the writing was just entirely too simple. This may just be another book that I may fail to see the special spark that is so apparent to others.