Monday, February 7, 2011
Book Review: Hidden
I become very concerned when I don't like a book. Being raised not to say bad things about other people (and in this case books), I don't necessarily trust my judgement when I don't like a book. I try to chalk it up to simply not being "in the mood" for a particular tome. I don't know if I can do that in this case.
Hidden is the story of Ahmed, an Arabic-American teenager who outs himself to his parents (father and stepmother) by writing in his journal, "I think I am queer." They then send him to Serenity Ridge, a camp for queer kids that practices such things as attaching electrodes to the male inmmates' genitals and giving them an electric shock when they start getting aroused at the sight of other men. Ahmed is black-bagged from his home and kept pretty well drugged up, until he is "cured" and sent home.
The book opens with Ahmed headed to Las Vegas, drugged out of his head in the back of his parents' car. They are returning home and he's doing his best to hold it together, because he has a plan to escape. And apparently the whole gay world is in on this escape plan. Stopping at a reststop, he sees two obvious dykes and tries to get their attention. Getting away from his parents, he just happens to come across a potentially transgendered truck driver who lifts him up into the cab of her or his semitruck and gets him headed to the car of the earlier obvious dykes who just happen to be waiting for him in a red sports car - hello, Thelma and Louise!
They get him new clothes and into the city proper where he must pass by the owner of Serenity Ridge's home, where he is then picked up by some migrant workers, who give him more clothes and get him to the bus station. And of course those who aren't out to help him are out to get him. It seems every police officer is on the side of Serenity Ridge. And almost everyone in this book, sans the obvious dykes and the transgendered semi driver, are nasty, nasty snots: Ahmed, his father, his stepmother, the rentacops, the person at the bus ticket counter, the bus driver, the person at the desk of the first safe house Ahmed goes to, that safehouse's intake counselor.
Ahmed is totally the type of person that if I met them in person, most likely they'd have a perpetual look of smelling something bad stamped on their faces.
But, let us continue. So Ahmed finally gets on the bus to San Francisco, but as soon as he gets there, his contact number for whoever is supposed to save him is wrong, so he calls the phone company - who verifies no information, just assumes that he's the girl the number belongs to - and gives him the right phone information. He calls, leaves a message and goes to hide in the bathroom. And here is where we have our first gay sex. A young man, I assume a teen, runs into the bathroom, followed closely by a man in a flowing longcoat, who brandishes a knife, saying, "I'll get my money's worth." He then bends the boy over (not our hero mind you but someone else) and fucks him. Apparently the man has the dick of death because the boy falls to the floor, bloody and shitty and dies. WTF?!
Our hero is discovered by the dick of death, but escapes - mostly - the man follows him and even claims to be his pimp, but finally Ahmed is rescued and sent to live in a closed safe house - closed meaning once he's locked in, he's not allowed to leave.
And that's where I put the book down. I couldn't stand it anymore. Granted, some of it was fun. Like the scene in which Ahmed is being raced down the highway to Las Vegas in the backseat of the obvious lesbians' car. There's this really freeing image in which he's changing clothes and decides to simply sit in the back naked with the warm wind and sun rushing against his body (or possibly I'm just a perv skeezing on a naked teenage boy, but oh well).
However, the most problematic thing about Hidden is that Ahmed talks a lot in text speak. And for a while it was cute, but I couldn't do it for the whole book - it's not Trainspotting in which the author had a good hold on a different dialect. I don't think the author had a good understanding of how to use it: Tonya Cheri Hegamin did it much better in the teen book M+O 4evr.
But like I said, I don't trust my opinion. The book must be good. Right? Otherwise it wouldn't have been published. Oh, what a slippery slope. No the book was published because it would sell. The character is a young gay male escaping from the terrors of the x-gay world. And I highlight the young gay male part less because of anything I'm saying about gay men and saying something more about people in general. We love stories about abused youth (cough, cough Flowers in the Attic). We love stories about budding sexuality (cough, cough Twilight), and then you paste a pic of an obviously hot young man on the cover and you're bound to have - well, if not a bestseller - something that will definitely sell.
But if you do want to experience something on basically the same subject, go watch Save Me starring Chad Allen, Judith Light and Robert Gant.