Every Hidden Thing by Kenneth Oppel

“Even things that seemed ordinary or ugly at first could be beautiful,” thinks Rachel, the daughter of a paleontologist, accurately depicting the dilemma of this strikingly intelligent, talented, but plain young woman who wants to go to university and study in the same field as her father. Despite her unusual upbringing as an assistant to her exacting dad, Professor Cartland, a women in the 1880s was not expected to be a scholar, let alone have a profession. She is destined to be a wife and mother even though Rachel spurns all the social events created for matchmaking. Without a mother to guide her, Rachel lacks the finesse of a socialite befitting her father’s prestigious station. Samuel Bolt, also motherless, has been trained to assist his Quaker father, “Professor” Michael Bolt, in similar pursuits. Father and son are both good looking and used to charming the women they meet, but it is different with Rachel who intrigues Sam with her mesmerizing blue eyes.

To make matters more complicated, their fathers are bitter rivals out to best one another, even if their methods lack a sense of honor. With the prevailing theme mirroring the Hatfields vs the McCoys, the young couple are destined to fall in love despite their fathers’ enmity. Add in an archeological dig at a bone bed out in the Badlands of Nebraska where the Lakota Sioux threaten their very lives as the two competing professors hunt for the perfect dinosaur fossil, and you have the plot of the book, Every Hidden Thing by Kenneth Oppel.

Not everyone acts honorably and there is enough disgusting violence to please the lovers of rowdiness in their western novels. It is difficult to feel connected to any of the characters whose egotistical pursuits in the name of science seem underhanded and self serving. The young lovers, despite their flaws, try to do the right thing in most situations, but both have difficulty looking beyond their own needs. After they finally tie the knot, the reader is exposed to the stumbling awkwardness of their first sexual encounters, but one can’t help but root for a successful outcome for the two youngsters after they survive the numerous adversities which keep getting thrown their way. The book alternates between Sam and Rachel’s narration as the story unfolds.

What pushes this book up a notch is that the premise is loosely based on The Bone Wars (also known as the Great Dinosaur Rush), an intense rivalry between Dinosaur Hunters Edward Cope and Othniel Marsh. Who knew that a true story about two scientists hunting for prehistoric fossils could be so entertaining?

Four stars for a quick and eventful read perfect for the YA crowd and a thank you to Netgalley for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

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