Hidden Child by Anne Cassidy

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Hidden Child by Anne Cassidy

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Category: Teens
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: A tense psychological mystery and coming of age story. Beautifully plotted with atmospheric but spare prose and not a word wasted. Highly recommended.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 176 Date: May 2007
Publisher: Scholastic Point
ISBN: 978-0439950022

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Anna has always been more like a friend to Lou than a mother. Perhaps that's because they've moved around so much. Every time Lou makes a friend, they're off again, sometimes like thieves in the night, to start afresh. And each time they move, Anna promises Lou that this is the last time, that they'll finally settle down. When they move to London, it looks as though they might finally manage it. Anna has a new job as a project worker at a battered women's hostel and she's great at it, it's as though she were born to do it. They have a nicer home than they've ever had and it looks as though the Lewis family will finally put down some roots.

And then Lou makes several alarming discoveries that cause her to doubt everything. Even Anna.

I thought Hidden Child was a marvellous book. It's a tense, pyschological thriller with some beautiful plotting. As Lou gradually finds more and more inconsistencies in Anna's version of their background, the tension grows and grows until it's almost unbearable. Lou is torn between love for her mother and a desperate need to find some answers. And as her trust is broken, so is her world. I wasn't sure of the outcome until right towards the end when it crept up and gave me quite a shock.

Underneath the main plotline, there's also a very touching coming-of-age story in which Lou finds first and horribly unsuitable love. The anticipation, the confusion, the joy and the pain of first love is caught perfectly. And it's no accident that Anna, usually so liberal, disapproves of Lou's relationship and turns out to be right in the end. If you want to depend on something, you just have to trust it, no matter what. It's not an easy lesson to learn.

I first came across Anne Cassidy with Looking for JJ. Written in the aftermath of the outing of child-killer Mary Bell, it explores the motives of murder of a child, by a child. I thought it was a wonderful book, and brave too - it could all have gone spectacularly wrong, but didn't. Hidden Child is concerned with similarly difficult themes - the relationship between child and parent, the importance of truth, domestic violence - and it does it in sparse but atmospheric prose, never wasting a word. Descriptions of objects mirror feelings. At one point, when Lou is at bursting point, she walks into an antique shop and sees cups and saucers, their handles so fragile that a cross word could have broken them and this perfectly reflects Lou's state of mind.

I read Hidden Child in a single sitting, unable to put it down until I'd read every last word. And I think it will hook adolescents, especially girls, even more. It's highly recommended.

My thanks to the nice people at Scholastic for sending the book.

Young people who enjoy psychological thrillers might also enjoy Tabitha Suzuma's From Where I Stand. Jenny Valentine's Finding Violet Park has a similar family mystery, this time using a black comedy approach. You might also enjoy Ballad for a Mad Girl by Vikki Wakefield and No Virgin by Anne Cassidy.

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Buy Hidden Child by Anne Cassidy at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Hidden Child by Anne Cassidy at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy Hidden Child by Anne Cassidy at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Hidden Child by Anne Cassidy at Amazon.com.


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