Every Hidden Thing

Deep in the badlands of America, the bones of an ancient beast, the king of the dinosaurs, lay to be discovered. Two men, Cantland and Bolt will race and connive to be the first to claim it, but their headstrong teenagers have their eyes on the prize too, as well as each other…

Inspired by the ‘Bone Wars’ of the mid-19th century, a heated real life rivalry between two palaeontologists, Every Hidden Thing is a winning YA period adventure and romance in an unusual setting. Through meticulous research, Oppel has expertly recreated the frontier, where danger and opportunity is often the same thing. The author revels in his earthy set and it often feels like a fresh layer of grime and dust has settled on each sentence.

We switch between the perspectives of two teenage leads, who have an endearing chemistry. Rachel Cantland is a calm and restrained proto-feminist with dreams of university, and the passionate Samuel Bolt is obsessed in the immortality that comes with an important discovery. Occasionally, their attitudes can seem jarringly modern for their times, but the reader will buy their romance and feel invested in their shared dreams.

An interesting thread that runs though the novel is the idea of belief and meaning. Scientists, army men, hucksters and various faiths including Creationism, various Native American beliefs and Quakerism attach a different importance to what essentially amounts to a pile of fossils in the desert. To discover what it means to them, I recommend fans of unusual books uncover Every Hidden Thing for themselves.