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Different Prisoner, Different War

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‘Hidden’ illustrates horrors of conversion therapy
by Terri Schlichenmeyer

You hated being “It.” In fact, nobody liked being “It” when playing hide and seek. “It” was the banished position, the spot for losers, the hardest role in the game.

Was it possible, after all, to find all the other kids and tag them before they had a chance to get home? Not really—and besides, kids who were “It” missed the hiding part, which definitely displayed creativity. They also missed the heart-pounding, screaming race to get home in the end.

But hide and seek is just a game. In the new novel Hidden, by Tomas Mournian, staying concealed becomes a life-or-death matter.

Ahmed was drugged. At least he thinks he was. He felt really high, and everything was slow. His father and stepmother number . . . was it four? . . . had come to pick him up at Serenity Ridge, and they expected complacency on the way home. No problems here.

But even in his woozy state, Ahmed knew that escape was essential. There was no way he was going to be sent back to SR, a “residential treatment facility” for queer teens.

So when the whispers he had heard at SR turned out to be correct—that there was a certain truck stop near a certain sign in the middle of the desert where he could find help—Ahmed told his father that he had to “go.”

And when two women motioned for him to follow them, he went . . .

Passed from vehicle to vehicle, Ahmed ended up in a bus station with a phone number in his hand and a ticket to San Francisco. But getting there—and finding the safe house he was told to seek—wouldn’t be easy: there were bounty hunters whose job it was to find runaway teens who could potentially embarrass their parents. And they were looking for him.

In the safe house, Ahmed became “Ben.” Someone dyed his hair and told him that he couldn’t look out the window. He was told that he couldn’t leave, either, but the other kids living there found a way: there was a rooftop area, perfect for smoking and listening to music. It was comfortable and semi-private, the perfect place to escape the drama of too many kids in hiding.

“It’s only a book. It’s only a book. It’s only a book.” Those are the words you’ll want to remember while reading this pulse-racing novel.

Hidden is an easy book to get caught up in. The first half is pure classic chase-scene, complete with evil henchmen, vicious dogs, and an Underground Railroad-like passage to safety. You almost want to look over Ahmed’s shoulder for him, lest he get caught.

Then author Tomas Mournian switches gears by adding the tiniest amount of malevolence to the discomfort of a dozen varied personalities packed in a small area for an unspecified time. This only ratchets up the tension, making Hidden a heart-pounder.

Perhaps meant for older teens, I think this book is an excellent read for any adult, too. If you’re looking for a book from which your attention may never escape, Hidden is the one to seek.

Terri Schlichenmeyer has been reading since she was three years old, and she never goes anywhere without a book. She lives on a hill in Wisconsin with two dogs and 11,000 books.

 

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Terri Schlichenmeyer

Terry Schlichenmeyer is a regular contributor to OutSmart Magazine.

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