Tuesday, October 17, 2023

Hidden Truths by Elly Swartz

Hidden Truths by Elly Swartz
Publisher:  Delacorte Press
Format:  E-ARC
Number of pages:  272 pages
Publishing:   October 31st, 2023
Source:  Wunderkind PR

Opening Lines:  "I didn't know today would matter.  I didn't know it would change everything.  I thought what mattered had already happened.  I was wrong."

Best friends since second grade, Dani and Eric share almost everything.  A love for donuts, comic books, and their annual trip to the Cape for camping.  Over the summer, Eric has been working on a comic book and trying to muster his courage to finally talk to his crush while Dani was away at baseball camp.  Dani loves everything about baseball, from her worn out glove, to standing on the mound and pitching a fast ball.  She's always dreamed of pitching for the Mapleville all boy's baseball team and this year, after a lot of hard work, that dream has finally come true.

The best friends have eagerly been anticipating this year's camping trip, especially after last years was suddenly cancelled when Dani's grandmother passed away.  Then the moment that changes everything happens.  There is a huge explosion in the camper and Dani is trapped inside.  Risking everything, Eric rushes back inside and pulls Dani out before the flames can engulf her in the camper.  Unfortunately, Dani's leg is injured, and she sustains serious damage to her shoulder.  Worst of all, her hopes for a year of playing baseball are quickly fleeting.  

While Dani is undergoing treatment for the aftermath of her injury, Eric begins to second guess as to how the fire even got started.  Then realization hits, could he have been the cause of the fire?  Eric then begins to spiral with guilt and remorse.  Meanwhile, Dani runs into Meadow, one of the popular girls from school who has been visiting her own sister in the hospital.  The two hit it off and Meadow is a good distraction from Dani's injuries.  The two further bond over making TikTok videos.  Eric eventually visits Dani in the hospital and tries to come clean on his mistake, which ends up further pushing Dani away toward Meadow and angers Dani's mom.  It isn't long before the whole school finds out about Eric's mistake and their friendship begins to fracture further.  Meadow becomes a wedge between the two friends, even getting Dani to admit a few things on camera that puts Eric in a worse light, even though she really didn't mean them.  

Soon Eric begins to spend time with his crush but is still focused on investigating the cause of the fire and in ensuring that this never happens again.  When the fire report finally comes out stating that the explosion was due to a lithium battery in a remote-control car that they'd brought along on the trip, it isn't the relief that Eric had hoped for because it doesn't appear to be enough to mend their relationship.  Can the two friends figure out a way to fix things between themselves and find a way to move forward?  

Hidden Truths switches between the perspectives of our two main characters, Dani and Eric.  Having this dual point of view makes the story so relatable and it realistically illustrates how each of them struggles internally about their feelings following the accident.  I really emphasized with Eric's struggles and feelings of guilt as well as how difficult it was for Dani to lose the joy of something that she is so passionate about because of her injury.  How her initial hope of returning to the team is changed as she undergoes therapy.  I experienced this firsthand while working with individuals who sustained traumatic brain injuries.  It's often very difficult to come to terms with finding a new norm after an injury.  Our brains can be so resilient in developing new pathways following an injury but some physical changes result in permanent changes.  It can be very difficult to come to terms with.  Dani's treatment and recovery process through her real-life challenges will certainly allow the reader to feel empathy.  I really liked Dani's strength and tenacity.  Therapy is tough, and I felt the author really portrayed just how difficult it can be for the individual.  Everything isn't perfectly resolved with Dani's injury at the end of the story, which gives this an authenticity that I appreciated.             

Having this also in first-person narrative worked really well.  I enjoyed Eric having a strong Jewish faith and his speaking to God to not only ask for forgiveness but to try and make deals with God to look after Dani. We learn how Eric's ADHD affects him and I especially appreciated his description of falling down rabbit holes i.e. where he can easily get distracted and then ends up being sidetracked by other things.  In Eric's case, he explains that these rabbit holes are advantageous to him because he can look at things from more than one direction to find an answer.   Eric also displayed a lot of strength in confessing to Dani that he might've caused the accident.  There's a lot of hurt feelings between the two and they each make mistakes as they try and process things.  I believe that these are feelings and emotions that children can easily relate too.  

Overall, I really enjoyed Hidden Truths.  I really appreciated all the research the author stated that she did in her acknowledgements and the input she received in order to ensure an accurate portrayal of recovery from an injury.  Everything from consultations with professional in ADHD, fire inspectors, former baseball players, product safety commissions and even rehabilitation specialist.   This story is also a testament to the bonds of friendship.  That one can overcome difficult times and mend the mistakes made.  

**A huge thank you to Wunderkind PR for the opportunity to read and review Hidden Truths.  A beautiful story that you should instantly put on your must read list, you won't regret it!**        

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for reviewing this one! I'd heard a little bit about it but not yet seen any reviews. I've added it to my TBR. It sounds like it has some similarities to THAT'S WHAT FRIENDS DO by Cathleen Barnhart, another book that I think tackles difficult but important topics which aren't as frequently explored in MG.