June 30, 2011 | by Terri Schlichenmeyer
Sizzling summer suspense

‘Hidden’
by Tomas Mournian
c.2011, Kensington
$15
387 pages

Gay teens face all kinds of existential dread and disproportionate numbers are homeless, but few are truly on the lam-“Fugitive” style.

In the new novel “Hidden” by Tomas Mournian, staying concealed may be a life-or-death matter.

Ahmed was drugged. At least, he was sure 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 woozy, 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 whispers 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 men, 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. It was the perfect place to escape the drama of too many kids hiding.

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 a 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.

Though geared for older teens, it’s an excellent read for adults too. If you’re looking for a book from which your attention may never escape, “Hidden” is one to seek.

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