(2022) Kiersten White, Del Rey, £14.99, hrdbk, 241pp, ISBN 978-1-529-15025-4
The challenge: spend a week hiding in an abandoned amusement park and don't get caught.
The prize: enough money to change everything. Even though everyone is desperate to win - to seize their dream futures or escape their haunting pasts - Mack feels sure that she can beat her competitors. All she has to do is hide, and she's an expert at that. It's the reason she's alive, and her family isn't. But as the people around her begin disappearing one by one, Mack realizes this competition is more sinister than even she imagined, and that together might be the only way to survive. Fourteen competitors. Seven days. Everywhere to hide, but nowhere to run.
Come out, come out, wherever you are.
Hide is Kiersten White’s first novel for adults, following her previous young adult titles in the fantasy and horror genres some of which drew on inspiration from Frankenstein and Arthurian legend. Here, the reader thinks they are in familiar territory with a story that might be a mash-up of films and books along the lines of Funhouse, Friday the 13th, The Hunger Games, The Running Man, with maybe a bit of Scream thrown into the mix, but you would be wrong, it is much more than that, and not what you might expect, although if anything it did remind me slightly of Grady Hendrix’s Horrorstor, the novel that looks like an Ikea catalogue, is set in something that might be an Ikea store, but certainly isn’t when you stay after hours and investigate some paranormal activity going on in the store. Like Horrorstor, Hide could fit into that horror sub-genre, the you-don’t-want to-go-there story. Except, our heroine, Mack, has no choice, she is almost at rock bottom due to events which happened in her past – no spoilers here – but those events have made her an ideal candidate for this organised game of hide and seek and a prize of US$50,000 as she needs the cash, and the only reason she is still alive is that she is good at hiding.
The competition is set in an abandoned amusement park – cue the map of the park when you open the front cover of the hardback editions showing all the fun that awaits when you go through the main entrance gate, from the Lovers’ Hideaway to the Pirate Plunge to The Magic Tent. However, this map has some added graffiti, surely “R.I.P little Patty Stratton”, doesn’t mean that someone actually died here? Mack begins to wonder if there is something more than a game going on here, something more than being found by the “seekers” and taken out of the game?
As for the novel itself, it is a great idea, in a great setting, with some well-developed characters, while others are less developed and there to be shreddies to the plot. The story itself is told over a forty-page long opening section where we get a little background of the mixed fortunes of the amusement park, meet Mack, and her fellow contestants before the story carries on through the days that follow as the competition begins. Interspersed between these are records and notes going back to the 1920s which are added to over the years by the people overseeing the park, and administrating the competition, which reveals the true nature of the horror and threat that Mack and her group are facing. My only quibble is that ending is abrupt, to say the least, but you’ll certainly have fun getting there.
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