Everything about the concept of Hide by Kiersten White was something that made me eager to devour it. Luckily for me, the amazing Marie-Louise at Del Rey UK sent me an ARC in exchange for an honest review and in doing so, has given me one of my favourite books of the year!
This review originally appeared on The Nerd Daily.
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.
Publication Date: 24th May
TW: death, murder, family annihilation, racism, homophobia, ableism, PTSD, gore, violence, blood, graphic descriptions of injury and death, sacrifice, suicide
Hide is that whisper in that dark, that overwhelming sense of fear and dread that sends shivers across your body. This is a cerebral and genuinely terrifying type of horror that has sent me right down the rabbit hole.
Hide is a labyrinthine tale steeped in blood, gore and challenging questions. It is brutal, violent and unrelenting, but also dissects institutional privilege and the true cost of it. Horror has always been a genre within which authors can challenge societal norms and offer these unconventional, provocative and intellectual stories wrapped in blood and gore. Monsters are always never quite as they seem and White explores this in a refreshing way. We are drip-fed details that slowly congeal into this sickening picture. White really digs into generational hierarchies and how far society would go to preserve these and the corresponding status quo they embody. This is a book that lingers in your mind.
White asks difficult questions that intentionally challenge and provoke the reader. In this way, she truly taps into the horror genre as a space in which to question societal conventions and challenge the hatred imbued in communities. The monsters here are truly bone-chilling because they are so believable and their root motivation is so mundanely evil. That being said, our central beast is pure nightmare fuel. I loved how little White gave away around the physical description of it for so much of the narrative. The imagination of a reader will always conjure up the most horrific images and White gives us just enough to encourage these terrifying glimpses.
The narrative itself reflects this, with a slowly burning sense of something out of place. That opening is instantly menacing and the writing style is gorgeously foreboding and terrifying. I picked up so many iconic references to mainstays of the genre, both in the literary and cinematic horror worlds. White mashes these together to concoct something entirely new and petrifying. The way she builds tension through the snippets of multiple perspectives is gorgeously done. It is razor-sharp, slick and obviously ends in a barrage of blood. White does not hold back on the horror. This is an incredibly dark and graphic read at times, knee deep in gore. It is reminiscent of the classic slashers in this tightrope act between the terror of foreboding symbols, the danger lurking in the shadows and these moments of pure chaos and blood. You know full well that this is going to go off the rails, but White makes it one hell of a ride. Several scenes will give you full body chills.
This book also really goes there in terms of exploring societal issues in a nuanced way. In particular, it examines the lasting effects of trauma and questions how far you would go to survive. Throughout the beginning, you get glimpses of Mack’s past and the heinous acts concealed there. This leads to an incredibly poignant and complex reveal later in the book. Because White has crafted these characters to be so fragmented, vulnerable and easy to connect to, the ensuing devastation is that much more impactful. Most of them are so easy to fall in love with and White deftly sketches these fully embodied figures in such a short space of time. The pacing is also efficient and incredibly effective, making it such an addictive read. All of this culminates in a book you cannot extract from your head.
Hide blew my mind. White has crafted something that shakes your bones, something that whispers in the dark and leaves an uneasy feeling on your skin. This is a tour de force.