Thursday, May 26, 2022

#Review - Hide by Kiersten White #Thriller #Supernatural #Horror

Series: Standalone
Format: Hardcover, 256 pages
Release Date: May 24, 2022
Publisher: Del Rey Books
Source: Publisher
Genre: Thrillers / Supernatural / Horror

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."

Set in a long abandoned Amusement Park, Hide, by author Kiersten White, is a high-stakes hide-and-seek competition that takes a deadly turn in this dark supernatural thriller. Sponsored by a group called Ox Extreme Sports, they are putting together a contest of Olly Olly Oxen Free aka Hide and Seek tournament. The challenge: spend a week hiding in an abandoned amusement park that was closed after a little girl disappeared and don't get caught. If you get caught, you're out. No second chances. The winner will get $50,000.

For Mackenzie (Mack) Black, the price money is enough to change her life and make up for her past mistakes.Fourteen competitors. Seven days. Everywhere to hide, but nowhere to run. 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 little sister isn't. It's the reason why she agreed to participate in this contest since she blames herself for what happened to her sister Maddie years ago.

The Rules
-30 minute hiding window given at the start of each day
-the game is active from dawn to dusk
-no allowance for medical, bathroom emergencies or food runs
-a beacon will shine in the sky at dusk calling the contestants back to camp
-2 contestants will be eliminated each day.

As the people 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. She chooses to make an alliance with Ava, who is a veteran who nearly lost her legs in Afghanistan. To make things interesting, the author doesn't leave the reader hanging. She actually allows you to read certain sections of a dairy that explains what happened years ago, and why every 7 years, 14 people are chosen to come to this abandoned Amusement Park. 

As the game progresses, Mack realizes the prize for winning this mysterious hide-and-seek game is her life. Mack's an interesting character whose name is famous to those in this world's Horror genre. She has to choose whether she can win by hiding by herself, which she's good at, or finding someone to align with so that they can survive until the end. Mack's story literally begins with her in a homeless shelter where she just lost everything and later we find out who she really is as a character. 

I don't believe that you have to pay attention to all 14 characters in this story. By the time the game begins, 2 will already be dead, and then 2 more, until Mack and her allies realize something is really, really wrong here. It is fair to say that I will not compare this story to the Hunger Games. More like The Cabin at the end of the World. I am happy with the way the story wraps up. The story isn't all that gore filled as with other more dastardly horror novels. Readers get a look at the monster, but only through the eyes of Mack who is one of the only people in the entire contest who can see  it.

The Amazement Park opened in 1953.

get lost in the fun! posters advertised, and it was true: Crowds surged through the gates in the morning and didn’t stumble out again until the sun had set, and spotlights at the exit guided them free. The maps were useless, the You Are Here guides impossible to find. It was a park designed to swallow. Trees loomed over lush grounds. Signature topiary lined every walled and wandering path, adding to the sense of wonder. Roller coasters, swings, carousels, games, houses of love and fun and terror—though the house at the very center was always closed for refurbishment.

The park was open from mid-May until early September. whites only was on signs in the early years, heavily implied when such a thing became harder to officially declare. And, for one week every seven years, it was free. The gates would swing wide, and the summer migrant workers and distant relatives of the wealthy townsfolk, normally too poor to enjoy something designed purely for escape, would wander in, wide-eyed. There were no ticket sales, no attendance numbers, just a joyfully packed park.

In 1974, during the free week, a prominent businessman from upstate decided to visit. He hadn’t been invited, but he was considering investing since a cousin-of-a-cousin owned the park. He wanted to see the attractions for himself first, though. He brought along his wife and two children and made it a holiday.

Their little girl, five, was never seen again.

One of the migrant workers was arrested for her murder, but the negative publicity left a stain that didn’t wash out. So the Amazement Park closed its gates.

Eventually, the rumors died. The plants grew. Nature slowly co-opted the buildings, the rides, the roller coasters. What didn’t crumble rusted, and what didn’t rust leaned, and what didn’t lean sagged under the weight of ivy and neglect.

Somewhere, very close to the center—the house that was always closed, where few ever even got, owing to the odd layout of the park—a shoe had caught on the low branches of a topiary. Unchecked, the verdant beast slowly grew higher and higher until the shoe was eye level.

It was patent leather, dulled and cracked with weather and time. The perfect size for a five-year-old foot.

It takes money to make money, her dad used to say.

He also once said Come out, come out, wherever you are, dragging the knife along the wall as music to accompany the dying gasps of her sister. Mack might have imagined the gasps, though. Who could say.

She couldn’t, and even if she could, she wouldn’t.

She’s not saying anything right now, either, sitting across from the manager. The meeting was mandatory, a “shelter requirement,” though she’s been here several months now and this is the first one.

“Come on, Mackenzie. Help me help you.” The woman’s smile is painted on like her cheekbones and eyebrows, and just as artfully. Her expression doesn’t shift at all in the face of Mack’s silence. It’s impressive. Does she do stamina reps in the quiet dark of her bedroom, lifting the corners of her lips over and over, careful not to disrupt her eyes?

The manager clasps her hands together, fingernails painted dark red. “I’ll be honest with you. Things are going to change around here. I believe that we can help only those willing to help themselves. These shelters have stagnated—no hope, no progress. How can we live in a society without progress?”

The voice is animated, but the eyes remain untouched by the sentiments or the smile. Expressionless. Like they’re hidden behind something. Mack feels an odd affinity for this woman, alongside an instinctive wariness. But she disagrees. The point of a shelter isn’t progress. It’s shelter.

“I’ve looked at your file.” The woman gestures to a blank manila folder on the desk. Mack suspects it’s empty. She hopes it is. “It’s bad luck you’re here. I understand. No social safety net to fall back on. A few months without a job, without rent, and it’s hard to dig yourself out. You need to move on with your life. Contribute to humanity. All you need is a little good luck first.”

“Donation bins could use tampons more than luck.” Mack’s voice is soft and dry with disuse.

The woman cracks, something triumphant behind her eyes. Mack shouldn’t have spoken. The woman holds up an envelope. “It just so happens, some luck has come in the mail. Whether it’s good is really up to you. Right now, it’s an opportunity. And I think you’re perfect for it.”

Mack has never been perfect for anything in her life. Perfect feels like a foreign word, stiff and uncomfortable. But maybe it’s a job. A little money to get presentable and she’ll have an actual chance. As long as they don’t pry. As long as they don’t look too closely. She could make it work.

She takes the sheet of paper the woman slides across the desk. It’s thick. It feels expensive. Mack is suddenly aware of her hands—her bitten fingernails, her shiny burned palms, her ragged cuticles. If she sets down the paper, will she leave a smudge? It’s hard to be embarrassed at this point in her life, but the idea wriggles beneath her skin.

She’s so worried about leaving a fingerprint—one that will somehow count against her in this imaginary job interview—that it takes her several seconds to process what she’s reading.

“Is this a joke?” she whispers.

The woman’s smile doesn’t budge. “I know it sounds like one. But I assure you it’s legitimate.”

“Who told you?”

Finally, the woman’s cheeks relax, and her eyebrows draw close. “What do you mean? Who told me what? That it’s legitimate?”

About me, Mack thinks. Who told you about me? But the woman’s confusion can’t be feigned. Can it? If she can paint on a face, can she paint on emotions, too? Mack drops the letter. There are no fingerprints. But the words have left smudges across her mind.

“Why are you giving this to me?” Mack knows how lost she sounds, how scared, but she can’t help it. “Why me?”

The woman laughs, a single dismissive burst. “I know it seems silly. The Olly Olly Oxen Free Hide-and-Seek Tournament. It’s a children’s game, for god’s sake. But it’s a chance to win fifty thousand dollars, Mackenzie. You could use that to actually move up in the world. You’re young. You’re intelligent. You’re not a thief, you’re not an addict. You shouldn’t be here.”

No one should be here. They all still are.

The woman leans forward intently. “It’s run by an athletic company, Ox Extreme Sports. I can put in a good word and get you registered. There’s no guarantee you’d win, but—I think you have a shot. It’s more about endurance than anything else. Besides, you strike me as someone who’s good at hiding.”

Mack’s chair scrapes back, jarring them both. But Mack can’t be in this room, can’t think, not while she’s being looked at. Not while she’s being seen. The woman doesn’t know about Mack’s history, and still, somehow she knows.

“Can I think about it,” Mack states. It’s not a question.

“Of course. But let me know by tomorrow. If you don’t want the spot, I’m sure someone else will. It’s a lot of money, Mackenzie. For a silly game!” The woman laughs again. “I’d enter it myself, but I can’t go more than twenty minutes without needing to pee.” She waits for Mack to laugh, too.

She’s still waiting as Mack slides out through the door, not even a whisper in her wake.

Everything about the shelter is designed to remind them that nothing is theirs. There are no lockers. No alcoves. No closets. No bedrooms. In a featureless box of a space, the ceiling looming so far overhead a bird lives in the beams, there are cots. Each has the same stiff white sheets and scratchy blankets. The area beneath the cots is to be kept clear at all times. They are not allowed to use the same cot more than two nights in a row. Anything not cleared by nine a.m. will be confiscated and thrown out, so they can’t even leave their meager possessions on the cot that is not theirs.

When the cots are all filled, Mack is as good as hidden. She’s small. She’s quiet. But now she feels as though a spotlight has been trained on her. Everyone else has already cleared out for the day. Some will go to whatever work they’ve found. Several will sit outside on the sidewalk until they’re allowed back in at four p.m. The rest, who knows. Mack doesn’t ask. Mack doesn’t tell. Because she goes somewhere she doesn’t want any of them to know about, either.

Hidden behind a half wall, choked with the scent of burning dust, an old water heater sizzles and rages. She has permanent shiny burns on her hands from where she scales the water heater, wedges herself between walls, and shimmies up.

1 comment:

  1. OOh nice! This one sounds positively chilling! I've been eager for this one ever since Kiersten started mentioning it! I can't wait to get a copy! Hopefully this weekend! Great review!