You know what I love as a reader? When I discover an author new to me, and on the basis of just one novel I’m hooked. It happened to me last year with Catriona Ward (to be fair, with her it was two novels, The Last House on Needless Street and Sundial). Now it’s happened again, with Kiersten White and her novel Hide. My friends and family members, and possibly total strangers, are going to get tired of me talking about this remarkable novel.
The premise of Hide is deceptively simple: A group of 14 people from all walks of life, all of them young, are invited to participate in a competition, a game of hide and seek set in an abandoned amusement park. The winner, the one who can spend a week without getting caught, wins $50,000. The amusement park is in ruins, overgrown with trees and vines, laid out in a maze meant to confuse and disorient.
Our main character, Mack, is a victim of violent trauma—her father slaughtered her mother and younger sister while she hid. Mack is broken. She blames herself for her sister’s death. She blames herself for pretty much everything.
The other competitors are a varied lot, and we get to know them all. White excels at creating memorable characters. There’s not a single cardboard cutout here. Still, it’s Mack that I fell in love with and found myself rooting for. She’s damaged, but has hidden reserves of strength and bravery even she doesn’t know she has. She reminded me, in little ways, of Jade, the main character in Stephen Graham Jones’ My Heart Is a Chainsaw, and that’s high praise coming from me.
There’s a little bit of a Hunger Games feel, a little reality TV competition vibe, as alliances are formed and betrayals executed. Then characters begin to disappear. I don’t really want to give too much more away. Hide is a nerve-shredding supernatural horror thriller, accent on the nerve-shredding. White ratchets up the tension right from the beginning and never lets up.
White also has a lot to say about how trauma affects us, and our ability to overcome that trauma. About the transformative power of found families, and the sometimes corrosive, corrupting power of family obligations. There are old, evil family secrets, and, go with me on this, a nod to the Minotaur myth. I read the final 50 pages of this in a mad rush, heart in my throat.
The release date for Hide is May 24, 2022. Please pre-order this. I can’t sing this novel’s praises enough.