Kiersten White’s Hide can be read on two vary distinct levels: as a thrilling adventure story with horror elements or as a subtle commentary on the horrors of modern society. The fact that both readings work equally well is a testament to Kiersten White’s skill as an author and the strength of the clever literary conceit which forms the core of the novel.
On the surface, the plot seems simple enough. Fourteen participants agree to play a game in order to win $50,000. The goal of the competition is to stay hidden for seven days in an abandoned amusement park. Every evening, the contestants will gather at the homebase for rest and a chance to fortify their supplies. From dawn to dusk, the contestants must evade the “seekers” in any way they choose – such as hiding alone, running around, sabotaging others, or maybe by forming an alliance. The rules are just that simple, but there can only be one winner. Once a player is “found,” they are out of the game.
What the contestants do not know, is how—or maybe why—they were chosen to participate in this unique competition. It is a diverse group with varied backgrounds. A graffiti artist, a fitness instructor, a social media influencer, a writer, a gas station attendant, a military veteran, a salesman, and more. The reader’s strongest connection is with Mackenzie Black, aka Mack, a young adult “nobody” living in a group homeless shelter. What the other contestants don’t know is that Mack has survived before. She is that Mackenzie Black, the one whose father went on a now infamous killing spree killing his entire family, except for Mack who was able to hide until the police arrived. Some might view that as an unfair advantage, but for Mack it was—and is—just a matter of survival.
At the last minute, just prior to the start of the game, the participants are also told that if they can locate a leather-bound book hidden within the dilapidated amusement park rides and detritus left with years of un-use, they will be eligible for an additional advantage. They are not told that this book holds the key to the mythology that surrounds the land on which the Amazement Park, as it was once called, was built.
The social commentary aspects of Hide are harder to explain; they are best experienced within context while reading the book. Suffice to say, in many ways, the participants of the game are outcasts, denied the privilege bestowed upon others. It is a look at how there are always monsters out there in the world seeking to devour us – and how sometimes that monster is us.
Kiersten White has crafted an extremely tight story in Hide. The book clocks in at less than 240 pages, adding to the feeling that it must be consumed as quickly as possible. White dispenses with the tradition of having chapters and instead only orients the reader by highlighting the start of each day of the competition, adding to the countdown aspect of the novel. Once the book is discovered, readers are given glimpses of the diary entries it contains, helping to reveal the truth of what this competition is all about.
Kiersten White’s Hide is a memorable reading experience and should appeal to fans of many different genres.
Disclaimer: A print galley of this title was provided to BOLO Books by the author. No promotion was promised and the above is an unbiased review of the novel.