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Ever since Shirley Jackson’s short story, “The Lottery,” horror fans have been suspicious of seemingly innocent games. From The Hunger Games series in YA to Korean television’s “Squid Game” to THE LONG WALK by Stephen King (writing as Richard Bachman), games of chance or skill are used by authors and screenwriters to test characters, pitting them against each other and their own weaknesses. Amusement parks raise delightful red flags for horror lovers as well.

Capitalizing on these features, prolific YA author Kiersten White has set her first adult novel in an empty amusement park and placed 14 strangers there to play a game of hide and seek. HIDE has the makings of a wonderfully scary tale and mostly lives up to that promise.

"White has a lot of good ideas that are horrific, thrilling and emotional, and this effort heralds a great new direction in her career."

Mack accepts the offer to play the game because she needs the prize money and thinks she can win. After all, hiding is what saved her life when her father massacred the rest of her family; she figures she can hide for seven days in less dire circumstances. Ignoring some signs that the game may not be quite what she was told, Mack joins 13 other players and finds herself at Amazement Park in a town called Asterion.

Amazement Park opened in 1953 but has sat empty for many years, following the murder of a five-year-old girl there. Overgrown and dilapidated, it seems like the perfect place for the game. The contestants are all motivated by personal and financial reasons. Mack was recruited by someone at the homeless shelter where she was staying, and several others are coming from desperate and vulnerable situations. Even before arriving at the park, Mack makes a connection with Ava. This bond will help them play, and try to survive, the game --- which, of course, is a deadly one.

The 14 players have been brought to Amazement Park as human sacrifices by a group of families who, a few generations ago, conjured a demonic monster. They did so to protect themselves and their descendants from violence and poverty, and the sacrifices have worked: each family is prosperous and safe. As the weeklong game progresses and players disappear, they begin to understand what is happening. Mack and Ava, together with a young man named LeGrand, hope to thwart the diabolical plans of the Asterion families and save themselves. They navigate the maze and escape it to confront Linda, the current game/sacrifice organizer, before returning to the park to battle the demon. Along the way, they confront their own past traumas and family sins.

HIDE is a fun read. White doesn’t always connect her own dots, so there are some aspects of the story that don’t make much sense, especially in the last quarter of the novel. Still, the characters are compelling, and the hide-and-seek aspect of the book is entertaining, if not exactly scary. White has a lot of good ideas that are horrific, thrilling and emotional, and this effort heralds a great new direction in her career.

Reviewed by Sarah Rachel Egelman on May 27, 2022

by Kiersten White