Hide by Kiersten White
Penguin, ebook, £7.99
Reviewed by Sarah Deeming
The premise is simple. Fourteen contestants are involved in a giant game of Hide and Seek in an abandoned amusement fair with a $50,000 prize for the winner. For Mack, the offer is too good to be true. As a family annihilator survivor, Mack is only alive because she is so good at staying still. She remained hidden long after the police discovered the gruesome event and swept the house for clues. It’s a game suited to her skills, and the prize money will change her life. How can she not win? But her competitors feel the same, and when the game starts, when people are ‘found’, Mack starts to wonder if her initial misgivings were correct.
Hide caught my attention straight away. I loved watching Channel 4’s Hunted, and an abandoned amusement park for the central location is perfect for a taut thriller. The story starts pleasant enough with everyone making ‘friends’ and treating the experience like a game. In fact, they are primed to, told by the organisers that their game might be a pilot for future series, and having a good time. However, once the game starts, factions form, and the tension mounts as contestant numbers dwindle, especially when the survivors find their erstwhile rivals’ belongings in the park.
White uses the third-person present tense narrative style and head hops between the characters. Usually, I would avoid any book that uses either of these techniques, but in Hide, it really works. Although we spend most of our time with Mack, getting into the heads of the other characters, even only for a paragraph, unlocks their motivations, and I found myself sympathising with characters I normally wouldn’t.
Some characters appear superficial, interested in appearance and wealth over other things. They believe this competition will springboard them into fame and fortune win and meet the production company behind the game. In Mack’s point of view, these people are ridiculous in their desires, and she’s dismissive of them, choosing not to speak to them or anyone else in the ‘game’. But when we visit their perspective, we witness their deepest fear that they will always be a YouTube prankster or mediocre Influencer or app designer. They are trapped before they even get into the park, and their raw vulnerability lifted them off the page and made them real to me.
That’s not to say there weren’t times I was confused by whose perspective I was with sometimes. When the action picks up, so does the head-hopping, and I had to re-read sections to follow the flow. However, I’ll forgive that because those moments were few and far between.
The horror element was well done. For most of the book, we don’t see anything, leaving what happened to the’ found’ people to our imaginations. When things are explained, you realise Hide is an imaginative, feminist retelling of a Greek legend involving a labyrinth (no spoilers, but you know what I’m talking about) that will keep you guessing if any of the characters will survive.