I received a digital advance reader’s copy (ARC) of Hide by Kiersten White. Since this version is just a proof and not the final version, I won’t quote directly and will keep my comments general.
In Hide, Mack has been struggling to get her feet under her for a while now. So when a mysterious woman comes to the homeless shelter she’s been staying in and offers her a spot in a competition to win $50,000, she can’t afford not to take it. The competition is a weeklong hide-and-seek contest, and luckily for Mack, hiding is something she’s good at. It’s the reason she is the sole survivor of her family, after all. But once the contest begins, and people start getting eliminated, Mack starts to wonder. What is really happening to those people? And what, exactly, are they hiding from?
I’ve read another book by White, but it’s been a while. So when I saw this book was coming out, with such an intriguing premise, I decided to check her work out again. And overall, this was pretty good! Overall. I have some thoughts, though.
I like the characters for the most part, though some barely had time to leave an impression. There’s a large cast, with the fourteen competitors, the woman running the game, and others in the background or in flashbacks. So while some are not memorable or well characterized, the main characters have rich inner lives and rounded personalities. Mack is a decently written protagonist, LeGrand is interesting, and Ava is awesome.
White does do something odd in terms of perspective, though. During scenes where several characters are gathered, she moves from POV to POV, often from paragraph to paragraph. Usually such a device is a pet peeve of mine, because to me it shows that the writing is amateur. However, here, this constant shifting felt deliberate, and wasn’t done in a haphazard way, exactly. I can’t quite put my finger on why this sort of worked, when other authors can’t pull it off. Basically, this narration that seems to hover over the scene, flitting from mind to mind, rather than having a narration deeply embedded in one person’s perspective. So while it isn’t really to my taste, that doesn’t make it bad. It somehow worked, even if I felt hyperaware of its use at all times.
But enough about that. One thing I really liked was the atmosphere, especially during the first few days of the competition. Being in the abandoned amusement park was so thrilling, and chilling, and I found those scenes where the characters get to see new parts of the park to be some of the best scenes. White offers vivid descriptions, laced with an eerie tone of something dangerous hovering just out of sight. Tensions are high during these first few days, as the characters and reader wonder what, exactly, is the nature of this game.
I would say, though, that a certain amount of the suspense faded after the first few days of the game. Instead of feeling tense, it felt like the plot slowed at around 50-60% through the book, for some reason. I think I was so anticipating seeing the real danger of the park that I got bored waiting. However, during that time, we learn a lot about the origins of the danger, and that was fascinating and scary. I wish we’d gotten a flashback scene to the moment the danger was brought forth (I’m being vague, sorry. If you read the book, you’ll know what I mean, hopefully), but even just reading the old diary entries was fantastic. White knows how to portray creepy stuff, and I applaud her for that.
As well as creepy stuff, White is also quite adept at weaving in a theme I didn’t expect here. There is a lot of analysis or commentary about class differences, and generational differences. It’s hard to tell if this is a critique of modern society and its obsession with things like reality television, or a condemnation of clinging to tradition and the privilege that comes with generational wealth. Perhaps it’s both. Also, having some of the villains be simply the worst sort of people from the Baby Boomer generation was pretty fun. You go, White!
So all that said, I was fully prepared to love this book, and would have if it hadn’t been for the ending. It’s too ambiguous for my taste, and left me with way too many questions. What happened to the three main characters? What happens to the thing that dwells in the park? The implications of leaving that thing alive are kind of more far-reaching than I think the characters realize, and I wanted to see what happened! I know that leaving on a slightly ambiguous note can sometimes be an effective way to end a story, but I think this one suffered for it. I needed way more closure than I got, and it was frustrating.
However, all in all, Hide is a compelling, haunting story. It’s quite dark, with violence and some gore, and has a spooky atmosphere. The characters are decent, but the pacing isn’t perfect. The ending was a disappointment, but the lore and action were wonderful. There’s a lot to like here, and overall this is a good story, if not the most amazing book in the world. With a similar feeling to the first Hunger Games novel, but ultimately more of a monster-filled Most Dangerous Game, this is an eerie tale that’s worth reading.
Hide will be published on May 24th, 2022!