Out in the middle of the desert exists an abandoned amusement park with a terrible hidden history. Fourteen young adults, desperate for fame or money, have signed up to try and win a $50,000 contest. If they spend a week in the park without getting caught, the money is theirs. Ox Extreme Sports is running the competition, and Linda, their kindly, middle-aged rep is looking after them.
Oddly, Linda is somewhat vague about the details. Cell phone reception is blocked by the local geography – most annoying for the social media influencers in the group – and its not clear how the event will be recorded. Will it be streamed live over the internet or will it be shown as a series on cable TV? Who will be hunting them? What happens when they are caught? The contestants don’t even know the exact location of the park.
It doesn’t take long for the group to grow a little suspicious, but Mackenzie – AKA Mack – isn’t interested in their concerns. Mack needs that 50 grand and if she has to hide to escape her old life, well that’s something Mack knows she can do. Her father butchered his family, only Mack survived, and she did so by taking her younger sister’s favourite hiding place. In doing so, she condemned her sister to death and Mack is deeply traumatised and full of survivor guilt.
Hide is a book about struggling people finding strength and comfort in each other. The author does a good job of quickly showing each person’s defining characteristics, and although there is a large number of characters the narrative doesn’t become confusing. As people get caught, it quickly focuses down on a smaller group.
Besides Mack, Ava is a wounded veteran, and the first person able to break down Mack’s defences. LeGrand is a young man excommunicated from his isolated, cultish community and desperately worried for his vulnerable sister left behind. Not everybody works together, though. Two of the group begin sabotaging the other participants’ attempts at hiding, which becomes more sinister as the group begin to realise the contest is something much more sinister and avoiding capture really is a matter of life and death.
Without spoiling things, we should must mention that there is a supernatural horror element to the plot. The creature at the heart of the amusement park requires sacrifices every seven years, and the people who benefit from its presence feel they have found the perfect way to get them. Separate chapters, told in diary format, describe this Faustian pact and how it becomes increasingly difficult to satisfy the monster.
Hide is a quick, propulsive read, and the central conceit is perfect thriller material. It has a pulpy, horror plot, which is elevated by the themes of healing trauma, found family, and the importance of trust and personal connection. There is also an element of queer romance. Despite its gruesome story, Hide is an oddly optimistic book, the capacity for healing and connection exists in us all, and its exciting, fast-paced story makes it a great holiday read.
CFL Rating: 4 Stars