Ryan Tan Reviews “Hide” by Kiersten White

Hide by Kiersten White reviewed by Ryan Tan

In Kiersten White’s Hide, fourteen people play hide-and-seek in an unused amusement park for a prize of fifty thousand dollars. The players are given thirty minutes to find a hiding spot, where they must remain until dusk. The first two players to be found are eliminated. The rest return to a designated area in the park, where they camp overnight before resuming the next day. Although the novel rotates between different points-of-view, we experience most of the story through Mack, who is the first character introduced.

On the second night of the game, the players gather around a campfire. One of them, Jaden, recites the disturbing backstory of Mack, whom he remembers reading about in the news. Jaden’s version of the story begins in a new section, in which he addresses the others without dialogue tags, while Mack’s private thoughts are indicated by parentheses. I find it ironic that Mack, who survived the incident that killed her family, takes the role of a passive listener who responds to, rather than narrates, the story she knows firsthand. Meanwhile, Jaden’s account is presented as fact, even though it stems from a heartless need to ostracise Mack. There is a sense of unjust wrongness, which amplifies the horror of Mack’s history. The use of parentheses simultaneously weakens Mack’s comments and gives them an added visual prominence. Considering Mack and Jaden’s opposing genders, perhaps this demonstrates that marginalised voices carry more weight than those that dominate the narrative. The “optional” part of Mack’s story is, in fact, the most truthful and necessary.

The amusement park hides a monster, whose behaviour I find a little convoluted. At first, we learn that it eats no less, and no more, than two people a day. Yet, this is later disproved. We also learn that the monster refuses to eat those who are already dead, and that it cannot be seen by those who are immune to its attack. I think these details overcomplicate the plot, especially with more than twenty characters in total. One of them, Brandon, narrates a section of the novel with his distinctive voice, which strongly appeals to me. Perhaps a smaller cast of characters, each with their own style of speech, might have been less overwhelming and more compelling.

Nonetheless, I love the organic development of conflict from a large and diverse group of people. In particular, the shifting points-of-view remove the certainty that any one character makes it to the end. This creates a suspenseful atmosphere that makes “Hide” a fast-paced and engaging read.

Ryan Tan studies English Literature at the National University of Singapore. His fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in Straylight, Grimdark, Bone Parade, Bristol Noir, and The 13 Days of Christmas. If you enjoyed this review, you might also enjoy his review of Road of Bones by Christopher Golden.

Hide is available in The Chamber’s Bookshop in both English and Spanish (as El Escondite).

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