Kids are wonderful, they are honest, creative, and really imaginative… that being said, these qualities can also make kids a bit creepy and scary. They sometimes say unsettling things or play with weird imaginary friends, but by far the scariest thing a kid can make is a creepy drawing. It’s really easy to take those cute and messy scribbles and make something unsettling and horrible with them. The scariest part of a creepy drawing is the possibility that there is some truth in it.
Hidden Pictures by Jason Rekulak is the story of Mallory Quinn, a recuperating addict that starts working as the nanny of Teddy Maxwell, the son of a nice couple living in an affluent suburb in New Jersey. Mallory’s new life seems to be perfect until Teddy shows her a really horrifying and off putting drawing, and what makes it a lot worse is that said drawing seems to be influenced by Teddy’s weird imaginary friend, Annya. Soon things start changing for the worst and Mallory is unwillingly put in the eye of the storm. Through Mallory’s story Hidden Pictures explores trauma, resilience, and redemption.
While at first this book may seem like just another cliche horror story, there is something early on that changes everything: the drawing. Everytime one of Teddy’s illustrations is mentioned, we get to actually see the drawings (drawn by Will Staehle and Doogie Horner). At first this is just a fun detail, but as soon as the more unsettling drawings start appearing you realize exactly why they are being shown. There is a drawing in particular that gave me chills. That being said, it’s not that the drawings themselves overshadow the text, but instead they work wonderfully together to create a mood that really enhances the narrative. In many ways this is a story about the importance of really seeing what it’s infront of us and the drawings really help convey this message.
In addition to the drawing there is another thing that makes this book really special, its twist. There was not a moment I knew where this book was going, even though the clues are there if you are paying attention. By the time I finished the book I was speechless, every revelation took me by surprise. Rekulak does a great job of managing the reader’s expectations, giving enough clues without giving anything away. There is one twist that feels out of place and a bit forced, but thankfully it doesn’t take away from the rest of the book. Overall, this is a well written mystery.
Hidden Pictures takes a common horror story and transforms it into an interesting and shocking thriller that will keep you guessing at every page. While it might take the reader a couple chapters to get hooked into Mallory’s journey, there will be a moment when they simply can’t stop reading. A great story for anyone wanting to inject a bit of suspense and terror to their summer, I promise you are in for a surprise if you pick this one up.
Hidden Pictures by Jason Rekulak is available now at your local independent bookstore or wherever fine books are sold.
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