2022 Reading Challenge

2022 Reading Challenge
Jill Elizabeth has read 5 books toward her goal of 260 books.

Book Review: Hidden Pictures by Jason Rekulak

About the Book

Fresh out of rehab, Mallory Quinn takes a job as a babysitter for Ted and Caroline Maxwell. She is to look after their five-year-old son, Teddy.

Mallory immediately loves it. She has her own living space, goes out for nightly runs, and has the stability she craves. And she sincerely bonds with Teddy, a sweet, shy boy who is never without his sketchbook and pencil. His drawings are the usual fare: trees, rabbits, balloons. But one day, he draws something different: a man in a forest, dragging a woman’s lifeless body.

Then, Teddy’s artwork becomes increasingly sinister, and his stick figures quickly evolve into lifelike sketches well beyond the ability of any five-year-old. Mallory begins to wonder if these are glimpses of a long-unsolved murder, perhaps relayed by a supernatural force.

Knowing just how crazy it all sounds, Mallory nevertheless sets out to decipher the images and save Teddy before it’s too late.

My Review

Wow. Just – wow. This one was a crazy ride! I was approached by the publisher about a review copy. The blurb intrigued me – as did the raves from Stephen King – and because of the incorporation of artwork into the fundamental nature of the story, I requested a physical book rather than an ebook. I read ebooks on a Kindle Oasis and while both the book and the device offer black and white imagery, I find electronic illustrations much less engaging – and had a feeling, since so much of the story hinged on the devolving nature of the pictures drawn by the little boy, that I needed the full illustrations to really feel their impact.

Boy, was I right!

I am very glad I read this in physical copy because the illustrations are a HUGE component of the creepy-factor here, and seeing them on paper was very startling and impactful. This is a seriously eerie book to read, especially in the beginning. So much so, in fact, that for a short while I wasn’t sure I’d be able to keep reading it because the images were burned into my brain – and some of them are FREAKY, particularly in the context of their artist. But I persevered and I’m so glad I did because things got weird, rather than horrifying, shortly after what I considered the most disturbing imagery – and while I often struggle with horrifying, weird is right up my alley…

There is a lot going on in this story – and mostly in a very very good way. There were a few bits of the wrap up/reveal that I found, well, odd – and somewhat disjointed, given the vast majority of the book – but it still all worked in a way that I found to be a delicious mix of horror, supernatural, domestic thriller, and good old fashioned ghost story. There isn’t too much to be said without the risk of spoilers – and I wouldn’t spoil this one for the world. It’s an original story and the format – intermingling illustrations and words to tell a truly multi-media tale – worked really well. I’m surprised, frankly, that more “adult” books don’t use illustrations as this one did. The mixture of words (imaginary and evocative pictures) and art (graphic and explicit pictures) generates a powerful visual impact that hit me on a visceral level in a way that really elevated the book. Rekulak is a marvelous storyteller and uses the two formats to perfection here. He is definitely on my list of authors to watch now!

Thanks to the author and publisher for my obligation-free review copy.

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