Book Reviews

Hidden Pictures by Jason Rekulak – Book Review

The book cover of Hidden Pictures by Jason Rekulak

Warning – possible spoilers! (Tiny ones, though, and I’ll try to avoid even those; I swear I’ll give my best not to ruin it for you… :-))

Hidden Pictures by Jason Rekulak – Book Details

TITLE – Hidden Pictures

AUTHOR – Jason Rekulak

ILLUSTRATORS – Will Staehle, Doogie Horner

GENREhorror, thriller, mystery, paranormal

YEAR PUBLISHED – 2022

PAGE COUNT – 373

MY RATING – 4.5 of 5

RATED ON GOODREADS – 4.20 of 5

What It Is About

A man is digging a grave. A woman is being dragged through a forest. And someone is looking up from the bottom of a very deep hole.

Goodreads Choice Award winner for Best Horror of 2022!

Mallory Quinn has been battling OxyContin and heroin addiction for the past eighteen months. And though that battle never ends, she’s doing much better. She even managed to find a job as a nanny in a prosperous suburb of Spring Brook, New Jersey.

Teddy Maxwell, the kid she is to babysit, is the sweetest five-year-old boy and one of the reasons Mallory loves her new job. Like many kids, Teddy loves to draw. But his sketches quickly progress from simple drawings of balloons and rabbits to detailed sinister illustrations of a man dragging a dead body through the woods.

As it is clear Teddy couldn’t have drawn such complex sketches on his own, Mallory starts to suspect his artwork are really glimpses of an unsolved murder that allegedly happened at the Maxwell property several decades ago.

But what does the force that is trying to communicate through Teddy want? And why does it seem that all the events in the house only lead to another tragedy?

I’m not sure if I’m consoling her or she’s consoling me, I can’t tell where my guilt ends and hers begins. Maybe it’s the kind of grief we will never ever shake, not even after we’re dead.

Hidden Pictures by Jason Rekulak – My Review

An illustration from Hidden Pictures by Jason Rekulak

I’m always in for a good thriller with horror-ish vibes, and adding a dash of supernatural to the mix is pretty much a sure way to make me pick up a book. Hidden Pictures by Jason Rekulak offered just that and it sounded like it might be a hundred percent my kind of thing.

This is also the book that won this year’s Goodreads Choice Award for the best horror, beating several other titles that I’ve been hoping to get to soon. I just had to see what so many people liked about it.

And straight out of the gate, several elements made Rekulak’s Hidden Pictures work so well.

There are so many pieces to the puzzle, my head is starting to hurt. I feel like we’re trying to jam a square peg into a round hole—or to force a very easy solution on a very complicated problem.

First, the setting. The contrast between the beautiful, quiet neighborhood during warm, sunny summer days and the increasing horror unfolding in one of the houses. Plus the local legends about a tragedy in the past that might be reaching its fingers all the way to the present.

The psychic neighbor – too eccentric for anyone to pay attention to, but who keeps warning that a spirit might be using the boy to tell her story.

And, of course, the protagonist. Mallory was a great MC. Likable and complex. Strong but vulnerable. Someone who has definitely had her share of mistakes in the past, but seems to have come out of it stronger. Determined to make the best she can out of the rest of her life.

So, a girl easy to root for and in some ways relate to. But also someone you know won’t be trusted if she starts to talk about the supernatural. No way she can go to anyone, be honest about what’s going on and ask for help.

Teddy runs to get his swimsuit and I see he’s left a new drawing facedown on the coffee table. […] Curiosity gets the better of me. I turn the paper over, and this is pretty much the last straw.

And when she first goes to the Maxwells’ house for the job interview and meets the parents, Caroline and Ted, as well as Teddy, nothing suggests this babysitting gig might challenge her to those impossible choices. The house is gorgeous, the parents pleasant. And Teddy is an adorable kid.

But Ted and Caroline are worried about him. Teddy is about to start school, but he doesn’t want to play with other boys. In fact, his only playmate is his imaginary friend Anya.

It is Mallory’s job to help Teddy get used to meeting new people. And for a while, everything seems to be going great. But Teddy’s simple drawings quickly progress to detailed, complex sketches no five-year-old could master on his own. And the illustrations seem to be telling a story of a murder.

As Teddy’s drawings take darker and darker turns, Mallory starts to wonder how those images even got into his head. And there’s only one obvious solution – his imaginary friend Anya with whom Teddy talks every day during his Quiet Time.

“The man dug a hole so no one would find her,” he says with a shrug. “But I guess she got out.”

So, great setup, great vibes. And I can honestly say I enjoyed this book a lot from start to finish.

The beginning was maybe a bit slow, but Hidden Pictures was one of those books where narration has a good rhythm so you barely notice it. The writing was very accessible and easy to fly through.

The only thing I maybe wish was different was that I hoped for an even creepier, scarier story. But the narration was so light, even the truly disturbing parts didn’t quite get to me.

Which wasn’t all that bad. It made for a quick, easy read, fun and entertaining. Great for people who love spooky vibes but not to get completely terrified.

Book illustrations from Hidden Pictures by Jason Rekulak

The illustrations were also a huge part of the book. They added something little extra to the story. I especially appreciated the transition from Teddy’s obviously childish stick drawings to dark, skillful images as the story progressed.

But the ending really made Hidden Pictures a 5-star read for me. I kept wondering throughout the book where the story was going, and some parts of the twist caught me completely clueless!

There were actually a couple of aspects of the story that I entirely missed while reading. The ending made me gasp once or twice before tying everything nicely together.

And I think back to the doctor from the University of Pennsylvania and the research experiment that didn’t actually happen. And it’s the first night I feel like someone might be watching me.

Look. Kids drawing creepy images and having imaginary friends who may or may not have malevolent agendas is not exactly the newest or the most original concept we’ve ever heard of. But there’s nothing wrong with good old tropes that became tropes because they work. Especially when they are done well, and this one was.

I enjoyed this book a lot. I can even see it turned into a movie, and I’d certainly watch it. Hidden Pictures was a fun and entertaining horror. Creepy, but not too creepy. Weird, but not too out there.

Great to kill a couple of lazy evenings. And if that’s what you are looking for, Hidden Pictures by Jason Rekulak is a great option.

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