Four years ago, Owen, Madeline, Emerson, Dax, and Ian entered a cave and discovered a card game. A little fun turned quickly to terror and they take off, leaving the game - and Ian - behind. Now the four survivors, once inseparable, are estranged from each other, but they find themselves reunited when Ian’s ghost comes to each of them, prompting a return to the place where everything started. They have one goal - find Ian and bring him home. But the game they started four years ago isn’t as innocent as it seems and they are quickly dragged into a world filled with deadly terrors and dark folktales that require them to rely on each other in a way they haven't done in years.
The title of this book alone gave me chills and reading it really did nothing to alleviate that - in the best way possible. Imagine a deadlier version of Jumanji with a Japanese twist - and then up the stakes even higher. This is not a story in which you ever feel comfortable, pitting teenagers against a monstrous world that would do anything it can to be the victor.
There are twists and turns that I didn’t see coming and I was on the edge of my seat the entire time. My anxiety was turned up to a thousand as we follow the teens on their journey to find Ian, who they aren’t even completely sure is still alive. I’m not sure if the Japanese folklore that is presented in this book is actual folklore or if it was created by the author, but I was enamored by it enough to want to dig into it more and find out.
As with all the twists and turns along the way, the ending of the book surprised me in a way that made me crave more. Is the story resolved? Mostly, but I definitely felt like there was more to be resolved. Which means I was thrilled to find out that this book is just the first book in a new duology! Simmons created a haunting world bolstered by folktales come to life interspersed with some of the usual teenage drama to lighten the mood a bit (but just a tiny bit).
FIND HIM WHERE YOU LEFT HIM DEAD by Kristen Simmons is available now and you can pick up a copy for your spooky season reading here.
Disclaimer: I received an advanced copy of this book from the publisher for free and have voluntarily written this review. If you purchase a copy using my Bookshop affiliate link above, not only will I receive a small commission (which will fuel my coffee and tea addiction and help to keep me up all night reading more books to recommend to you), but you will be supporting indie bookstores as well! If you prefer Amazon, visit my Amazon storefront and click on the list titled "2023 Book Recommendations."