Come Out, Come Out, Whatever You Are

Sourcebooks/Fire. Nov. 2022. 368p. pap. $10.99. ISBN 9781728248042.
Gr 8 Up–Five teens have been selected for the blockbuster finale of It’s Behind You!, a reality show. If they can last through the night in the haunted Umber Gorge caverns, they’ll win a share of $10,000. As members of the crew and cast begin disappearing in the eerie darkness, it becomes apparent that the contestants are motivated by more than prize money. Each must decide how far they are willing to go, whom they can trust, and whether they are truly alone in the caves. The novel is told primarily as a first-person narrative from the perspective of a girl named Lex, but the various interviews highlight each character. The premise has the potential for a compelling and creepy narrative, but unfortunately misses that mark. The characters are underdeveloped and inconsistent, and their dialogue feels inauthentic and immature compared to their ages. The plot complexity will resonate with younger readers, but the age of the characters and the inclusion of sexual content and expletives suggest the novel is targeted at older teens. Characters are described as having pasty white skin, olive skin, light brown skin, and warm brown skin with spiky curls. There is also some diversity with orientation, as Lex states that she is bisexual.
VERDICT This book will appeal to readers seeking dark YA fiction with a handful of thrills and chills; transcript excerpts and reality TV tropes keep the story entertaining, though not engrossing. Recommended for fans of Karen M. McManus and Cynthia Murphy.

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