**3.5-stars rounded up**
Find Him Where You Left Him Dead is a YA-Horror release featuring Dark Fantasy elements based on Japanese folklore. To my delight, eerie imagery abounds!
In this story, we are following four teens, Madeline, Emerson, Owen and Dax. Four years ago, they, along with their friend, Ian, played a game in a local cave, as you do. Unfortunately, Ian never made it out. He disappeared and is assumed dead.
Unsurprisingly, the remaining kids were traumatized by the events of that day. A lot of blame got tossed around, anger and vitriol. They’ve been estranged ever since.
They never recovered from losing Ian and each struggled in their own ways. Madeline, for example, focused all her time on her swimming, cutting herself off from everyone. Taking it further, Emerson dropped out of school completely. All around, not a good time for anyone.
It’s now the end of their Senior year. They’re approaching adulthood, but things feel unfinished. That’s when a haunting presence, who looks like the long-missing Ian, begins summoning the group of friends back together again.
Reuniting, the group decides they need to finish the game they started all those years ago. They return to the cave to pick up where they left off. They’re at a loss though. Ian’s ghost dragged them here, but how is this going to help him?
As they restart the game, the teens are quickly sucked out of their reality and into a dangerous hellscape of Japanese underworlds. That’s where they meet Shinigami, the wise old woman who finally tells them the rules.
Collect seven stones by completing seven challenges. They have until dawn, or they risk getting stuck in the underworld forever. If they’re successful, it’s possible they could return home with Ian at their sides.
This forces the estranged teens to put their grievances aside. They’ve got to forget the past four years of bitter dislike and come back to a place where they can work together effectively and efficiently. They accept the challenge.
I really enjoyed my time with this story. I found it to be incredibly gripping and unique. I loved all the dark horror imagery based on Japanese folklore and the gaming element, including all of the challenges, was just such an experience.
I loved how quickly Simmons started with the dark content. It’s pretty much immediate, as you are meeting each of the four mains, you’re meeting them as they are encountering the eerie Ian-image for the first time. I thought that was a great way to kick it off.
I’ve read a couple of stories that follow this type of trip through the underworld facing different challenges plot, but this is the first time that it was a group, versus one individual. I liked the group because it added a lot of interesting personal dynamics.
There were times, in a couple of the challenges, where the imagery for me did get a little muddled; like I couldn’t really picture what was happening anymore. Overall though, I think Simmons did a wonderful job painting a picture for us on the page with her words. It was captivating.
There were some great twists as well. A big one, I definitely didn’t see coming. I wasn’t expecting anything twisted, so good on Simmons for fooling me like that.
I would recommend this to Readers who enjoy YA Horror with Dark Fantasy elements, particularly if you are a fan of Japanese folklore. Conversely, if you love Japanese folklore, or Anime, I also think this one is worth giving a shot, even if you aren’t necessarily a big YA-Horror Reader.
Thank you so much to the publisher, Tor Teen and Macmillan Audio, for providing me a copy to read and review. I’m not sure, but I’m smelling a sequel on the horizon…