Ride the slopes with Whiteout, a gruesome debut by Gabriel Dylan. YA horror that will chill you to the bone.
“Something happened here. Something that changed my life.”
I’ll be honest… I’ve never read horror. Never been drawn to it. I have a memory that can’t retain anything useful, but can still picture the man in Friday the 13th which my cousin made me watch as a child. So when Elane suggested we should read Gabriel Dylan’s debut novel Whiteout I wasn’t keen. In fact, I was downright resistant.
After making sure I was in a public place in daylight (not alone) I flicked through the first few chapters to find a group of students on a school skiing trip in the town of Kaldgellan in the Austrian Alps. So far so good… nothing too scary to begin with. The trip is viewed from multiple perspectives, two in particular. Misfit Charlie doesn’t really care if he lives or dies. Hanna, one of the guides, wishes the visiting students would disappear and leave her and the mountain alone. Both, it seems, have a story to tell. Nico the geek, Tara the spoiled princess (whose family have lost all of their money) and several butch characters from the school rugby team also play their part.
With a huge winter storm brewing, things start to take a turn for the worst. Lifts are shut, the resort is closed, there is no phone signal or internet and conditions make it impossible to ski. The fact all of the townsfolk have left helps foreshadow the Whiteout that is to follow.
“It was one of the girls that found the blood.”
In the dead of night none of the teachers can be located. Discovering blood on the doorstep should have been my cue to stop reading, but I found myself turning the page…
Scenes in the hostel take the tension up a notch. Rampaged by strange creatures who seem intent on killing everything in their way, the students escape to the top of the hostel. Here they have a tough choice to make. In fact, this book is filled with decisions you as a reader can ask of yourself. Would you stay in the hostel and risk being eaten by one of the vile monsters or would you head outside in freezing temperatures and risk hypothermia? Do you attempt to ski away from the resort in a raging blizzard, praying you get to safety in such treacherous conditions, or do you stay and take your chances until help arrives? Will help arrive? Talk about being stuck between a rock and a hard place! Tough choices indeed, but which would you make?
“I know we can hurt them.”
Despite some gruesome storytelling I couldn’t help but read on. I wanted to know what these creatures were, why they were doing what they were doing and if the characters I was now invested in would make it out alive.
Slowly, and I won’t spoil it, the students get whittled down. One of them, Poppy, even gets bitten and spends most of her time with the other survivors in severe pain, hearing voices in her head.
“You know something, don’t you? Something you’re not telling us.”
Taking the lead most of the way, Hanna and Charlie realise their separate pasts of pain and suffering bind them together. As a result, questions are raised regarding Hanna and what she is hiding. What did happen to Hanna’s brother on that same mountain several years before? And why does she feel closer to him when she is there? Further clues are dropped in when Hanna and Charlie visit a lit chalet to find an old man sat in an armchair. What does he know about the creatures? And why hasn’t he done anything about it?
“You’ve done well to stay alive so long.”
As the creatures only come out at night you can imagine how scared you would be as the sun starts to set, how you would do your best to make them not find you. But eventually your only choice is to fight back.
There is a lot to admire about this novel. To me, it is a perfect example of how a book should be structured and the writing is superb. It hooks you in from the start, slowly builds the tension and drops in several clues along the way. Sometimes you think you know where it’s going but not being quite sure you have to read on. Focusing on characters from different backgrounds cleverly proves that, in a situation like this, the playing field is level.
The ending is genius! All of the loose ends are tied up, leaving a small thread for the story to be continued…
So, am I a converted horror reader?
Perhaps not, but if Gabriel Dylan publishes a sequel, I will definitely be reading it – in a public place, in daylight, not alone.