Title: Come Out, Come Out, Whatever You Are
Author: Kathryn Foxfield
Genre: Young Adult | Mystery/Thriller
Release Date: November 29 2022
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
On the reality show It’s Behind You!, five contestants competing for prize money must survive the night in the dark and dangerous Umber Gorge caves, rumored to be haunted by the Puckered Maiden, a ghost who eats the hearts of her victims. But is it the malevolent spirit they should fear, or each other?
Disclaimer: I received this ARC courtesy of Sourcebooks Fire through NetGalley. I am grateful for the opportunity to review an ARC for my readers, but this will not influence my final rating. All opinions expressed in this review are my own and based solely on the book.
Come Out, Come Out, Whatever You Are‘s immediate appeal is for its promised mystery/thriller approach to a reality TV series. Unfortunately, Foxfield’s writing was not strong enough to convince me of the terrors lurking in Umber Gorge caves, and once that premise fell apart, the rest of the novel tumbled like a cave-in.
📌 on plot
❝ I love puzzles! One time, during the before, I did an escape game room with my parents and I got so excited, I threw up in a trashcan. Good times. ❞ — Lex
Foxfield starts Come Out, Come Out, Whatever You Are on an eerie note when Lex sneaks around town her first night. She witnesses the unsettling Umber Heart Festival, where townsfolk sacrifice pig hearts to the Puckered Maiden, and spots a strange figure in the shadows. I got just enough taste of the town and its unusual traditions before Foxfield moved the plot swiftly to the filming of It’s Behind You!
❝ There’s a woman in a white dress crawling on the low ceiling, her head lolling back to stare at us. ❞
COCOWYA wastes little time on theatrics. The plot rolls forwards at a comfortable pace, usually driven by dialogue, which is well-suited for the dramatic events that frequently take place throughout the novel. I was always wondering what would happen next, and never disappointed. Because of the emphasis on action and dialogue, though, tense/creepy moments did tend to get lost. These creepy moments also tended towards stereotypical horror, such as the abandoned graveyard or the theme park swan boats. I would have appreciated if more of the horror in the book was centric to Umber Gorge (such as the Umber Heart Festival).
Likely due to the large cast, several plot threads felt unresolved to me by the end. (Murder does tend to do that.)
📌 on characters
❝ The diary cam shakes as Python films me spitting and gagging. I pull myself together and flick up the collar of my shirt, side-eyeing the camera. I think I get away with it. ❞ — Lex
The lead character of COCOWYA, Lex Hazelton, has a strong and unique personality. I admired her refusal to back down to fear, particularly in the way this personality trait played into the mystery/thriller genre. At the same time, she has a very comedic personality that clashes with the serious tone the novel needed to take sometimes (i.e. during death scenes).
Meanwhile, Lex’s co-stars all struggled to break free of the identifiers Lex gives them at the beginning of the novel. Marla the aspiring actress, for example, does little more in the book than act extremely dramatic. Because of this, it was hard to connect with the fear the cast felt and even to connect to some character deaths.
Unable to connect with the characters or plot beyond the surface level, I could only enjoy this book as a diversion. I would recommend this is a light summer read or as a wading pool into the horror genre.
representation: LGBTQ+ (bisexual main character), POC (ambiguous race brown-skin side character)
content warnings: murder, death (on-page and off-page), violence