Hachette Book Group, 327 pages, hardcover, $17.99
While I’m not typically a YA reader, I enjoyed Harrison’s fresh take on modern horror. In a genre that has been pounded into the ground, it is hard to break new ground, but The Glare practically reinvents the ghost story by creating ghouls that are not necessarily supernatural, but more a product of present-day technology — or, more specifically, a product of the detrimental cognitive effects of this technology.
The Glare follows a teenaged girl, Hedda, who has just moved back to the Bay Area of California after a decade spent living off-grid in the Arizona desert with her mom. Now living with her dad and stepmother, Hedda must readjust to modern society and its obsession with social media, smart phones, and, above all, screens — what she refers to as “the glare.” Though her mother warns against using screens, Hedda almost immediately falls in-line with other kids her age, obtaining a phone and using a computer.
Unfortunately, she soon rediscovers a game on the Dark Web — a first-person shooter also called The Glare — that she vaguely remembers playing as a young child. As Hedda gets back into playing the game, she realizes that it is because of this game — and the terrifying real-world consequences of playing it — that she had to take refuge in the desert in the first place.
As the game becomes popular within Hedda’s small group of school friends, horrifying events begin to occur, largely caused by pale, faceless specters known as the Randoms, who make the leap from the game world to the physical world.
Or have they? Harrison cleverly delves into the psychological phenomena known as “game transfer phenomena” (similar to the “Tetris effect”), wherein elements of addictive video games infiltrate all aspects of a player’s waking life. Is this what Hedda and her friends suffer from? Or have the Randoms truly freed themselves?
More importantly, who is behind the game? Who keeps the servers running, and who is responsible for continually luring unsuspecting gamers into this dangerous virtual world? There are many questions to be asked as you read Harrison’s novel, and the guessing game culminates with a surprising ending that will likely catch most readers completely off-guard.
I feel that, in writing this novel, Harrison set out on a difficult journey herself, attempting to meld current technology and authentic terminology with complex psychology and the tone of a classic horror story — all intended for a discerning YA audience. A tall order indeed. But with The Glare she has succeeded, creating a very unique read.