Exclusive Cover Reveal + Excerpt: Dark Consequences Loom In Find Him Where You Left Him Dead

Books Features Kristen Simmons
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Exclusive Cover Reveal + Excerpt: Dark Consequences Loom In <i>Find Him Where You Left Him Dead</i>

Teen friendship can be difficult at the best of times, and everything from jealousy and competition to betrayal and disinterest can drive a seemingly insurmountable wedge between even the tightest group of besties. And, of course, so can leaving someone you supposedly care about trapped in a terrifying hell dimension forever while you do everything you can to save yourself and then pretend they never existed. (Awkward!)

That’s essentially the premise in the latest novel from Kristen Simons, the author of the Article 5 trilogy and co-writer of the Set Fire to the Gods duology. Find Him Where You Left Him Dead is a propulsive horror story about a group of estranged friends forced to play a deadly game in a nightmarish underworld after leaving one of their own for dead. (And suddenly finding themselves haunted by what appears to be his ghost.)

A disturbing tale that’s being called “Jumanji, but Japanese-inspired”, this book certainly sounds as though it will be one of the most addictive reads of the Fall.

Here’s how the publisher describes the story.

Four years ago, five kids started a game. Not all of them survived.

Now, at the end of their senior year of high school, the survivors—Owen, Madeline, Emerson, and Dax—have reunited for one strange and terrible reason: they’ve been summoned by the ghost of Ian, the friend they left for dead.

As soon as they begin, they’re dragged out of their reality and into an eerie hellscape of Japanese underworlds, more horrifying than even the darkest folktales that Owen’s grandmother told him. There, they meet Shinigami, an old wise woman who explains the rules: They have one night to complete seven challenges or they’ll all be stuck in this world forever.

Once inseparable, the survivors now can’t stand each other, but the challenges demand they work together, think quickly, and make sacrifices—blood, clothes, secrets, memories, and worse. And once again, not everyone will make it out alive.

Find Him Where You Left Him Dead won’t hit shelves until September 26, 2023, but we’re able to exclusively reveal its cover—and an excerpt from the first chapter of this unique new horror story—for you right now.




Madeline swam toward the light like her life depended on it.

She tucked her knees to her chest and rolled through the final turn of her 100-meter butterfly sprint. A hard kick off the wall and she was flying, both arms cutting through the cool water in tandem. One stroke, one breath. One stroke, one breath. The pattern was grueling. Comforting.
A structured dance of strength and coordination.

One stroke, one breath.

She pulled her chin to her chest as she stretched her body, eyes dropping to the straight black line on the bottom of the pool marking her lane.

She blinked, and the line softened. Spread. Black bled across the bottom of the pool, forming the shape of a cave. Its jagged entrance widened, the water shifting to pull her down.

She flinched out of position. Her right hand scraped against the plastic ring of a floating lane line, snapping her attention to the surface. When she looked back down the cave was gone and only a clean, dark stripe remained.


She pushed her muscles to the brink of failure, and with one last burst of effort, she jammed her fingers against a touchpad. Her time froze in bright red: 1.9 minutes.


Gulping breaths, she pulled off her goggles and threw them onto the cement deck next to her keys and the pool entry card Coach K had given her after she’d won regionals sophomore year. She’d been fifteen then, two years younger and weaker than she was now but pulling faster times.

Her legs pedaled slowly through the water as she gasped for breath. The blue surface of the pool glowed against her brown skin, the only light coming from the locker room behind the starting blocks above her. Sweat and chlorine brought a familiar sting to her eyes. Her scalp itched from the chunky braids beneath her swim cap. She tilted her head back to stare up at the white backstroke flags, floating until her pulse slowed.

The sickness inside her didn’t settle.

One more. One more 100-meter, and she’d be too worn out to feel it. Then she’d be able to drag herself home, to lie in bed without seeing the cave behind her eyelids, and sleep.

Movement on the opposite side of the pool caught her eye. She twisted toward it, but the light from the nearby locker room only reached halfway across the water. The pool seemed to go on endlessly into a long, dark night.

“Hello?” she called. It was after nine. No one else should have been here. Even the janitors had left hours ago.

She squinted, but saw nothing.

Another shift in the shadows, and a boy stood at the far end of the pool.

Madeline bit back a scream.

“Who’s there?”

No answer.

The paleness of the boy’s skin was bright against his dark shorts. He was soaked, dripping, his face obscured by wet, black hair. The dim light made him look grainy, like an old photograph.

“The pool’s closed,” Madeline tried. “You shouldn’t be here.” Certain privileges came with being the best, and they weren’t extended to everyone.

“You shouldn’t be here,” the boy repeated.

“This isn’t funny.” She hated the rising pitch of her voice. Her teammates were just trying to scare her. This was just a prank, like how they’d replaced her racing suit in her bag with a pink string bikini at the holiday invitational and she’d nearly missed the first heat, or the time they’d written “blow Coach K” on her weekly training schedule.

But it didn’t feel like a prank. Adrenaline poured through her veins.

The boy stared at the water, frozen. Statue still. The steam from the pool rose around his sharply cut shins and calves, too thin for any swimmer. His chest was so pale it took on a reflection of the water, glowing a light blue.

“Fine,” Madeline said, her voice hollow. She twisted and placed her hands on the side of the pool, ready to push herself out.


Madeline’s stomach filled with lead. She turned back slowly, squinting through the steam, to see the boy step to the edge of the pool. His gait was strange—his legs and arms bent like he had too many joints.

Cold filled her. Even in the dim light she registered his concave chest and rib lines. He was too skinny to be a swimmer. Skin and bone.

“Maddy,” the boy said, louder now. “Maddy.”

Her fingers gripped the gritty cement of the deck.


“Stop!” She needed to get out—to run. Instead, she sank deeper into the water, as if it might protect her.

“Why’d you do it?” he asked. “Why’d you leave me in the dark?”

Her lips parted on a sharp inhale. “Ian?”

Impossible. Ian was dead.

But when she looked at the boy on the edge of the pool, she saw him. His long limbs, his mess of dark hair. His memory took shape before her. Wild-eyed. Forever thirteen.

“Ian,” he repeated, and then he gave a shrill laugh that cut off as quickly as it had started. “By dawn, there will be no more Ian.”

“No.” She shook her head. Ian was dead. This was a prank. A hallucination. Maybe she was dreaming. Another nightmare.

Dizziness had her hand slipping off the side of the pool. She fixed her grip.

This wasn’t real.

“Finish the game,” the boy who couldn’t be Ian said.

She shook her head, water sluicing from her cap as she tried to push the images he’d conjured back into the locked box in her brain. Cards, painted with symbols they’d acted out like charades. The cave, punched into the riverside. The moments before the end, when everything had felt right.

“You’re not real,” she whispered. She knew what today was. She’d felt it coming all week, a storm on the horizon. The brain did strange things in response to the anniversary of trauma. A coping mechanism—that’s what this was.

A splash. The boy went under, the water flattening instantly over him. Not a ripple moved the glassy surface.

Terror jolted through Madeline. She pushed out of the pool and spun, peering down into the water. No one swam beneath the surface. No dark shapes. No waves or bubbles.
Ian wasn’t in the pool. Ian wasn’t there at all.

A breath huffed from her lips. She didn’t notice that the humid air had begun to cool until goose bumps covered her arms and legs, and her shuddering breath made a puff of steam.

At the far end of the pool, the water began churning in a spiral motion, as if it were being drained. Then something at the bottom bolted toward her, its wake rippling the surface like an accusing arrow.

She scrambled back, just barely grabbing her keys, and ran.

Used with permission from Tor Teen, an imprint of Tor Publishing Group, a Trade Division of Macmillan Publishers. (C) Kristen Simmons 2023, Find Him Where You Left Him Dead.

Find Him Where You Left Him Dead will hit shelves on September 26, 2023 but you can pre-order it right now.

Lacy Baugher Milas is the Books Editor at Paste Magazine, but loves nerding out about all sorts of pop culture. You can find her on Twitter @LacyMB.