The best video games excel at worldbuilding, which means they create an environment for the play that is consistent, rich, and unified. The Elder Scrolls, The Witcher, Resident Evil, and Super Mario Bros. are perfect examples of this. The video game franchises that take this a step further do so by allowing that world to exist in multiple mediums, such as books. One that has explored the literary space exceptionally well is Hello Neighbor, and I recently finished the second book in this popular young adult novel series entitled Waking Nightmare.
I just discovered the Hello Neighbor video games last year, and, so far, I’ve only played the first one. The concept is intriguing: you’re a young boy who is trying to sneak into his neighbor’s house to figure out what horrible secrets he’s hiding in the basement. It’s a stealth horror game that honestly gives me chills when I get caught by the neighbor. It requires resourcefulness, creativity, and anticipation of how the unique AI will adapt to your behavior. I highly encourage you to pick up this game on any one of the myriad of systems it’s available for to see what it’s all about.
There are currently six books in the Hello Neighbor book series, with a seventh being released on May 4 called Reset Day. I most recently read the second book in the series: Waking Nightmare. I chose to listen to the audiobook version through Audible, and it was wonderful. Not only did it perfectly reflect the rich and consistent world of the video game franchise, it provided that same universe with additional depth, further enriching the experience for me as both a gamer and a reader.
The narrator of this book is Oliver Wyman, and he is perfect! His voice has a youthful and innocent sound that couldn’t be more spot on for the subject matter. I thoroughly enjoyed hearing him voice this story from beginning to end. It made for an absolutely wonderful listening experience, as he deftly transitioned from one character to another — providing an impactful performance that didn’t get in the way of the story being told.
This second book in the Hello Neighbor series is a continuation of the first one. I don’t want to spoil it for you, but here’s a taste from the synopsis so you can get the gist: “It’s been four months since Nicky Roth has seen his best friend and neighbor, Aaron Peterson. Aaron’s father, a reclusive theme park designer, told the town that Aaron and his sister Mya are living with a relative far away, but Nicky can’t seem to accept it.”
Adapting horror for a young adult audience is no easy task. You can’t rely on blood and gore to get the job done. Rather, you have to be cerebral and employ suspenseful writing techniques to elicit the proper emotional responses from the reader. The author, Carly Anne West, does this in a way that is enthralling. Paired with Oliver Wyman’s narration, Waking Nightmare is more like a sublime dream that is highly enjoyable for readers of all ages. I can’t recommend it enough, as it is worldbuilding and storytelling at its finest!