Kate’s Review: “Five Survive”

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Book: “Five Survive” by Holly Jackson

Publishing Info: Delacorte Press, November 2022

Where Did I Get This Book: I received an eARC from NetGalley.

Where You Can Get This Book: WorldCat | Amazon | Indiebound

Book Description: Eight hours. Six friends. Five survive. A road trip turns deadly in this addictive YA thriller from the bestselling author of the worldwide phenomenon A GOOD GIRL’S GUIDE TO MURDER.

Red Kenny is on a road trip for spring break with five friends: Her best friend – the older brother – his perfect girlfriend – a secret crush – a classmate – and a killer.

When their RV breaks down in the middle of nowhere with no cell service, they soon realize this is no accident. They have been trapped by someone out there in the dark, someone who clearly wants one of them dead.

With eight hours until dawn, the six friends must escape, or figure out which of them is the target. But is there a liar among them? Buried secrets will be forced to light and tensions inside the RV will reach deadly levels. Not all of them will survive the night. . . . 

Review: Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with an eARC of this novel!

With how much I loved the “A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder” Trilogy by Holly Jackson, I was waiting on pins and needles to see what she would come up with next. And lo and behold, I saw “Five Survive”, her newest YA thriller, up on NetGalley, and rejoiced. And the description was so, so intriguing: six friends on an RV trip are deliberately stranded by a dangerous stranger, who wants one of them dead and gone, with secrets coming to light and perhaps friends turning on each other. I mean come on. That’s all just catnip to me! And my high hopes were fairly well met, as “Five Survive” snagged me in and kept me going until I’d finished the book over two days time.

The breakneck pacing really works in this books favor, as the building tension that starts almost from the jump is really what kept me reading. We have our group of friends, the protagonist being Red, on a trip with her childhood friends and a couple new faces in the mix. Jackson wastes no time in cutting this trip short, as the RV is waylaid and it is clear very quickly that it is NO accident. And when they realize that a sniper is outside, demanding a secret, the people in this stranded RV go from stunned, to disbelieving, to frustrated, to horrified realization, and as the severity of their situation starts making all of them start making desperate decisions. Friends turn on friends in hopes of saving their own skins, and a fun road trip becomes nightmarish. I liked the time chunks and the way that the hours tick by and the desperation builds, and how they all start showing their true colors as secrets are revealed and the back stabbing begins. But I did like that a lot of the characters were easy to like, which made the stakes all the higher. Sure, there is one guy who is a complete asshole that is fairly two dimensional, but everyone else is explored well enough that the suspense about who was the secret holder and who wouldn’t make it out alive was palpable. After all, the title is “Five Survive”, and there are six people in the RV. And I do think that a lot of the surprises were well done and well earned. Jackson has really perfected the right formula for this kind of teen thriller, and it was neat seeing her tackle this kind of thriller as opposed to one like “Good Girls Guide” that feels more detective-y and step by step investigation.

In terms of our narrator, Red, she was a little more of a mixed bag for me for a lot of the book. A lot of her train of thought felt repetitive, and there were a lot of moments that felt need to remind us that she has a harder time than everyone in the RV and that she has had a lot of tragedy in her life. I’m not saying that there isn’t reason for this tragic backstory, or even that there isn’t reason for dwelling on it a bit, but when it does all come together it still felt a bit like it was hammered over the head perhaps a few too many times. I think that if we had more time with her in the story, and by that I mean a longer timeline than overnight, she may have been able to breathe a bit more with her angst and pathos, but crammed into one night, even if the book itself isn’t outside the average of a typical novel, it just gets a bit tedious. But there is still enough to like with her, and the supporting characters, from privileged asshat Oliver to sweet but condescending Maddy to awkward Arthur, all have satisfying moments and bring variety to a solid cast of characters.

Overall, “Five Survive” is a quick and engaging thriller, another fun read from Holly Jackson. I’m so glad that her streak is continuing, and once again I can’t wait to see what she comes up with next.

Rating 8: Suspenseful and tense with breakneck twists and turns, “Five Survive” is another well done YA thriller by Holly Jackson!

Reader’s Advisory:

“Five Survive” is included on the Goodreads list “2022 YA Mysteries and Thrillers”.

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