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Book: “The Only Survivors” by Megan Miranda
Publishing Info: Scribner, April 2023
Where Did I Get This Book: I received an eARC from NetGalley.
Where You Can Get This Book: WorldCat | Amazon | Indiebound
Book Description: Seven hours in the past. Seven days in the present. Seven survivors remaining. Who would you save?
A decade ago, two vans filled with high school seniors on a school service trip crashed into a Tennessee ravine—a tragedy that claimed the lives of multiple classmates and teachers. The nine students who managed to escape the river that night were irrevocably changed. A year later, after one of the survivors dies by suicide on the anniversary of the crash, the rest of them make a pact: to come together each year to commemorate that terrible night.
To keep one another safe. To hold one another accountable. Or both.
Their annual meeting place, a house on the Outer Banks, has long been a refuge. But by the tenth anniversary, Cassidy Bent has worked to distance herself from the tragedy, and from the other survivors. She’s changed her mobile number. She’s blocked the others’ email addresses. This year, she is determined to finally break ties once and for all. But on the day of the reunion, she receives a text with an obituary attached: another survivor is gone. Now they are seven—and Cassidy finds herself hurling back toward the group, wild with grief—and suspicion.
Almost immediately, something feels off this year. Cassidy is the first to notice when Amaya, annual organizer, slips away, overwhelmed. This wouldn’t raise alarm except for the impending storm. Suddenly, they’re facing the threat of closed roads and surging waters…again. Then Amaya stops responding to her phone. After all they’ve been through, she wouldn’t willfully make them worry. Would she?
And—as they promised long ago—each survivor will do whatever he or she can do to save one another. Won’t they?
Review: Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with an eARC of this book!
It’s mid May, with Summer hurtling towards us ever faster, and I, for one, am looking forward to a couple travel moments coming up with the season and the reading opportunities that generally come with a vacation. I’m not sure I’ll be making it to a beach before Fall sets in (Lake Superior in Fall really is just the best), but I can at least dream of beach houses with friends and relaxation and maybe get my act together to make it happen. I was thinking about the joys of a beach house getaway as I read “The Only Survivors”, Megan Miranda’s newest thriller. While it’s true that a beach house vacation like this one, what with an uneasy group of people who trauma bonded after a terrible accident in high school, and who go to a beach house every year to commemorate the anniversary, isn’t ideal, the house did sound nice. And admittedly, a slow building thriller on a precarious beach in a familiar but uncomfortable house is a GREAT set up for a mystery. I’m also happy to revisit Megan Miranda, because she’s usually doing interesting things with her thrillers.
“The Only Survivors” has a pretty solid cast of characters, most notably Cassidy, our protagonist who has forced herself to attend the annual reunion of fellow high school tragedy survivors at a beach house on the Outer Banks. The reunion is always tense and tenuous, with the friends vis a vis a horrible traumatic event not totally willing to trust each other but also unable to blow it off completely. Cassidy is the one we get to know the best, as it is from her POV for the most part (outside of the flashback moments where each survivor gets a snippet perspective of what happened the night of the accident), and I did like getting into her head and slowly understanding her turmoil. The other characters were a bit of a mixed bag. I was genuinely intrigued by Grace, a therapist who is very serious and a bit removed, and Hollis, a wellness influencer who just seems put together on the outside, but there were others who were kind of broadly brushed. I was invested enough in all of them to be really curious as to what they are being to cagey about, and I thought that when we did get moments of their personas in the flashbacks that we got to see a bit more depth. Characters play such an important role in this kind of thriller that it’s important to make them engaging, and most of them were engaging enough.
In terms of the mystery itself, I thought that it had some well done elements and some elements we’ve seen before. Or at least I have, as I’ve been reading thrillers for so long I am sometimes more likely to be privy to the ins and outs of various reveals and twists. I really liked the slow burn reveal of what exactly it is these survivors are hiding, and what brings them all together each year over everything else in their lives, including significant life changes (it’s mentioned one character almost missed the birth of his child for this reunion one year, and the way I would have dumped his ass so hard, but I digress). I also liked that we slowly get the clues to what Cassidy and the others had to go through in the immediate aftermath of the accident, and how their situation went from dire to more dire to something that needed to be kept close to the vest, through flashbacks to the accident itself. On the other hand, I also was able to find myself a few steps ahead of a couple of the reveals and twists, and there was once again a last moments twist that I felt was a little ‘eh’, but I CAN say that it wasn’t the kind that felt unearned or out of nowhere. So in the end the mystery itself was pretty serviceable and altogether entertaining.
“The Only Survivors” is the kind of thriller that would be the perfect read for the beach this summer. I just hope that it’s the kind of beach vacation that is not with a group of people that you trauma bonded with, but with those that aren’t potentially going to spill some dark secrets.
Rating 7: Entertaining, suspenseful, “The Only Survivors” is a serviceable thriller that’s the perfect read for the beach.
“The Only Survivors” is included on the Goodreads list “Mystery & Thriller 2023”.