Title: Five Survive
Author: Holly Jackson
Genres: Young Adult, Mystery, Thriller
Links: Goodreads | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
I received this ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Five Survive follows six characters: Red; her best friend, Maddy; their friends Simon and Arthur; Maddy’s brother, Oliver; and Oliver’s girlfriend, Reyna. They’re taking a road trip for spring break when they make a wrong turn. When all four of their RV’s tires are destroyed, they realize a sniper has stranded them on purpose with no cellular connection to call for help. The sniper tells them one of the six friends has a secret and if that person tells him what he wants to know, he’ll let the other five go. What follows is a desperate attempt to figure out which friend is keeping the secret and what exactly they know. Five Survive is a frantic cat-and-mouse game between a sniper who is willing to kill for information and six friends who just want to make it out alive.
This is one of the most intense books I’ve ever read. As it takes place over the course of eight hours, it involves non-stop action and reveals. Trying to fit an entire story into only eight hours may have been risky in other cases but Holly Jackson is an incredibly talented writer and she pulled it off without a doubt.
Not only was this book thrilling, but it packed quite an emotional punch. Some of the hardest parts to read involved Red’s grief over having lost her mother. Her mom was murdered five years ago and Red has been drowning in guilt over the last conversation they ever had. Holly Jackson’s portrayal of Red’s emotions was so vivid and I thought the writing style perfectly illustrated the effect Red’s grief has had on her. Since her mother’s death, Red has become scatter-brained, forgetful, and easily distracted. When providing insight into Red’s thoughts, Jackson wrote in a way that mirrored Red’s mindset–nearly a stream of consciousness that includes fragmented thoughts and occasionally jumps abruptly from one topic to another. I don’t always enjoy the stream of consciousness style but I actually loved it here and felt that Jackson struck a perfect balance with its use. It was really effective in giving us a glimpse into Red’s mind without being confusing or distracting from the plot.
We also get to know Oliver very well over the course of the novel. From the beginning, Oliver takes on the role of group leader, but as the situation escalates Oliver gets increasingly controlling and angry towards the other friends and we learn that he has a very dark side to him. As much as I hated his character, I thought he was very well-written and three-dimensional. I also thought the way Holly Jackson portrayed Oliver as the threat within the RV in contrast to the sniper outside of it was brilliant.
In regards to the plot, I loved how twisty and unpredictable it was. In an attempt to discover the secret the sniper wants, many other secrets are revealed and we realize that all of the friends have something to hide. The frequent revelations kept me on the edge of my seat and guessing until the very end.
Overall, I loved Five Survive and would highly recommend it. If you like fast-paced thrillers or mysteries with a cast of characters who are all keeping secrets, this may be the book for you! (I recommend looking up trigger warnings beforehand as there are some graphic and potentially upsetting scenes.)