Nerve-wracking and claustrophobic. Five Survive has of the most unique premises I’ve ever read – six friends, trapped in an RV with a sniper outside. The only way out to reveal their secrets.
Name: Five Survive
Author: Holly Jackson
There’s an excellent Alfred Hitchcock analogy for mystery writing: suspense comes not from having a bomb thrown randomly at a character, but from two characters calmly having a conversation while a bomb ticks away under the table. The audience know the room could blow up at any second but the characters do not.
Holly Jackson’s previous best selling series, A Good Girl’s Guide To Murder, is based on the characters knowing more than the reader. She proved herself to excel at misdirection and complex plotting – find my gushing review of the controversial finale here – and keeping the reader in the dark until the very end. She’s honestly my favorite Young Adult author at the moment and I was so excited for Five Survive.
But as she continues to do with her writing, Jackson turns every thing on its head; this book is underpinned by the fact that we know more than the characters. Out of six friends, only five survive. It’s in the title like the equally popular They Both Die At The End by Adam Silvera. Which gives way to one of the most unique premises I’ve ever read – six friends, trapped in an RV with a sniper outside. The only way out to reveal their secrets.
Of course Holly Jackson would be able to write 400 pages set over 8 hours with a minimal cast in the same setting… and still make the book a thrill to read.
Because it’s creepy! The sniper communicates by walkie-talkie; his first ‘hello’ was so polite and out of place, it genuinely sent shivers down my spine. One of the strongest characters is Oliver, who falls apart as his plans do. There’s a perverseness in his camaraderie and planning and leadership… This is not the situation to get a sticker for teamwork.
You can really pinpoint the characters’ emotions – in the beginning, I thought the group was far too calm seeing as they were fighting for their lives. But over time, the RV becomes claustrophobic. The plot is nerve-wracking and at one point near the middle, I genuinely had tears rolling down my face. A sense of real hopelessness begins to seep in, alongside anger and desperation; I really felt Holly Jackson took the reader on a journey with the characters.
However, aside from Oliver and Red, the other characters felt a bit dry. We don’t see evidence of Red and Maddy’s supposed immortal friendship and I barely remember anything about Simon. Their secrets were a little predictable but the unconventional setting made up for it. Finally a YA mystery that isn’t set in a high school!
So, even if a few members felt a little flat, I felt very attached to the group. This is mainly because I knew from the beginning that one of these characters will die. The whole way through I kept asking myself; how will it end? Because there’s that bomb ticking away under the table that only I can see. Because I know the end from the start and I know it will end in tragedy.
3 thoughts on “Must Read New Mystery: ‘Five Survive’ Book Review”
Wonderful insights, I agree completely!
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