CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT: 4.5/5 PLOT AND NARRATIVE TECHNIQUE: 5/5 LANGUAGE AND WRITING STYLE: 4.5/5 PLOT TWIST AND SUSPENSE: 5/5 OVERALL RATING: 5 STARS Themes: Young Adult Fiction, Mystery, Road Fiction
“Real shame was killing your mom and having to live with it, knowing that she died and the last thing you ever said to her was that you hated her. If Red survived that, she could survive this.”– Holly Jackson, Five Survive
I had already read “The Good Girl’s Guide to Murder” series which is why when I came across this book, I knew I had to read it because Holly Jackson never disappoints. She knows exactly what is needed to make a thriller novel a thrilling one.
The story as it goes (no spoilers!)
This story of Five Survive revolves around 6 friends travelling in an RV that is thirty-one feet, to be exact. We cannot call all of them friends but they are comfortable with each other. Simon, Arthur, Red, Reyna, Maddy and Oliver are all travelling to Gulf Shores from Philadelphia for Spring Break when they get lost in the middle of the night.
It all started with their phones losing service, which prompted them to unconsciously turn the wrong way. But is everything planned? Is the fact that they lost service a pre-planned event? Because there is a killer among them, and they fall exactly into the trap laid out for them, and much worse.
The thrill that gets to you
Initially, the plot didn’t offer much when we began the novel, but it gradually unfolded with suspense and thrill. At times, the suspense felt prolonged and unnecessary, particularly at the beginning. However, as I approached the ending, I realized these suspense-filled chapters contribute to building the climax and heightening anticipation for the readers. After all, what’s the point of a thriller novel if you discover the main plot within the first few chapters?
At times, I believed I could predict everything that would unfold in the novel. Yet, there were moments when the story completely caught me off-guard, rendering my earlier predictions nonsensical. It was during these instances that I truly immersed myself in the book because the author skilfully leads you to think you have it all figured out when, in reality, the truth lies far from your assumptions.
Lessons that I learned along the way
Although Five Survive falls within the thriller genre, it also imparts life lessons along the way. I’ve come to realize that we can never assume we fully understand someone, as there will always be a concealed part of them that surfaces only when pushed to their limits, often revealing an unsettling side.
Furthermore, placing complete and unquestioning trust in someone can be perilous in this world, for we can never be certain of their unwavering purity of intentions. In the end, individuals tend to prioritize their own interests above all else.
Let’s talk about the characters
Turning to the characters in Five Survive, some are so unlikable that even the author makes no attempt to alter your perception. They exude repulsiveness without any redeeming qualities. On the other hand, there are those characters radiating nothing but warmth and love, and these are the ones I deeply empathized with.
Additionally, the author exposes the harsh realities of our world. It’s a place where children who have been fortunate enough to grow up in comfort, with their every need tended to, often develop into self-centered individuals lacking an understanding of the struggles faced by those less fortunate.
Of course, there are individuals who comprehend the situations of others and make genuine efforts to assist in any way they can. This deeply warmed my heart towards those specific characters. In contrast, the other self-centered characters perceive themselves as superior. They always strive for dominance, commanding others and feigning omniscience, when in truth, they lack knowledge. Their self-absorption prevents them from noticing the circumstances and vulnerability of others.
There are intelligent characters who opt to remain silent, allowing the less intelligent but wealthy individuals to assert authority. This mirrors the workings of the real world, where the outspoken are often less informed, while the intelligent and rational are marginalized.
Some characters can distance themselves from the dark and inhumane values of their family, choosing not to embrace cruelty, selfishness, or disregard for others, even when their lives are at risk. In contrast, others remain trapped in their selfish and self-centered mindset, willing to commit even murder to protect their interests. This book effectively portrays these distinctions.
The main protagonist, Red, is a rather pitiable character. She struggles to assert her own voice and yields to the despotic leader of the group, allowing him to manipulate and condemn her. It’s frustrating to read because she possesses a deep inner strength, yet she can’t express it, even when confronted with death.
However, the question remains: will she find the courage to stand up for herself and her loved ones in a life-and-death situation? To uncover the answer, you’ll have to read the book.
The ending, in a way, leaves room for interpretation. While we witness about 98% of the action, there’s a lingering curiosity about how the characters will navigate life after enduring their experiences. It’s bound to reshape their perspectives.
This well-crafted novel is brimming with twists, anticipation, mystery, and suspense. I devoured it swiftly, making it one of my top reads of 2023. If you’re a fan of thriller novels and relish the anticipation of a grand revelation, Holly Jackson’s Five Survive is a must-read.
Can’t wait to read it? Buy your copy of Five Survive right away!