Book Review – Five Survive by Holly Jackson

books, reviews

Rating: 3 out of 5.

I wasn’t exactly a big fan of Holly Jackson’s A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder when I read it a few years ago. So, I never bothered to read its sequels. In fact, I could happily have missed reading any more of Holly Jackson’s books. However, her latest book captured my attention, not just because of the stencilled edge on the Waterstones special edition. I thought the premise sounded like it would be quite captivating. I also liked the fact that the setting didn’t really allow for too much complication in terms of the narrative. If everyone is stuck in one place then Jackson couldn’t add too many characters this time. Or that was the theory. It’s entirely possible that all o the things that I didn’t like about her earlier work would also be present here. The least I could do was give it a chance.

One of the things that I didn’t like about Holly Jackson’s A Good Girls’ Guide to Murder was how overly complicated the narrative got. It felt as though more characters were being introduced in an attempt to cover up the obvious plot twists. I was hopeful that wouldn’t be a problem with this book thanks to the restricted setting. Locking 6 people in an RV and then adding a sniper into the mix sounded promising. It’s the kind of premise that could provide plenty of tension. The claustrophobia caused by the RV mixed with their dark and isolated position is the perfect combination for drama. I had high hopes for this being an exciting read.

Five Survive is a quick read that is pretty easy to get through. The story unfolds over 8 hours and there’s a lot of dialogue involved. This means it ends up being a really fast story. I understand why this was done but I story of wish we’d had more time to get the feeling of being trapped. The threat is introduced really early on but then we never really get any time to breathe. I know we’re stuck in an RV but there wasn’t a great attempt to describe the setting. I never really felt the isolation and fear of the characters. They seemed to accept their situation pretty easily.

It might just be me but I wouldn’t react quite so calmly if I found myself being shot at on a dark country road. Especially as a teenager. The 6 characters in this book are all young people heading out on Spring Break. The majority are 18 but they are accompanied by two college students. I can’t tell you much more about any of these characters because there’s a real lack of development. Red, the main character, gets the most attention but most of that just focuses on her lack of self-confidence. It makes the book feel very repetitive. We hear the same things over and over again for no reason. Although, she’s better than the rest who are just one-dimensional and forgettable.

The fact that they’re also all terrible people is fine but does make it even harder to care about their situation. Any of them could die and it wouldn’t make a big difference to me. Not that there was actually that much of a threat. After all, they end up being stuck for 8 hours. The sniper doesn’t exactly seem committed to killing anyone when he’s happy to let them wait it out. Once he’d taken out the engine, I’m sure there would have been an easier way to get the job done. Although, this is YA so I guess they needed to avoid a massive amount of needless bloodshed.

In terms of the mystery element, I can’t imagine many readers being tricked by it. All the characters are stereotypical of the genre and the novel is very formulaic. It did feel as though I was always waiting for the inevitable to happen. There are about 3 pick revels here and every single one of them is painfully obvious. I did enjoy this more than A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder but that isn’t saying very much. It’s a very simplistic and undeveloped idea. The characters aren’t really fleshed out and it just feels as though certain things needed more explanation. It doesn’t help that I’m not a big YA lover anyway but this just felt like a wasted premise.

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