Review of Five Survive by Holly Jackson

Eighteen year old Red and her friends are on a road trip in an RV, heading to the beach for Spring Break.

It’s a long drive but spirits are high. Until the RV breaks down in the middle of nowhere. And as the wheels are shot out, one by one, the friends realise that this is no accident.

There’s a sniper out there. He’s watching them and he knows exactly who they are. One of the group has a secret that the sniper is willing to kill for.

As a game of cat-and-mouse plays out, the group desperately tries to get help. Buried secrets are forced to light and tensions within the group reach deadly levels. Only one thing is for sure. Not everyone will survive the night . . .

Five Survive is my first Holly Jackson novel and honesty if it wasn’t half price in the waterstones sale I probably would not have picked it up. I have really enjoyed recent YA thrillers that I have read and I do enjoy a locked door mystery so I thought why not? Unfortunately this one didn’t live up to my expectation.

With the positive, I really enjoyed the story, it was fast paced and the choice of setting, the RV, was a great move as it really gave the situation that claustrophobic clawing feeling that would genuinely send people over the edge. The releasing of a secret was well done and added to the frantic air. I genuinely didn’t see any of it coming and the last 100 or so pages as it all comes crashing into the endgame was exciting and had me well and truly turning those pages.

However, the trouble with the setting being the RV meant that the story was almost entirely led by its characters and honestly they all needed to be recast. Other than vaguely Arthur and Reyna I warmed to none of them, I had no strong feelings about any of them surviving and whilst you can’t account for survival instinct, the level of toxic masculinity and privilege within that setting was draining to read. Not to mention the gaslighting in the small snatches of back story we did get. You know that something has gone very wrong when you’re on the side of the bad guys. Red as our protagonist felt messily written, whilst we understand that there is grief and guilt in her backstory, i don’t know if there was something else there too which would explain her scattered thoughts. Because of the pacing and the short time frame that the book covers, there was never any time to build on the six of them – and i have to say that there was dead space in that book so flashbacks could have been achievable. 

I did find the conclusion satisfying though, it is the kind of story that would lend itself well to a movie tie in, although it is wildly out there i didn’t mind how ostentatious it was as i kind of like suspending belief at times. The last few pages were actually lovely and the tickbox ending felt *chef’s kiss* I hope that all works out for the best! 

As a read it was mostly fine, it’s pretty quick to get through as the hour by hour approach helps drive it all forward but it’s not one I’ll come back to and probably my last Holly Jackson read.


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