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Saturday, December 12, 2020

Snowy Thriller Doesn't Quite Live Up to the Promise of Its Premise

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

A student at a special arts high school in San Diego, 18-year-old Mira Hayes is heading home to Pittsburgh to spend the holidays with her mother.  Christmas Day will be the first anniversary of her mom's twin sister's death and Mira knows her mom's anxiety and depression will be through the roof.  Mira needs to be there for her.  As her plane descends into Newark, however, Mira gets some bad news:  worsening winter weather has grounded all flights out.  Phoning home only increases her worry about her mother's mental health, so when Mira's glamorous seatmate from the plane offers her a ride home in the car she and some friends are renting, Mira accepts. 

It doesn't take many hours on the road for Mira to realize that something is not right with the situation.  Not only are her four fellow passengers not friends with each other, but they're actually complete strangers.  As the weather grows increasingly stormy and important items—like cell phones and laptops—go missing from the car, Mira finds herself more and more cut off from the outside world with people she's finding harder and harder to trust.  With no way to contact her mother or anyone else, she's not just nervous, she's terrified.  Discovering alarming secrets about each of her traveling companions only increases her fear.  Although the storm outside is nasty and threatening, it's nothing compared to the danger Mira faces inside the car ...

The premise of Five Total Strangers, the newest YA novel by Natalie D. Richards, is a simple but compelling one.  When I first read the plot summary, I knew I had to read this book.  Unfortunately, the promise of the premise didn't pan out as well as I wanted it to.  The novel is definitely atmospheric, with a tense, unsettling vibe that makes the story deliciously suspenseful.  That's what kept me reading.  It certainly wasn't the characters, who are almost wholly unlikable.  As far as plot goes, the tale is engrossing and compelling, even if a lot of it feels contrived.  Not all of the plot elements make logical sense—some of them go nowhere at all while others never come full circle.  In spite of these irritants, Five Total Strangers sucked me in and kept me turning pages.  I didn't end up loving it like I wanted to, but I liked it well enough to keep reading.  Overall, it was just an okay read for me.     

(Readalikes:  Reminds me a bit of No Exit by Taylor Adams)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

To the FTC, with love:  I bought a copy of Five Total Strangers with a portion of the millions I make from my lucrative career as a book blogger.  Ha ha.


  1. Thanks for visiting my blog, Susan! I'm adding your blog onto my blogger friends list. :)

    This sounds like an intriguing read despite it didn't pan out as you'd expected. And I loved No Exit by Taylor Adams!

    1. Thanks for adding me, Melody! It's always fun to "meet" new blogging friends :)

      I didn't love NO EXIT. As much as I liked the premise, the book was just too graphic and gory for me. I prefer my thrillers to be more subtle. I know a lot of people really liked NO EXIT, though - I'm just too wimpy for it, I guess!

  2. Your excellent description makes this sound brilliant, what a shame you didn't quite love it in the end. Quite a few books do that to us don't they? Never mind, it makes us appreciate the wonderful books even more.

    1. I do think the premise is brilliant. It has so much potential - I just didn't feel like the execution quite did it justice, you know?

  3. I've got this one to read before long. I think I'll like it well enough based on what you say here. The snowy story seems like a good distraction right now. :-)

    1. I'll be interested to hear what you think of it. It is a quick, distracting read that will definitely keep you turning pages. I just found The Big Reveal as well as some of the things that happen throughout the road trip to be ridiculously far-fetched.

  4. I just checked this one out of the library. I'll let you know what I think of it when I get it read. :)

    1. Please do! I'm curious to know what other people think of it.

    2. So I get why you didn't love this one. I had a hard time buying into the premise of Mira's stalker. And what was that whole thing with the hitchhiker showing up every where? I thought that was strange. And I didn't feel like the author fleshed out her characters enough to make them feel authentic. This ended up being a miss for me.


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