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ARC was given by NetGalley & HaperTeen in exchange for an honest review.
This review is being published before the release date (April 25, 2023)
Content/Trigger Warnings: Death, murder, depictions of blood, stalking, gun violence, violence, on page suicide, depictions of anxiety & panic attacks, mentions automotive accident (in the past), graphic injuries
“And the worst part wasn’t that there was a dead body here. The worst part was that somewhere out there… was a killer.”
First off, let me start by saying how excited I am to finally be able to share this review now that the HarperCollins strike has ended! I really enjoyed my time buddy reading this book with two of my favorite people and I’ve been eagerly waiting to tell you all about it. I never thought I’d be someone who gets into survival thriller books, but here we are and now I’m keeping my eyes peeled for more survival thrillers. And if the survival thriller aspect doesn’t lure you in, let the cover intrigue you enough to give this book a chance especially for fall reading!
Claire has spent her whole life making lists in her head of worst case scenarios, triple checking and preparing for anything, including the worst case scenarios. It’s just how she’s wired, but most people worry for her including her parents. So much worry, in fact, that they ship Claire off to a summer camp bonding experience with two other girls. However, things suddenly turn dark when the three girls are left on the island, ready to enjoy their week of bonding, when they discover the lake house they’re supposed to stay at is burned to the ground and they find a dead body in the woods. They’ll soon realize that nothing is by accident and someone, something is hunting them and refuses to let go.
Honestly, I loved our cast of characters! Reyva was probably my favorite out of everyone just due to the fact that even though she’s bonding with Claire and Mariana, she’s the person we really have to peel the layers back with. Reyva is the character we find the backstory and details of last, and that’s just by her character’s design. I loved it so much and Reyva is also a gamer, which you know I love a good game I can curl up with for hours. Mariana was such a fun time though! For starters, Mariana loves cars and gets really passionate about it. I adored reading the sections of Mariana talking about it. Seeing characters being passionate about the things they love and adore is like drinking a glass of cold water, refreshing and energizes my soul! Out of all of the characters, Claire was the hardest for me to connect with and I think it’s just due to the way Claire is written. While it’s clear Claire has severe anxiety and intense overthinking, it wasn’t clear on if she also has agoraphobia (the fear of open or public places) which I would have liked some clarification on due to having quite a few passages about how Claire never really liked going out into to public or liked being in public places. Either way, I still appreciate the anxiety representation, despite not having that clarification. All together, I enjoyed these three girls together and I loved the way the book concluded with the three girls, as well.
“Reyva said, quieter, “I don’t know who told you that broken means weak, but that’s bullshit. You are the smartest, most capable person I’ve ever met. And just because your body doesn’t behave the way you want it to all the time does not mean that you aren’t strong.”
There were so many fantastic discussions happening throughout this book between Claire, Mariana, and Reyva. A lot of conversations surrounding mental health and how some times the world, and people, make you believe that there’s something really wrong with you when there’s not. There’s underlying discussions surrounding stigmas with mental health and how you can internalize not feeling enough, how having mental health hardships or a disability somehow makes you weak or you feel broken, and I loved watching these girls talk about this and shoot it all down. I have a lot of love for books that can have discussions surrounding mental health, shoot the negative down, and at the end be like, “You are so much more than just your mental health.” And I felt this book conveyed that in a really good way. What I loved even more than these discussions was the fact that it brought the three girls closer together and strengthened their bonds. Seeing the author write that into the story made me really soft and sappy, and I don’t think I’ll ever get over how much it warmed my heart.
All of the character love and the mental health talk aside, the atmosphere was really good. Even though I haven’t read this book in a hot minute, I still vividly remember the atmosphere. I remember how I just wanted to keep reading and was so captivated. The minute the girls are dropped off on the island and discovered the lake house was burned down, I had to make sure I was stocked on water and snacks because I knew I hunkering down until I finished this book. I think due to the atmosphere being well built, the pacing of the book read so fast for me, personally. However, I will admit that I went into this book with the mindset of wanting to have a fun, captivating, thrilling time and I felt I had received that in my reading experience.
“There was something wrong. Wrong about the house, wrong about the cave, wrong about the forest and the sudden storms and the birds that fell quiet.”
If I had to say anything bad about this book or say what others might not like about this book, it would probably boil down to two things. The first thing being the storyline. Let me just say, the storyline is a wild ride and even though I enjoyed it, I think readers will either have a fun time or absolutely hate the direction it goes. I think for those who will be on the disliking end of the direction the storyline goes will feel like the storyline is odd or potentially come off as half-baked. And the dislike for the storyline also ties in with the second thing, the ending or the conclusion to the book. Now, this was my only issue with this book, but it wasn’t enough to make me knock a star or anything like that. The ending felt very unsatisfying with how things concluded on the island and the way it was wrapped up. Again, I loved watching all three of the girls meet up and still get that happy ending, but everything else before that scene felt like something was missing or almost like the author took the easy way out to wrap up the book.
Overall, I had a fantastic time reading this. Again, I loved chatting about this book with my friends and fellow buddy readers. It was a great read for us all around and some of the discussions we had surrounding the book were some of the most memorable conversations I’ve ever had. There was just so many great things about this book and I think readers will have a lot of appreciation for the anxiety rep, disabled/chronic pain rep, the lgbtqiap+ rep, and the atmosphere. I love a good spooky atmosphere for a read. This is a very autumnal read and I definitely recommend curling up with it during the Halloween season or just a really stormy day!
Buddy read with Ashley & Destiny ♥
The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.