Five Total Strangers

by Natalie D. Richards

“‘This isn’t a joyride with some cool friend group of college kids. This is a Pennsylvania snowstorm with strangers, and we need to be careful.

I look long and hard out the window. It’s easy to forget what winter means in Pennsylvania. Bad roads can do much worse than slow us down. And I’ve got several hundred miles of bad road to go.”

Ratings & Reviews

Book Grade: A-

Five Total Strangers hooked me from the beginning with an addictive story of a nightmare of a road trip. Mira just wants to get home, yet finds herself stuck in a winter storm on Christmas eve with four people who all seem to be hiding something from her. I kept thinking “Just one more chapter” and ended up reading pages more. This story is twisty and turny, and slowly unfolds. I suspected every character of being Mira’s secret stalker, and was on the edge of my seat as things progressed from bad to worse.

This is a compelling novel of suspense, and I wholeheartedly loved it. The one thing that I wished for was a slightly more developed ending. When we learn who the stalker was, and thus, who has their heart set on killing Mira, I expected to get a few more answers, but things progressed rapidly and the end came a bit too quickly for my liking. I thoroughly appreciate the story and was drawn to the angstiness and uncertainty of Mira’s situation. Five Total Strangers gave me a dose of mystery-suspense and caused me to question any pending road trip plans.

Movie Rating: PG-13

Five Total Strangers is a compelling suspense read. With it, there are plenty of dark moments and there is some questionable language. There are references to drug use, death, cheating, and crime – each of the passengers in the car with Mira has their own baggage. There are plenty of near-death situations and several morally questionable actions, but this refrains from any truly offensive plot points. Swears come in fits and spurts, but aren’t overwhelming in nature. By and large, this fits the bill for YA suspense – in content and style – and teen readers will be hooked by the true-to-life character depictions.

Would I Buy This for My Library: Yes

Suspense is not normally my go-to genre. Mystery, yes; suspense, not so much. Naturally, I was surprised to find Five Total Strangers to be completely addictive. I was obsessed with finding out who had been writing Mira letters and if she would make it out of the car alive. That being said, I know that this book will be a great addition to my library shelves. It is a compulive read, but not too complicated to deter reluctant readers. It is cleverly constructed – Natalie D. Richards did a wonderful job of crafting characters who are secretive, suspect, and could easily be the key to unraveling this nightmare of a roadtrip. I appreciated that this was a unique take on YA suspense stories, and I am eager to recommend this to my suspense fans.

Summary:

Mira is headed home for Christmas, flying last minute from her school on the West Coast, but a snow storm strands her hours away from her destination. With few options (and extra urgency to get home because of fears that her mom is unstable), Mira accepts an offer from her seatmate on the plane. Mira assumes that she is joining Harper and four of her friends from San Diego, but soon realizes that this is a car of five total strangers.

While trying to navigate increasingly snowy roads, Mira watches as things unravel. Things begin to disappear, the car is nearly in multiple accidents, and each of the passengers slowly begins to show their true personalities. What Mira cannot know, however, is that one of these strangers has met her before and has been stalking her for a year in hopes of forging a bond. As the roads become increasingly dangerous and the passengers find themselves all-but-stranded in remote Pennsylvania, Mira realizes that everyone is hiding something and making it home in time for Christmas is the least of her concerns.

Book Talk Questions:

  1. Everyone starts losing things. What do they lose and who do they blame?
  2. Everyone seems to be a bit off in Mira’s opinion. She tells her dad that they are all a little weird. Describe the passengers in the car with Mira.
  3. Why does Mira need to get home so urgently? What does she learn about her mom that makes her a bit more concerned?
  4. Where does the man in the yellow hat pop up? What does he eventually ask for? What does he tell the group when they deny his request?
  5. Who wrote the letters? How does Mira find out?
  6. What does Mira realize about herself at the end of the book?

A Perfect Read for Fans Of…

  • One of Us is Lying by Karen M. McManus
  • Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson
  • The Body in the Woods by April Henry
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