It’s November 1991. Nirvana’s in the tape deck, George H. W. Bush is in the White House, and movie-obsessed college student Charlie Jordan is in a car with a man who might be a serial killer.

Josh Baxter, the man behind the wheel, is a virtual stranger to Charlie. They met at the campus ride board, each looking to share the long drive home to Ohio. Both have good reasons for wanting to get away. For Charlie, it’s guilt and grief over the shocking murder of her best friend, who became the third victim of the man known as the Campus Killer. For Josh, it’s to help care for his sick father—or so he says.

The longer she sits in the passenger seat, the more Charlie notices there’s something suspicious about Josh, from the holes in his story about his father to how he doesn’t want her to see inside the trunk. As they travel an empty, twisty highway in the dead of night, an increasingly anxious Charlie begins to think she’s sharing a car with the Campus Killer. Is Josh truly dangerous? Or is Charlie’s jittery mistrust merely a figment of her movie-fueled imagination?

One thing is certain—Charlie has nowhere to run and no way to call for help. Trapped in a terrifying game of cat and mouse played out on pitch-black roads and in neon-lit parking lots, Charlie knows the only way to win is to survive the night.

Book Type:

Psychological Thriller

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Survive The Night
By Riley Sager

Review: Survive The Night

With his latest—SURVIVE THE NIGHT—Riley Sager explores a horrifying premise—what if you’re trapped in a car with a serial killer?

This road-trip-gone-wrong story is set in 1991 and begins with college student Charlie Jordan, who blames herself for her best friend’s murder. Guilt-ridden, grieving, and anxious to leave campus, Charlie meets Josh Baxter via a campus ride share board, who is looking for someone to share the drive back to Ohio.

As hours and miles tick by, Charlie becomes suspicious of Josh, fearing he isn’t being truthful. But then again, Charlie is known for forging alternate realities—movies of her own making when situations get stressful. Lost in the chaos of her suspicions and hallucinations, Charlie begins to spiral into her own personal nightmare.

This is Sager’s fifth novel and one of my most anticipated of the year. Sager tends to take a well-known trope and turn it on its head. He’s an inventive and exciting writer and I was so excited to dig into his newest novel.

The first half of the book felt a bit slow to me however, as he used a lot of narrative runaway on Charlie’s analysis of whether Josh was a serial killer or not. Charlie’s unreliable narration toyed with my own interpretations and theories, but it wasn’t until the latter half of the novel that Sager really kicks it into gear. Unexpected twists and a jaw-dropping finale sent me reeling in the best possible way, but still left me feeling rather unsure of what I felt about the book holistically. With a slower pace at the beginning, some implausible choices and scenarios, and just perhaps a little short of the high tension/thrills I’m used to feeling throughout, this one may just not be my favorite.

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