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Five Total Strangers

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A hitched ride home in a snow storm turns sinister when one of the passengers is plotting for the ride to end in disaster.

When Mira flies home to spend Christmas with her mother in Pittsburgh, a record-breaking blizzard results in a cancelled layover. Desperate to get to her grief-ridden mother in the wake of a family death, Mira hitches a ride with a group of friendly college kids who were on her initial flight.

As the drive progresses and weather conditions become more treacherous, Mira realizes that the four other passengers she's stuck in the car with don't actually know one another.

Soon, they're not just dealing with heavy snowfall and ice-slick roads, but the fact that somebody will stop at nothing to ensure their trip ends in a deadly disaster.

302 pages, Paperback

First published October 6, 2020

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Natalie D. Richards

15 books1,876 followers

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5 stars
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3 stars
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 5,951 reviews
Profile Image for Nilufer Ozmekik.
2,200 reviews40.7k followers
July 27, 2022
Normally I’m a little tough grader when it comes to YA thrillers and after seeing some unpopular reviews I was afraid of being bad guy with a acidic taste in my mouth after reading something illogical and not entertainingly crazy enough for my picky taste! But thanks to literature Gods, I couldn’t be so wrong because I was already hooked and felt like watching a fast paced, breath taking, captivating, low budget Blumhouse teenage thriller movie which is 6.5 IMDb and %70 rotten tomatoes rated, mostly takes in one place: a haunted, disturbing car! It was entertaining, mind blowing, surprising, twisting and plot idea was also simple, action packed and brilliant!

Our heroine, sweet, artsy, good daughter, 18 years old Mira wants to go to Pittsburgh for Christmas holiday but after unexpected canceled layover because of sudden terrifying blizzard lurking around and her urgent wish to be at home just in time(Her mother keeps secret her divorce news and she is at the verge of nervous breakdown after her sister passed away) forces her make a quick decision to travel with four strangers trapped in a car at snow blizzard.

Yes, not a wise choice! But her seat mate at the plane, Harper seems like cool, sophisticated and friendly. She cannot be a bad person, can she?

The guy with crutches, blonde hair seems charming and nice, too. His name is Josh. And the med student, tall, wealthy boy Brecken seems like a little pretentious but he seems harmless. And Kayla the weird girl who reminds us of sleeping beauty contest winner seems like quiet, introvert,silent one. Yes, they are a bunch of cool college kids and they cannot cause any harm throughout their exciting, thrilling journey. Right?

Sorry Mira, you cannot be so wrong because one of them is ugly soul twin of Joe Goldberg and she or he is watching every step you take and every move you make!

Harper- she is way too friendly and secretive
Brecken seems like violent one
Josh becomes more agitated at each moment and Kayla seems like a drug addict with sociopathic tendencies.

One of them is after her and he/she won’t stop till his/her mission accomplished.

The ending was a little foreseeable and there are so many coincidental facts to bring those five strangers together.

But overall: I drank whole bottle of Chardonnay in twenty minutes and I became more agitated, jumpy during the horrifying action packed scenes. I screamed, I jumped, I shouted too many OMGs (my neighbors thought I was performing a rite. Coincidentally my husband was listening” I’m a believer” from the Monkees at the highest volume: he loves 60s music and I endure everything for him leaving me alone when I’m reading) It was fun, it was joyful and I had amazing time.

Of course I’m cutting points for illogical and coincidental events affect the credibility of the story but I’m still rounding 3.5 to 4 stars!

It was a quick, nail biter, hair splitter, couch jumper, husband disturber, witty journey for me! I enjoyed it so much!

Special thanks to NetGalley and Sourcebooks Fire for sharing this interesting ARC with me . Thankfully it was soooo much better than I expected.
Profile Image for megs_bookrack.
1,537 reviews9,798 followers
May 30, 2023
**3.5-stars rounded up**

Mira lives in California with her Dad, while her mother lives in Pittsburgh. With Christmas approaching, Mira is making her way to the East Coast for the holiday.

Last year, Mira's Aunt, her Mom's sister passed away and her Mom has really struggled coping with that loss. Her sister was her best friend.

Concerned about the state of her mother's mental health, Mira expects her to need extra support through the holiday.

So, when her connecting flight from New York to Pittsburgh gets canceled due to inclement weather, Mira needs to find another way to get home as quickly as she can.

Luckily, the girl she was sitting next to on the plane, Harper, is renting a car along with three of her college friends, Brecken, Josh and Kayla.

There is room left in the car and they are heading in the same direction, so Harper offers Mira a ride. It sure would beat any of the other options, like sleeping at the airport on Christmas Eve.

Mira accepts, but has some reservations. These people are complete strangers.

As they hit the road, the weather gets progressively worse. They see a lot of accidents and even have a few close calls themselves. As you can imagine, the stress level in the car begins to ratchet up.

They're at each other's throats and it's not pretty.

Anything that could possibly go wrong, does. Conditions get to the point where they are barely able to drive at all.

They make a few pit stops and yep, you guessed it, those don't go well either!

I had fun with this one, y'all. Richards did a great job of bringing your typical Teen Scream to the page.

The cast of characters played well off of one another and it definitely kept me guessing. There's some uncertainty as to what people's motives are and I enjoyed that element a lot.

The suspense continues to build throughout, as items start to disappear from the car and it feels threatening rather than accidental.

Although there were some plot holes, and I wasn't sold on the ending, I did have fun reading it. I think if you don't take it too seriously, it's quite an enjoyable read.

Thank you so much to the publisher, SourceBooks Fire, for providing me with a copy to read and review.

Blizzard Scares are some of my favorite scares, so I am definitely happy that I had the opportunity to read this one. It's perfect for this time of year!!

Profile Image for Kelli Wilson.
507 reviews120 followers
July 3, 2020
Failed to astonish me but a few 4-star moments to lean on!

This book is about five young adults stranded at the airport as all flights are cancelled due to snowy weather. All five have never met and are complete strangers. They randomly meet, find out they are all headed in the same direction and decide to rent a car to make the six hour trip. We find out early that one of them has been stalking the main character. But who is the stalker? That you have to finish reading to find out. Things start to go wrong pretty fast. They encounter a huge snow storm, things are constantly going missing and everyone starts pointing fingers.

Overall this had a relatively decent pace. However, I found myself pushing through a few bouts of boredom.  There was a handful of scenes that picked up and really got my heart racing, but unfortunately these were in the minority. 

I feel like this author has a lot of promise and I would definitely consider reading another book of hers.

*Thank you to Sourcebooks Fire via Edelweiss & NetGalley for providing the digital review copy!
Profile Image for Erica Leigh.
562 reviews36 followers
January 22, 2021
I was enjoying the writing at first and made it through about 40% when I realized NOTHING HAD HAPPENED. I was hoping for a twisty psychological thriller and got a REALLY long and dangerous car ride with a bunch of sketchy teens who argue the whole time and make terrible decisions, and also a really thin stalker plot. Predictable, annoying/flat characters. Not good.
Profile Image for Jacqueline Wheeler.
506 reviews1,522 followers
December 11, 2020
Unfortunately, this book was a young adult mix of No Exit and You, but done horribly. The characters in this book were super immature and just fought over everything. I was so tired of listening to arguments throughout the whole entire book. I didn't get attached to any characters and couldn't care less about the main character and her relationship with her mom. I wasn't even shocked at the ending, and wasn't thrilled at all.

This book would be good for a young adult who is just getting into thrillers.
Profile Image for Jessica.
97 reviews7 followers
November 10, 2021
This is seriously the book they picked for the Big Library Read (or whatever it's called)? This ... monstrosity?

Let's be clear here. I don't like this author's work. I've read 3 of her books now and I hate them all for the same reason. A nearly falling asleep plot for the first 80 or so percent then you slam into warp drive and 'solve' everything with a bunch of convenient excuses. I only read this because of the Library Read thing (and honestly I knew it was a mistake).

Is it my fault for read this? Knowing I'd be disappointed? Yes. But I had to know just how bad it was.

First of all, I'm pretty sure this story got pulled from 1995 and plopped down into 2020. 5 'young people' all traveling and only one brings their laptop with them? Sure. Okay. That's totally believable. All the try hard sexist comments felt sprinkled in so that we could have a girl power moment. They were cringy at best.

The idea that 5 people all just happened to be flying out of San Diego to end up in Pittsburgh. By layove in New Jersey? On what continent does that even make sense? Crazy stalker, sure, he wanted to be sure to be on the same flight as Mira, but everyone else? Everyone else just decided to bypass all the NORMAL flights and take a weird-as-F plane change in Newark, New Jersey. I'm not even sure how you find a flight like that? Like, was the research on google something like 'the most ridiculous way to fly from San Diego to Pittsburgh known to man'. Because I honestly have no idea how that flight ended up happening.

Continuing on with the idea that 5 random strangers all just happened to be on the same flight, and all had the same connecting flight (you would assume since they were all in the same car driving towards Pittsburgh). Laughable at best. Come on. And why didn't anyone ever QUESTION the purely conincidental circumstances that led them to all booking the stupidest flight possible to get where they all needed to go on Christmas eve?

The subplots were a joke. I'm pretty sure you could have come up with something more convincing writing a bunch of things on a dart board and throwing a dart than what happened in this book.

The yellow hat dude. I'm sorry. These idiots had no idea where they were going. Got lost mutiple times. Even doubled back along an old route and this random dude JUST HAPPENED TO BE IN ALL THOSE PLACES TOO? No. That's not how it works. That's not how any of this works. They go off on some random side road that no one has any business driving on AND YELLOW HAT DUDE FINDS THEM THERE? On Christmas Day? No. Absolutely not.

The gas station scene. I've never in my entire life rolled my eyes as much as I did as this whole disaster played out. First of all. Did they not to think to ask ANYONE at the gas station for money? They talked about all the people stranded there, but then I guess those people just vanished?

Second. They drove for awhile, then doubled back, ended up somewhere completely unexpected and that's where gas station man found them? I'm sorry. No one is going to drive around town for hours looking for some idiot kids who stold $40 worth of gas. It's absolutely not worth anyone's time. And especially not in a freaking blizzard.

Third. The major car accident scene. I. Just. The non-chalance in which they drive away, not concerned about anyone else. Brushing off the idea that there's nothing they could have done to help. Okay. Sure. Whatever.

Fourth. The stuff disappering. I'm honestly not sure how that was supposed to work out. I'm not going to back to read any of this again, but it never felt like ANYONE had enough time to not only steal something but then plant it in someone else's stuff.

Fifth. The idea that no one could hear anyone else talking. Ever. People have full-fledged conversation at the back of th SUV with the hatch open and NO ONE hears anything? Please. Everyone whispering around and keeping secrets. It was all so stupid and dramatic.

Sixth. Everyone's backstories were pathetic. A druggie (supposedly). A precious little rich girl. A pretentious rich boy. And a stalker. Cool. Cool. Cool. Throw a few generic descriptions at them, a sob story or two and we're done here folks. No further character development needed.

Ugh. I honestly don't even know what to say. To be competely upfront, I read spoilers about this book before I read it. I knew it was going to be terrible. I knew who the stalker was the whole time. At one point I desperately hoped I was wrong (and so did the book) but of course, no. You get the most obvious person (even had I not read spoilers it was pretty clear who the stalker was early on - and no I'm not saying that to pretend I'm smart. The book is pretty heavy handed with everyone, except one characters).

Here's how it would have been better. (Aside from scrapping the whole project)

Cut all the gas station hijinks and the crap about the guy in the ball cap.

Create some actual tension between the characters. Maybe someone does resort to violence in their desperation to get home. Cut all the weird creepy stalker stuff (the letters were sooooooooo stupid). Make the stalker show a genuine interest in Mira. Gaslight her a bit when she starts to question things. Have everyone be a bit on edge from the start.

Make Mira's connection with her parents actually mean something. She might as well have been calling the info number for the local time and weather for as much emotions as there was from her parents. Give Mira a REAL reason to need to get home. A reason she had to book as last minute Christmas Ever trip. Her aunt is in the hospital NOW and she wants to be there in time to say good bye. All the whining and moaning about the dead aunt and her weak mom just made Mira sound childish.

Have more opportunties for the strangers to connect. Maybe they get stuck in the traffic at first. They talk. Share things. Now I'm invested becuse these people seem real. I never cared about Harper's dad getting busted for illegal business practices. I couldn't care less about what's his name failing his stupid classes. The other girl being a druggy. It was all so shallow and pathetic. Josh had absolutely no personality outside of 'I like to read thick books'.

Get rid of all the weird Boomer humor. The druggy girl (I literally just finished reading this book and can't remember half their names) kept attacking Harper and rich dude and criticizing them for not having cash becuse they wore nice clothes. Because that makes sense. It's 2020 (when this was published) not 1990. Not having cash is normal for a lot of people (most people, I'd assume). There were weird phrases and incompetent actions. Harper didn't know how to clear the ice off her windshield (playing into the whole you kids these days are useless/helpless vibe or most of the book). The idea that 5 stupid kids would all willingly get into a car with strangers was the most annoying part of all of this.

I'm sorry, I'm off on a tangent. Forget about making this better. HOW THE F*CK did stalker boy know Mira would be on THAT flight at THAT time? There is no way in heck he would have known that. And if he did, I need to know HOW? Because if Mira's posting her travel plans on social media for the whole world to see she deserved to be stalked (I'M JOKING - but she needs a lesson not being an idiot online). How did this dumb stalker plan any of this? Did he just magically know they'd all end up in the same car? Where did he hide those dumb letters? They all searched thorough everyone else's luggage before the letters showed up. Where had he hid the stuff before that? (Yeah, there was that stupid scene where he 'dropped' his wallet, but please, don't tell me had was hiding stuff under the SUV the whole time). There is no way that he could have planned all that stuff out so well not knowing how things actually played out. What if Mira had stayed at the airport? What if her Mom drove to get her? Was he going to kidnap her from the airport with thousands of random people watching?

And how convenient that the stalker ends up dead so the actual reasons don't have to be explained. We'll never actually know how he planned everything or who was really responsible for the gas station incidents (the stealing and the running over).

There were some good moments here. The writing (when it was ad nauseum about poor Mira's mom) was terrible. The scene where they're almost in the car accident was written with tension (for the most part). The basic premise isn't even awful (just badly executed). But honestly, this was a mess. The more you think about it the less everything makes sense.

Like the pills the druggy girl was taking. Why was she so surprised about who had taken her pills when Mira tells us that that stalker must have been giving her a few at a time to make her compliant to his plans (if that's what really happened why her outrage about him being the one who stole them???).

I honestly think this would have been so much better had Mira just been gaslighted to heck and back by everyone. Stalker could have kept taking her things. She makes a scene. They search the car. Look, Mira it's right here. You're paranoid. Everyone would buy into her being a bit scattered. She would start to question everything. It would have been better than randomly stealing everyone stuff hiding in some random place and then magically sneaking it into her bag later.

Okay. I don't want to think about this any more. The book was bad. The characers were flat. The plot was FAR to convenient. I'm disappointed.
Profile Image for Regina.
1,136 reviews3,004 followers
December 27, 2020
Five things to know about Five Total Strangers:

1. It takes place on Christmas Eve, should you be the sort of reader that likes to time books with the seasons. As a thriller, it’s a nice change of pace from Hallmark romances and classic holiday tales.

2. Though it’s a Young Adult book, the plot transcends YA since people of any age could find themselves in the characters’ situation - stranded while making a connecting flight and opting to rent a car with strangers heading to the same final destination.

3. The atmosphere is pretty great. You can almost hear the snow crunching under the tires as they wind their way through rural Pennsylvania during a blizzard. You may even feel the need to grab a blanket and a hot beverage while reading.

4. It’s told from the first person perspective of a teen girl, Mira, with occasional journal entries from another character mixed in. Mira isn’t a particularly dynamic or memorable character though, and needless to say many of her choices are questionable.

5. Suspension of belief is a must! There are too many coincidences and are-you-serious??? moments to elevate this much beyond a counter-programing option during the holiday season. 3.5 stars.
Profile Image for Melissa (Catch Up Mode).
4,568 reviews1,875 followers
September 2, 2021
2.5 stars rounded up
Listened to most of this on audio, the narrator is excellent at keeping the tension going and communicating Mira's voice.

This is a fast-paced thriller, a quasi-locked room mystery because the five people are in a car together driving through a snowstorm. There are No Exit vibes here, but I didn't feel this one was quite as good. The entire build-up of the book was great. I felt the stress of the five people and got nervous for them as the book progressed. I was rooting for Mira to come out of this ok, to realize that her safety was more important than upsetting her mom. I literally couldn't put the book down, despite the problems I had with the narrative, it was really engrossing and exciting.

However, there were a few shortcomings. First, there were way too many coincidences--seriously, would the father/son be able to actually find them and hunt them down? There was never anyone else around, and yet they seemed to be able to track the car just fine. Second, too many things did not make sense to me. So this group of people come into a bar and are frantic and scared, so the bar owner just closes up and goes home and leaves them there because it's Christmas Eve and it's closing time? No one thought to try to get them help, get them to a hotel, get them to a safe place to ride out the weather? No one wants to call their parents or other people in their lives to let them know they are all right?

Despite these things, if you like a great YA thriller, this one is pretty decent. It has a stalker and so many secrets and hidden agendas. You definitely don't know who to trust until the very end.

I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book, all opinions are my own.
Profile Image for Chantal.
468 reviews230 followers
July 15, 2022
Overall a really engaging book. I liked the storyline and the suspense building but the ending felt so rushed. It was over before it really started to sink in. And what happened to the mysterious guy from the gas stop? Did I miss something?
Profile Image for Claude's Bookzone (on hiatus).
1,501 reviews201 followers
November 20, 2020
2.5 Stars


Well that was somewhat of an abrupt and predictable ending. That being said I was still engaged and quite interested to see how the story would unfold. The characters were pretty flat but at least they weren't annoying. This book reminded me a bit of I Know What You Did Last Summer, which is another slightly underwhelming thriller. I think the author did a good job in terms of the pacing, and also sowing the seeds of doubt as to which of the passengers had sinister motives. I am glad I listened to it as I suspect the first quarter would make for dull reading. Just okay for me but I think it will be popular in the YA library I work at.
Profile Image for Julie Zantopoulos.
Author 4 books2,239 followers
February 23, 2022
It had a creepy factor given that it's set in PA and I live in PA. I loved the freaky letters and the tension but I saw the twist coming and I was left unimpressed with the overall plot and character development. There was such build up to the finale of the book and then BAM, it was over. I'm not the target age demographic but I'm looking for a little more meat from my thrillers. Still, it did have a "vibe" that I could get down with.
Profile Image for Carrie.
3,158 reviews1,517 followers
August 21, 2021
Five Total Strangers by Natalie D. Richards is a young adult thriller read. Being the second book by Natalie D. Richards I have come to enjoy her action based thrillers but do not find them without a few flaws each time.

In this book we meet eighteen year old, Mira, who has been living in California and wants to travel to spend the holidays with her mother in Pittsburgh on the east coast. Of course with Christmas holiday travel along the east coast you just may run into some delays with snow impacting the area and that is just what happens to Mira during her journey.

Stuck in New York due to a snowstorm in the area Mira wants to find another way to get to her mother knowing that this holiday is going to be a tough one for her mother. Mira finds that the girl she had met on the plane is in the same situation and Harper plans to drive the rest of the way with her friends, Brecken, Josh and Kayla. While these strangers seem to know each other Mira can’t help but be a little wary of going but she doesn’t seem to have any other options.

Five Total Strangers certainly is a parent’s nightmare, your teen to just hop into a car with people she doesn’t know with of course a snowstorm that “can’t be that bad”. As a reader it is obvious the storm would be that bad but I was still curious as to what else would go wrong for the young protagonist. In the end I did find that this one was one of those books that seemed a bit obvious to me leaving me to rate a little lower at three and half stars. However, loving an action packed escape I would read this author again in the future.

I received an advance copy from the publisher via NetGalley.

For more reviews please visit https://carriesbookreviews.com/
Profile Image for Ashleigh.
760 reviews40 followers
October 29, 2020
Had high hopes for this, but it fell really flat for me. I didn't gel well with the overwhelming amount of talk and description about the car journey in the beginning, and the characters arguing about which road to take, etc. The resolution felt a bit too obvious too. This book just did not work for me.
Profile Image for halfirishgrin.
288 reviews177 followers
August 27, 2020
If nothing else, this book was highly entertaining. I sat down and read it in one sitting and I couldn't keep turning the pages fast enough. But...I knew that the ending would make or break it. Unfortunately, it broke it.

This is the kind of book where the more I thought about it, the more everything seemed to fall apart. At the end of the day, despite its pacing and despite how fast I devoured the book looking for answers, the answers themselves were lackluster, along with the characters. Other than the main character, Mira, none of the characters are really fleshed out. In fact, they're so one-dimensional that after the big reveal at the end...we don't even find out what really happens with the other characters? The things that were apparently driving them throughout the book don't matter as soon as we have the answer.

The big reveal itself was...lacking. Not because it wasn't a big surprise, but because it wasn't really explored? We don't find out the motivations of the antagonist past something that was very surface-level. I also had to wonder what the antagonist's end goal was, because it wasn't really explained?

I also found the little reveals throughout the book about different characters lackluster. Again, I think this was less to do with the reveals themselves and more to do with how they actually didn't do much to develop the characters or make us sympathise with them? It's like the reveals were there solely for shock value...and so they didn't even shock me because I didn't care about the characters enough.

All in all, this was a very entertaining book, but so much stuff didn't really add up at the end. I was left with too many unanswered questions. All the characters, except for Mira, were underdeveloped. The book also ended quite abruptly.

Profile Image for jenny✨.
563 reviews803 followers
November 22, 2020
10/06/2020: Happy publication day to this book! (The weather is much more caught-in-a-snowstorm appropriate now than when Sheena and I read this back in August 😂)

I’ve learned to pay attention when the hair at the back of my neck prickles—when a carnal, bone-deep instinct tells me something is wrong. And that’s what my instincts are saying now.

Five Total Strangers was a compulsively readable and quick read that immediately swept me into its story. While not necessarily complex, this didn’t fall into cliché, either; I’d heard good things about Natalie D. Richards’ writing, and after reading this book, I’m down to try more of her work.

Stuck in the middle of a terrible blizzard, Mira Reynolds is desperate to make it home for Christmas—even if it means getting into a car full of complete strangers. Strangers who are just as desperate as she to be reunited with their families… except one. Turns out while everyone’s keeping secrets, there is one person hiding much, much more.

Not only do the five of them have to contend with car accidents on icy roads and escaping from gun-toting gas station owners, someone in the car is acting with sinister motives. Things begin to go missing. Their snow chains and charging ports have been tampered with.

Someone doesn’t want them to get home alive.


I really think the author did a good job of weaving in other elements beyond just the mystery/thriller/survival-in-a-snowstorm plot. Mira grapples with immense grief for her aunt Phoebe’s death, a grief she’s suppressed for an entire year as her mother fell apart and Mira found herself having to be strong in her stead. At the same time, Mira’s just beginning to patch up a shattering friendship-breakup with her best friend, Zari, and the book also talks about Mira’s passion for art.

I wish we’d learned more about each character, and that the culprit’s backstory was fleshed out more! I found it a little hard to picture each person in my head (apart from Harper, who’s East Asian, poised, and wealthy) because their initial descriptions were paltry, and eventually everyone’s histories are sketched in somewhat… except for the stalker’s.

I also have mixed feelings about the letters from the stalker to Mira that are interspersed between chapters; on the one hand, I liked that they injected novelty into the narrative and revealed just how long he’s tracked her. On the other hand, they were so generic??? Very “we are meant to be together I just know it”? I guess I just felt it was a story I’d heard (many times) before.

Finally, what cemented this as a three-star read for me was the fact that I found the ending somewhat rushed. I had to triple-check I hadn't missed a chapter or two at the conclusion because I felt like there were still plotlines to be revealed and character stories to be tied up; definitely didn't get a sense of closure with this one! 😭

Nonetheless, there were some truly chilling moments (no pun intended). A burst of unexpectedly unsettling violence in a rest stop parking lot to keep you on your toes. A strange man who keeps showing up along their journey. And of course, the sabotage that seems to be happening under Mira’s nose.

Buddy read with Sheena!! 💖💖

Thanks to NetGalley and Sourcebooks Fire for this ARC in exchange for an honest review!
Profile Image for Kelly (and the Book Boar).
2,447 reviews7,541 followers
January 5, 2022
“You’re getting in a car with a bunch of strangers?

“Do I have a choice?”


Well, actually it was only like an inch or two, but it still shut down the city for three days so it might as well have been ten feet. My library hold for this one came up just in time and let me tell you I was ready to get my creepy carshare on.

However, in an attempt at full disclosure, as soon as those kids took a detour from the main thoroughfare in order to “save some time” my brain 100% went in a certain direction . . . .

So the big reveal ended up being way disappointing for me. Still, this wasn’t a completely horrible way to spend my afternoon all bundled up on the couch. I’m giving it a middle-of-the-road rating and rounding up for the occasional chills and thrills it provided. Great idea, great cover, a little lackluster on the delivery.
Profile Image for Alaina Motes.
22 reviews1 follower
June 9, 2021
I wrote my original review a while ago, but now that I’ve had time to think about it, I really didn’t like this book.

This book follows Mira, a girl who lives in California with her father and is trying to visit her mother in Pennsylvania for Christmas. She gets grounded at an airport but a generous stranger asks if she wants to hitch a ride with her and three other strangers. From the beginning, Mira knows that something is wrong, but she can’t tell exactly what.

I knew who the bad guy the entire time. From the page that they were introduced, I knew who it was. It made me feel really smart at the time, but looking I know that you don’t want to know who it is in the first fifty or so pages.

I didn’t like any of the characters. There was absolutely no character development in any of them and it was super annoying reading about how she just needs to get home so she can feel safe. If you don’t feel safe with these people, then why are you still riding with them! Get out! Ask them to drop you off at a gas station or hotel. Getting home was her only goal, and she didn’t even think about how riding across the state with a whole ton of strangers might make it so she never goes home again!

The girl who asked her to go with her, Harper, why would she ask so many people who she doesn’t know to go with her if she just wants it to be a smooth journey back home. She was kind of setting them all up for disaster. I understand why she had Brecken go, she didn’t really have a choice with that one, but why everyone else? Not safe, not smart.

I do not remember what Brecken’s motives were to be in that car. I remember he thought Josh was crazy (which good job to him for being the only person in this book with a functioning brain) and he hit Josh with a shovel or something because he saw the letters he wrote. And he helped pay for the car, other than that, I can’t remember a thing about him.

Kayla, I don’t really see a point in Kayla’s character. Like I remember that she stole everything and she helped Josh lure Mira for drugs, but really, what was the point of her? Josh could’ve been the bad guy all alone. I think she was just there to make us as readers more confused, but that didn’t even work.

Josh just annoyed me the entire book. He nice now, but wait now he’s mean, but he has a broken leg so I need to be nicer to him, NO. He’s just a creepy stalker who I saw was creepy from “He’s smiling like he already knows,” on page 26. Umm, creepy anyone? And why did he have to kill that boy by running him over? Not necessary. Just try to work for the gas you stole, or next time, don’t let the driver drive away with gas you haven’t paid for from the guy who has a sign that says he’ll shoot you if you’re stealing! Oh yeah, that’s another thing I remember about Brecken, he thought it was a good idea to steal the gas.

And don’t even get me started about the guy with the baseball cap! Why was he everywhere they went! It literally makes no sense! He should not have been a character in this book, let alone an important one! The author could’ve just had someone driving by the pick them up, but no, it had to be the freaky guy they saw at like three different places who was really a really nice guy who just wanted a ride. WHAT WAS THE PURPOSE OF HIM?!

I deeply dislike this book.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for JasonA.
293 reviews53 followers
February 12, 2022
I'd probably give this one 3.5 stars. I didn't love it, but I didn't hate it. I liked it, but I probably won't think of it ever again after this review. It was a great way to kill a few hours, but nothing I'd go out of my way to read again. It was perfectly average in every regard.

My biggest disappointment was the complete lack of twists. There were a few places where I felt like the author was attempting to set something up, but it never panned out. Not every book needs a twist, but a couple of good ones would have made the book stand out. Maybe the twist was that there wasn't a twist? More than once I hoped the author was going to go for a less obvious stalker, but again, it didn't work out that way.

The red herring(s) and bad guy ended up being exactly who I thought they were going to be. The only surprise was the man in the yellow hat, but that's only a surprise because it didn't make any damn sense. Was this the same guy Mira kept seeing or was that just a coincidence? If it was the same guy, how did he keep getting ahead of them without a car? Definitely a unresolved plot thread that stopped the book from being better. Honestly, removing the whole character would probably have been better than leaving it with no explanation.

Overall, this was a good time killer but nothing special. Most of the plot doesn't hold up to heavy examination and bad decisions played too big a role in moving the plot forward. Worth a read if you're all caught up on your TBR list.
Profile Image for Amy J.
101 reviews49 followers
December 27, 2021
After Mira's flight home gets cancelled on Christmas eve, she joins with 4 other college students to make the final leg to see her mother. Besides dealing with a record-breaking snowstorm and icy roads, other things start to happen. Will they be able to get home or is someone trying to sabotage their trip?

The story is a closed-room mystery as you try to figure out which one of the five is trying to prevent them all from going home. Although the story is somewhat suspenseful, it still seemed to take forever to get to the point. It was a log of one icy road after another with some other areas of tension.

I read this as part of the Big Library Reads on Libby.
Profile Image for Diana • Book of Secrets.
780 reviews571 followers
February 14, 2021
I love cold weather/snowy suspense novels, so the cover of this book was screaming for me to read it. FIVE TOTAL STRANGERS is a locked-room-on-wheels YA thriller that left me with mixed feelings.

The protagonist Mira is a high school student flying home to Pittsburgh to be with her mother on Christmas. A snow storm cancels connecting flights and leaves her stranded at the Philly airport. Desperate to get home, she makes the BAD decision of hitching a ride with four college-aged strangers who were on her flight. In a blizzard with strangers on desolate backroads? What's the worst that could happen? Mira is about to find out...

First of all, I loved the creepy, frozen atmosphere the author created. As odd things start to happen, Mira becomes convinced that someone in their party doesn't want them to get home. But why? There were a lot of tense moments, and my thoughts on who was the bad one was constantly changing.

Though the book kept me guessing, I thought the first half moved too slowly, and the ending was too abrupt. There were loose ends and unanswered questions that annoyed me, plus the reasoning behind the bad one's actions wasn't convincing, and also, what an absurd plan. You're in a blizzard!?!

Overall though, I did enjoy the author's descriptive writing style, and I wouldn't hesitate to give her other books a try.

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for sunny (ethel cain’s version).
345 reviews80 followers
October 5, 2022
This was fun!

A bit predictable and I hated the ableism toward folks that depend on substances.

Also the man in the yellow hat?! Curious George vibes.

Profile Image for Melany.
448 reviews72 followers
February 16, 2022
Decent read. Interesting characters and plot but story was over hyped from everyone who has previously mentioned this book to me. End was good.
Profile Image for eli ♡ .
160 reviews142 followers
January 8, 2021
3.5 stars
Five Total Strangers started off strongly, kept me guessing and in suspense, surprised me a little, but was still a pretty good read overall. Mira Hayes, an 18-year-old art student, wants to visit her mother in PA for the holidays. But when her upcoming flight to PA is cancelled, she reluctantly accepts a ride home with four strangers from Harper, whom she met at the airport. And as Mira rides in the car with Kayla, Harper, Brecken, and Josh, she realizes that they're all hiding something. Soon, the ride goes from dangerous because of the upcoming blizzard, to terrifying as secrets become unfolded. Everyone's belongings are mysteriously disappearing. Someone in the car is clearly lying, and may even be sabotaging the trip—but why? And can Mira make it home alive, or will this nightmare drive turn fatal?

My Thoughts
I don't know how to put this, but I expected more from this book. I wish that the characters had more dimension because that would have given the culprit more of a motive for their decision. But it also would have given us more reason to either name them as innocent or guilty. And I liked the plot overall, but there were some things I didn't like about the storytelling that narrated the story. I didn't particularly enjoy when certain events happened and the events weren't described in full detail, so I was still left wondering "what in the willy wonka happened?".

Even though I had a general idea of what might've happened, it would have been more enjoyable if the event was described in more detail so I could fully grasp the fictional situation. I liked how the book was fast-paced and that Mira actually had some common sense (unlike a lot of these other stupid thriller characters). The ending was alright, but it was pretty expected. Even then, there could have been an epilogue to end the story on a good note.

Overall, this novel had me surprised and had unpredictable twists. The storytelling/narration wasn't great, but I dealt with it because I wanted to read a captivating story. I would definitely recommend this to someone who wants a kinda quick read that will slightly surprise them, but wouldn't leave them on a cliffhanger or wanting more.
Profile Image for Melanie (mells_view).
1,710 reviews332 followers
October 6, 2020
”Don’t worry. Destiny’s on our side.”

Ok so essentially this is a read about five not so perfect strangers, who were stranded at an airport on Christmas Eve, and decided to brave the icy winter storm and drive 6 hours together to get home. They all desperately needed to get home for some reason or another.

That being said. Things start going wrong, and they stay going wrong. Is their luck really this bad? Hmm. I don’t want to say too much, because I think the reason this book is so entertaining is because it is anxiety inducing and you just don’t know what is happening. This book had me stressed out the entire time just waiting for what would happen to these people next. I did not want to stop reading, it was that engrossing even though I was so anxious.

I will say that there are a trunkful of loose ends at the end, and while I wish I had more answers, I understand that those answers weren’t the point of the story. All in all this was a great read, with great build. You can figure out what’s going on if you pay super close attention to details.

*ARC provided by SourceBooks Fire through NetGalley!
Profile Image for Darla.
3,348 reviews527 followers
December 11, 2020
This road trip is like a living nightmare. I found myself racing through the chapters to discover the identity of the passenger in the car who had been writing to Mira. Many factors ratchet up the peril including the horrible weather, seeming sabotage of the safety kit, key items going missing, and the paranoia that develops. They reach a point where the narrative turns on a dime. Any one of them, even Mira, seems a potential suspect. Quite well done and I will most certainly check out one of Ms. Richards' other titles. Excuse me now while I grab a blanket and some hot cocoa. Reading this book made me feel like I was stranded out in the cold with them.
Profile Image for Kelli.
103 reviews74 followers
November 8, 2021
This book was creepy!! I really thought I was going to have a heart attack through the whole thing. It was so spooky and cold. Don’t read this is a cold house or if you are home alone!

It seemed a little far fetched as I look back, but I was hooked in the moment!
Profile Image for Sabi.
741 reviews185 followers
May 5, 2022
Read it if you want a clautrophobic experience. But, not if you want a psychological thriller.

Things I liked:

🌟The setting of the novel. It was quite thrilling to be stuck in a car.

Things I wasn't impressed with:

The twist wasn't exciting, if you read thrillers, you can guess who'll be the bad guy.

The idea: The book is of average length, but I got bored after some initial chapters. The reason for this can be that the idea is streched, it's nice but the book can't be dependent on it.
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