Searching for some kind of peace after the tragic death of her younger sister, Emma ventures with a hiking group into the massive and treacherous wilderness of the Boundary Waters—a rugged land filled with wild animals, twisting rivers, and, Emma hopes, the quiet solitude she so desperately needs. But Mother Nature has other plans.
When a freak windstorm kills the group’s guide, Emma and three other survivors are left stranded with no compass, no map, and just a handful of supplies. Their only hope is to make it to the mighty Lake Superior, where maybe, just maybe, they will be rescued before it’s too late.
Lost, hungry, and exhausted, Emma and her small group must endure every storm, every dangerous animal, and even the looming threat of hypothermia if they hope to survive. But time is running out—and one fellow camper will do whatever it takes to make it out of the Boundary Waters alive. Even if he’s the only one.
A psychological thriller mixed with intense action, Stranded asks that all-too-important question: What would you do in order to survive?
Emma has never been the same since she survived a car accident a year ago that killed her younger sister Lucy, blaming herself for being unable to save her. She has been struggling to find a way to move on but sees an advert for a week long survival trip for teenagers and decides to join up. In the beginning it is hard work and tiring, but one night it all changes when a freak storm kills their experienced guide and leaves the survivors stranded out in the wild. With fire threatening to destroy their camp, wolves in the woods and little idea of what to do next, they must work together to survive the ordeal which may be easier said than done.
Firstly I need to point out that the blurb is very misleading. It makes it sound as if one of the survivors is ready to kill everyone else to survive but that is not true. One of the group does value his neck more than being part of a group effort, and does a few things that show he cares little about the others but he never attempts to kill or maim anyone, so that is misleading to say the least.
For the most part I liked the story well enough. It covers the day to day challenges of what to do if your experienced guide is no longer there to tell you what to do. They lose much of their supplies in the storm and have to quickly salvage what they can before the fire destroys the camp. Now they face the choice of deciding which way to go to find a safer place with a water supply and hopefully food. How long should they wait there for rescue with a winter storm due to come in a week? Do they risk trying to save themselves by hiking out? How do they find regular food to sustain them? You can put yourself in their position and think about what you would have done in their situation. Do you stay by the lake where you have found decent food and water and where they are more likely to look for you, or try to hike out before the weather turns and supplies run out?
I did find the dilemmas interesting enough but I felt that the book lacked that something to make it really exciting and I think that it comes down to issues with the characters and the dialogue. Emma is the MC and reasonably likable but she wasn't the kind of MC that I would love and root for. She is emotionally damaged by her ordeal but I just don't get why she wants to deal with that by going on a survival hike with strangers in the middle of nowhere where she has to use canoes on the water. To me, she hasn't attempted to deal with her guilt and grief yet and should never have been allowed to do something like this. I don't think I ever really 'get' her which made it harder to connect with her. I found Chloe to be a much more interesting character overall.
Isaac and Oscar to me were let downs. Isaac being selfish and looking to abandon them at the first sign of trouble didn't actually bother me that much as some people would be like that in a similar situation. What bothered me about him was the fact that he first spied on Emma bathing in the water, stole her towel and made her walk naked to him to fetch it. Then he threatened Emma later by pinning her to a tree in a sexual manner, saying he liked screamers and made it look like he was going to strip her. When he drops her to the ground, Emma says 'thanks'????? and that is the end of it. The author seems to then want us to feel sorry for Isaac by telling us his father physically abuses him, but I was having none of that. What he did to Emma, I wasn't going to forgive. I hate this kind of writing where implied sexual violence against women is just brushed off like that.
As for Oscar, he was there as the love interest and his character was just boring. There is no reason at all why he and Emma would get together, no chemistry between them, nothing much in common. It is like he is hot guy and one of the two girls MUST like him. It all felt very forced and shoved in there to add some kind of romance element and to me it never worked. There was also the mood he goes into when he is told to give up his book so they can make a fire and he starts whining about it. Look, I love books but in the cold forest, they need a fire to keep away the animals, possibly signal their position to rescuers AND cook the fish that Isaac caught before it goes off. The fact that he was virtually bullied by the other three before sulkily handing over the book was really quite pathetic.
The dialogue between the characters was actually quite dull in places and I struggled to really understand them and their motivations. The conversations were awkward and stilted, and at times I really failed to see what they were talking about. It didn't feel realistic to me. I couldn't imagine talking like that to my friends so it made the development of these characters feel a bit off. I also felt the ending was a bit disappointing. I discuss this in the next paragraph if you want to avoid it.
***SPOILER ALERT*** Emma is about to be reunited with her parents who have been worried sick about her, and Oscar insists on being there to witness it and holds her hand as they come into the room. Seriously? Is he marking his territory, insisting on being there for a private family moment when he has known her five minutes??? I found that really annoying. Imagine her parents coming in, having thought she was dead, to be faced with a strange boy grinning and holding her hand??? ***SPOILER ENDS***
Look, it was a decent enough story especially aimed at a YA audience but I was expecting a bit more meat on the bones. They never felt like a real team until the final day of the drama when things go really bad. The conversations didn't really work. The characters didn't excite me. I feel it had a lot of promise and good ideas which for me were not fully delivered. I don't think I'll read her next survival book as I just don't feel her writing is really for me, though fans of YA might like it better.
Read July 2017.