Review: Survive the Night by Riley Sager

cover of Survive the Night by Riley SagerSurvive the Night by Riley Sager
Dutton (June 29th, 2021)
336 pages; $20.39 hardcover; $14.99 e-book
Reviewed by Sadie “Mother Horror” Hartmann

Despite the fact that she is still emotionally recovering from the violent murder of her roommate and best friend by a suspected serial killer, Charlie Jordan accepts a rideshare request from a young man she’s never seen around campus before.

Readers will need to suspend copious amounts of disbelief in order to enjoy this ride, but it’s possible; for curiosity’s sake.

Riley Sager obviously knows how to write bestselling thrillers. There are four successful hits prior to Survive the Night, none of which I had read before, and the hype is real. Determined to hop on the bandwagon of Sager fans, Survive the Night was going to be my ticket in. Except, unfortunately, I’m still waiting at the station.

Let me unpack this carefully and without any spoilers (which will be extremely difficult because most of my issues with this book are the plot holes).

Much of this story takes place in a car with this young woman, Charlie, and the “stranger danger” driver, Josh Baxter. Knowing what we know prior to this trip, there are zero good reasons for Charlie to have put herself in this situation so the author must convince readers that she is somehow…dun-dun-dun… unreliable.

The thriller genre’s oldest trick. Or maybe it’s a relatively new trick? Regardless, in the last ten years or so, thrillers have leaned into the unreliable woman trope (think: Gone Girl, The Woman in the Window, The Woman in Cabin 10, The Girl on the Train). These women are mentally unstable and their perception of reality can’t be trusted. Did she see what she saw? Did she hear what she thought she heard? Was she too drunk, tired, emotional, or hormonal to have a firm grasp on her circumstances?

In Survive the Night, Charlie’s bizarre mental condition isn’t a convincing enough reason for her to be so self-sabotaging. In fact, character development is not a strong suit here at all so it’s difficult to invest in this story beyond just a casual curiosity to see what happens.

Charlie and Josh initiate different topics of conversation to alleviate obvious tension. He clearly thinks that she’s scared of him and he’s trying to set her mind at ease and she is constantly trying to bait him into revealing his true identity…a serial killer whose recent victim was Charlie’s best friend and who has killed at least two college students prior to that.

The problem is that Charlie slips in and out of these cinematic episodes that feel like she’s living in a horror movie, but the truth is that she’s just “zoning out.” When she snaps out of it, she has no concept of how much time she has lost or what actually transpired while she was starring in these movie fantasies.

It’s about as believable as it sounds. In fact, none of the characters in this book have any real motivations or purpose for doing the things they do. It doesn’t bring me any kind of satisfaction to run this book through the shredder but this is truly my honest reading experience. I was very disappointed. Thriller fans are bound to have a good time with this one despite any of the issues I had with the story and the characters solely because of plot twists and reveals, right? Such is the nature of thrillers. The *thrill* of finding out what happened or who did it. And Survive the Night comes equipped with plenty of those.

But for me, the premise of the story is tissue paper thin. The heavy reveals and twists are not supported and therefore feel a little ridiculous.

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