Publisher: Penguin Canada
Release Date: July 7th, 2015
Genres: YA, Horror, Thriller
Source: Received in exchange for review
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We're all gonna die down here. . . .
Julie lies dead and disemboweled in a dank, black subway tunnel, red-eyed rats nibbling at her fingers. Her friends think she’s just off with some guy—no one could hear her getting torn apart over the sound of pulsing music.
In a tunnel nearby, Casey regrets coming to Survive the Night, the all-night underground rave in the New York City subway. Her best friend Shana talked her into it, even though Casey just got out of rehab. Alone and lost in the dark, creepy tunnels, Casey doesn’t think Survive the Night could get any worse . . . until she comes across Julie’s body, and the party turns deadly.
Desperate for help, Casey and her friends find themselves running through the putrid subway system, searching for a way out. But every manhole is sealed shut, and every noise echoes eerily in the dark, reminding them they’re not alone.
They’re being hunted.
Trapped underground with someone—or something—out to get them, Casey can’t help but listen to her friend’s terrified refrain:
“We’re all gonna die down here. . . .”
Horror is a genre within YA that I personally believe brims with unexplored possibility. As a bit of a horror buff myself, I do love the genre itself but even more so the impact it can have on the reader. From personal experience I’ve felt the aftereffects of well done horror far past the credits of a movie or the closing words of a novel. I suppose my personal definition of a successful horror then would be if it elicited undeniable long-lasting fear. I now am going to share a quote from Stephen King about horror which has really resonated with me and outlines the reasons for my low rating for Survive the Night.
The 3 types of terror: The Gross-out: the sight of a severed head tumbling down a flight of stairs, it’s when the lights go out and something green and slimy splatters against your arm. The Horror: the unnatural, spiders the size of bears, the dead waking up and walking around, it’s when the lights go out and something with claws grabs you by the arm. And the last and worse one: Terror, when you come home and notice everything you own had been taken away and replaced by an exact substitute. It’s when the lights go out and you feel something behind you, you hear it, you feel its breath against your ear, but when you turn around, there’s nothing there…
It’s now with great personal disappointment for me to inform you that Survive the Night failed to bring any true terror to me. Instead I found it relied heavily on ‘the gross out’ factor for what I can only assume was shock value. I personally am a fan of gore, however I do believe there should be some sort of technique behind its usage. It should be timed right for maximum impact and not just used over and over again to the point where it becomes expected and frankly predictable. The fact is Survive the Night’s entire basis for horror was demonstrated through extreme and constant gore that became contrite and eye roll worthy- and this is coming from somebody who enjoys gore. I never felt terror at all.
Furthermore, the characters in Survive the Night felt like cardboard cutouts devoid of anything interesting or likable. In horror this does sometimes occur and it really is unfortunate. In my view some of the best horror I’ve experienced involves fleshed out characters that really manage to ingrain themselves in your mind. That’s not the case for Casey, the main character who clearly has a destructive
obsession friendship with Shana (think stereotypical wild child who literally is never developed beyond that) which involves a whole lot of drugs, partying and alcohol. There were also some other characters who I honestly don’t even remember their names. This includes the love interest, which I suppose goes to show my complete disconnect from the romance. I think it says something when I felt so uncaring towards all of the characters I really didn’t feel any worry about the fact they were being hunted.
The story begins with Casey just leaving rehab, which I personally think was glossed over in the novel. You have a character who ended up with an addiction to prescription meds and it almost just seemed like another thing pointlessly added to the novel, perhaps to make us feel some sort of sympathy towards her. If that were the case that technique didn’t work at all. Instead it drove me up the wall as the issue of addiction was just casually tossed around and how Casey makes ‘smart’ decisions- like going to a underground rave with the girl who got her addicted to drugs and being completely rude to anybody who tried to help her (her dad in particular).
I had a lot of questions finishing this one also. There were so many plot holes, it felt like I was reading Swiss cheese. An example of a glaring plot hole (which has also been noticed by other reviewers) is the mentions of cell phones. These characters have them, and actively use them as a source of light in the dark tunnels. Yet??? Nobody?? Tries?? To????? Make??? A? Call????? There is not a single mention of there being no cell reception so theoretically that should be an option. It should especially since they’re under the subway system and have notable access to locations that are high up. It is little details like cell phones that can make a horror story crumble if not paid attention to.
And yes, I do get that sometimes things are unexplainable yada yada. However, that doesn’t excuse the fact that honestly there were more questions raised in Survive the Night than any sort of explanations, information or motivations. Seriously, when you discover who/what lurks in the tunnels that is hunting the characters…you’ll laugh. It comes across as ridiculous and there’s literally zero explanation which makes everything even more laughable. There’s just no way I can personally stretch my perception of reality far enough to accept what Vega is putting down when I’m not even given a abstract motive from ‘the hunter.’
Overall, I found Survive the Night to be a novel that simply didn’t work for me. I found the horror aspects to be completely lackluster, poorly explained and solely relying on the gross out factor. Rehab and drug addiction was tossed around like it was nothing. The characters were completely unmemorable, made awful decisions and I wasn’t able to even sympathize for them or their plight. I do however, wish to see more horror novels in YA. In my view it’s such an unexplored sub-genre full of potential.
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