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YA Survival Thrillers to Keep You Up at Night

Oh, the survival thriller. How it has evolved over time. We all read Hatchet, Lord of the Flies, and The Call of the Wild in school, right? Terrifying. Gripping. Had me practicing my fire making skills in the backyard, which my parents were THRILLED about!!! Personally, I think I learned a lot. But my parents wanted me to keep it to the “EXPERTS” in the books… SIGH!!!

So, if you were a fellow explorer (and fire-starter) like me, this list is for you. Come along and explore the trepid wilderness, in honor of the long-awaited THE GIRL IN QUESTION (follow up to THE GIRLS I’VE BEEN) by the suspense MASTER Tess Sharpe! We’re leaving the bank for the WOODS, y’all! Yippee-ki-YAYYY!

The Girl in Question

by Tess Sharpe

Our favorite con artist Nora O’Malley is BACK, baby! Her stepdad is still evil. Her life is still full of secrets, survival, and flannels. And I’m still obsessed.  Buckle up, kids, because Miss Sharpe is about to deliver another wild ride.

High school is over, but Nora O’Malley’s life isn’t, which is weird now that her murderous stepdad Raymond is free.

Determined to enjoy summer before her (possibly) imminent demise, Nora plans a ten day backpacking trip with Iris and Wes. Her plans hit a snag when Wes’s girlfriend tags along. Amanda is nice, so it’s not a huge issue—until she gets taken. Or rather, mistaken…for Nora. All because of a borrowed flannel.

Now Raymond has a hostage. Nora has no leverage. Iris has a spear and Wes is building boobytraps. It’ll take all of their skills to make it out of the forest alive.

There are three problems: Someone is lying. Someone is keeping secrets.

And someone has to die.

Stay Dead

by April Henry

Geez Louise, after I was on the edge of my seat for April Henry’s Two Truths and a Lie and Girl Forgotten, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on this one. Milan faces SO many obstacles after surviving a plane crash. Freezing. Drones. Assassins. But she needs to get to the truth! You’ll be rooting for her every step of the way.

New York Times  bestselling author April Henry delivers a thrilling murder mystery featuring a teen with an assassin on her trail fighting to uncover the truth behind a government cover up, perfect for fans of Karen McManus.

Sometimes, the only way to live is to make sure the world thinks you’re dead . . . 

In the aftermath of a car accident that claimed the life of her senator father, sixteen-year-old Milan finds herself adrift, expelled from her third boarding school. Milan’s mother, who has assumed the senate seat, diverts her private plane to pick up her daughter. But on their way home, a bomb rips off a wing and the plane crashes in the mountains. In her final moments, Milan’s mother entrusts her with a key. She reveals it will unlock the evidence that so many people have already died for—including Milan’s father. The only way Milan can survive, her mom tells her, is to let everyone believe she died with the other passengers.

​Milan is forced to navigate a perilous descent in freezing conditions while outwitting everything from a drone to wild animals. With relentless assassins on her trail, she must untangle the web of deceit and save herself and countless others. Will she piece together the truth in time?

The Lovely and The Lost

by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

THE QUEEN JLB WROTE A SURVIVAL THRILLER!??!?! JUST FOR ME?!?! Did I mention this book is full of search-and-rescue dogs???? A girl found in the woods, who now uses her past experience to help find other missing kids? With the writing of the immaculate JLB? Yeah, so just drop what you’re doing right now.

Kira Bennett’s earliest memories are of living alone and wild in the woods. She has no idea how long she was on her own or what she had to do to survive, but she remembers the moment that Cady Bennett and one of her search-and-rescue dogs found her perfectly. Adopted into the Bennett family, Kira still struggles with human interaction years later, but she excels at the family business: search-and-rescue. Along with Cady’s son, Jude, and their neighbor, Free, Kira works alongside Cady to train the world’s most elite search-and-rescue dogs. Someday, all three teenagers hope to put their skills to use, finding the lost and bringing them home.

But when Cady’s estranged father, the enigmatic Bales Bennett, tracks his daughter down and asks for her help in locating a missing child—one of several visitors who has disappeared in the Sierra Glades National Park in the past twelve months—the teens find themselves on the frontlines sooner than they could have ever expected. As the search through 750,000 acres of unbridled wilderness intensifies, Kira becomes obsessed with finding the missing child. She knows all too well what it’s like to be lost in the wilderness, fighting for survival, alone.

But this case isn’t simple. There is more afoot than a single, missing girl, and Kira’s memories threaten to overwhelm her at every turn. As the danger mounts and long-held family secrets come to light, Kira is forced to question everything she thought she knew about her adopted family, her true nature, and her past.

Code Name Verity

by Elizabeth Wein

OMG. This TikTok famous book is gorgeous historical fiction that will seriously keep you up ALL NIGHT. Queenie and Maddie are one of my fav duos of all time. “World War 2 spy thrillers aren’t my cup of tea”  – me, sounding like and absolute FOOL, before I read this masterpiece.

Oct. 11th, 1943 – A British spy plane crashes in Nazi-occupied France. Its pilot and passenger are best friends. One of the girls has a chance at survival. The other has lost the game before it’s barely begun.

When “Verity” is arrested by the Gestapo, she’s sure she doesn’t stand a chance. As a secret agent captured in enemy territory, she’s living a spy’s worst nightmare. Her Nazi interrogators give her a simple choice: reveal her mission or face a grisly execution.

As she intricately weaves her confession, Verity uncovers her past, how she became friends with the pilot Maddie, and why she left Maddie in the wrecked fuselage of their plane. On each new scrap of paper, Verity battles for her life, confronting her views on courage and failure and her desperate hope to make it home. But will trading her secrets be enough to save her from the enemy?

Harrowing and beautifully written, Elizabeth Wein creates a visceral read of danger, resolve, and survival that shows just how far true friends will go to save each other. Code Name Verity is an outstanding novel that will stick with you long after the last page.

When We Were Lost

by Kevin Wignall

Yellowjackets is my go-to high-schoolers-plane-crash-in-a-remote-place show. Mix that with the epic classics Survivor (46 seasons and going strong) and Lost, and you get When We Were Lost. This pulse-pounding survival story will make you want to rejoin your local scout troop ASAP, PEOPLE!!!!

Survival. It’s a concept these high school students never had to consider–until their plane crashes in a remote rainforest with no adults left alive. With many of them falling prey to threats from both the jungle and man, they soon realize that danger comes in many sinister forms.

Tom Calloway didn’t want to go on a field trip to Costa Rica, but circumstances had him ending up sitting in the back of the plane–which was the only part that was intact after the crash in the remote South American wilderness. Tom and a small group of his classmates are fortunate to be alive, but their luck quickly runs out when some of them fall prey to the unfamiliar threats of the jungle–animals, reptiles, insects, and even the unforgiving heat. Every decision they make could mean life or death.

As the days go by and the survivors’ desperation grows, things get even more perilous. Not everyone can cope with the trauma of seeing their friends die, and a struggle for leadership soon pits them against each other. And when they come across evidence of other people in the middle of the rainforest, does that mean they’re safe–or has their survival come to an even more vicious end?

We’ll Never Tell

by Wendy Heard

EEEE this thriller follows four high school seniors investigating an old Hollywood murder. When one of them is attacked and left to recover in the hospital, the remaining three try and solve the case… all the while thinking that they could be the next victim. Will they survive, when the suspects could be the police, the GHOSTS… or each OTHER?!?!

A whodunit doused in Hollywood lore.

No one at Hollywood High knows who’s behind We’ll Never Tell—a viral YouTube channel where the anonymous creators trespass behind the scenes of LA’s most intriguing locales. The team includes CASEY, quiet researcher and trivia champ; JACOB, voice narrator and video editor, who is secretly dating EDDIE, aspiring filmmaker; and ZOE, coder and breaking-and-entering extraordinaire.

Now senior year is winding down, and with their lives heading in different directions, the YouTubers vow to go out with a bang. Their last episode will be filmed at the infamous Valentini “murder house,” which has been left abandoned, bloodstained, and untouched since a shocking murder/suicide in 1972. When the teens break in, they capture epic footage. But someone trips an alarm, and it’s a mad dash to get out before the police arrive—at which point they realize only three of them escaped instead of four. Jacob is still inside, slain and bleeding out. Is his attack connected to the historic murder, or is one of their crew responsible?

A week of suspicions and cover-ups unfolds as Casey and her remaining friends try to stay alive long enough to solve murder mysteries past and present. If they do, their friendship may not survive. If they don’t, the house will claim more victims.