By Rektok Ross
Ever since I was a young girl, I have been obsessed with survival thrillers. Whether they’re nonfiction tales rooted in unbelievable yet true, real-life situations or fantastical made-up fictional scenarios, the stakes don’t get any higher in storytelling than life or death adventures. These types of stories never fail to make us ponder our own existence since nothing makes you question life more than being faced with your own mortality.
This searing examination of life that comes with reading a survival story is one of the main reasons I was so inspired to write my debut young adult survival thriller Ski Weekend. In Ski Weekend, six teens and a dog are stranded in the snowy Sierra Nevada mountains on the way to a high school ski trip after their SUV navigation system takes them down the wrong road. What happens next is a harrowing tale that I hope will both thrill and excite my readers but will also make them think about the ways in which they choose to live out their own lives. When we are forced to remember that we won’t be around forever, we must think deeply about how we choose to spend the time we are given.
Here are some truly wonderful survival thrillers that are guaranteed to get both your adrenalin—and your brain cells—pumping.
Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer
This true story of the May 1996 Mt. Everest disaster is one of the most harrowing real-life adventure stories you will ever pick up. It is a first-person account written by journalist-mountaineer Jon Krakauer while on an assignment where he was simply supposed to write about the type of people that climb Mt. Everest. However, during his trip, a terrible storm rolled in unexpectedly and claimed many lives in one of the worst mountain disasters in history and left countless more—including Krakauer’s—filled with survivor’s guilt. This story will leave you haunted and likely avoiding all mountain activities, at least for the near future.
2.The Stand by Stephen King
The master of horror in one of the lengthiest fiction books around, artfully examines what happens to the world after an experimental man-made virus created in a secret government military base accidentally escapes into the world and quickly eliminates 99 percent of the population. The few that survivor the pandemic are ultimately forced to choose sides between good—lead by 108-year-old Mother Abigail—and evil, lead by Randall Flagg, a dark man with a lethal smile and unspeakable powers. The result is a glorious apocalyptic vision of a world blasted by plague and embroiled in an epic struggle between good and evil.
3.Lord of the Flies by William Golding
Golding’s iconic 1954 novel has withstood the test of time and today it still remains one of the most unforgettable tales of what can happen to humans when the rules of society fall away. The story starts when a plane crashes on an uncharted island, stranding a group of schoolboys. At first, they celebrate having no adult supervision and being able to do whatever they want. But as the rules of civility quickly collapse, the boys turn wild and then turn on each other. The book is just as chilling and relevant today as when it was written all those years ago.
4.The Unthinkable: Who Survives When Disaster Strikes – and Why by Amanda Ripley
I recommend this nonfiction novel on a daily basis to anyone interested in the psychology of survival. Ripley’s thought-provoking book unpacks how human beings react to real-life dangers like earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, terrorism, or other disasters—and what makes the difference between life and death. In her quest to answer this question, award-winning journalist Ripley examines some of recent history’s epic disasters, from the explosion of the Mont Blanc munitions ship in 1917, to school shootings, to the journeys of the 15,000 people who found their way out of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. If you’ve ever wondered what makes one person a hero and another a victim in a disaster survival situation, you need to read this book.
5.Life of Pi by Yann Martel
Life of Pi won the 2002 Man Booker Prize for Fiction and for good reason—it is that wonderful of a story. The book follows the life of Pi Patel, the son of a zookeeper who has an encyclopedic knowledge of animal behavior and practices Hinduism, Christianity, and Islam. At age sixteen, Pi and his family emigrate from India to North America aboard a Japanese cargo ship, along with their zoo animals bound for new homes. After the ship sinks, Pi finds himself alone in a lifeboat, his only companions a hyena, an orangutan, a wounded zebra, and Richard Parker, a 450-pound Bengal tiger. Only Pi’s fear, knowledge, and cunning will allow him to coexist for 227 days lost at sea and the story he tells when he is finally rescued is almost impossible to believe. Is it the truth—or a lie? This book is a gritty, survival adventure but also an exploration of the redemptive power of storytelling.
6.Ski Weekend by Rektok Ross
My debut young adult survival thriller, Ski Weekend—described as The Breakfast Club meets Alive—follows a cast of six diverse teens and one dog when a high school ski trip goes terribly wrong after their SUV crashes into a snowbank and they find themselves stranded in the mountains with cell phone coverage long gone and temperatures dropping. Eventually the hours turn to days. Their food and supplies begin to dwindle and then the winter elements begin to claim members of the group one by one. Ski Weekend is a gripping tale of survival, impossible choices, and the harrowing balance between life and death, examining just how far we’ll go to survive.
Rektok Ross is the pen name of Liani Kotcher, a trial attorney turned award-winning young adult author and book blogger. Her new YA survival thriller, Ski Weekend is available now. You can find her online just about anywhere at @RektokRoss, as well as on her website, www.RektokRoss.com, where she blogs about books and writing.