Survive the Night is one of several horror novels from up and coming American teen writer Danielle Vega who has been billed as “YA’s answer to Stephen King”. She also writes psychological thrillers under the pseudo-name Danielle Rollins. This author is unknown in the UK and I wonder whether comparing any newish author to the mighty Stephen King really does them any favours? As King’s boots are pretty hard to fill.
This story of this novel was a straightforward one: a teenager with a prescription drug habit is released from rehab and cuts loose with her bad influence friends and has a wild time of it in the big city. After a dumb friend slips a pill in her drink things go from bad to worse and beyond as they start to get bumped off in the claustrophobic darkness of disused underground train tunnels beneath the city.
This was an entertaining enough novel which jogged along at a decent pace and I’m sure lots of teens will enjoy it, for this reader it most definitely fell between two posts. The first half reads as a standard teen novel with Casey hanging with her loser friends, with the usual teen dynamics with her so called best friend Shanna calling the shots as the domineering wild-child. The flashback sequences reveal that Casey picked up her drug habit whilst recovering from a serious soccer injury and that Shanna really is a pretty crap friend, but Casey lacks confidence to do anything except go along with her. This was all fairly standard high-school stuff and you wouldn’t know you were reading a horror novel for the first 150 pages.
The teens get lured to a secret rave in a very hard to find disused underground railway tunnel. Man, how did anyone manage to find this dump? The group, including Casey’s ex-boyfriend, get separated from the main rave and get stalked by something nasty in the tunnels for the remainder of the read. Other disappearances were implied earlier in the novel, so it was no surprise. To be blunt, I was disappointed with the creature feature part of the novel which didn’t really add up to much.
There were a few gory pages, but in reality this was pretty undemanding YA horror and hard-core gore fans may well be disappointed by this element of the book. The teen element of the novel, the relationships, bitchiness, and friendship stuff was convincing enough so maybe a teen horror fan may go for it and like the balance more than I did. When the kids got picked off one by one I can’t say I missed any of them that much! And for any of us who have read James Herbert’s “Rats” you’re not going to get terribly excited by the final third part of the novel. Big horror fans are going to go ho-hum with the creature which stalks them, as there is nothing particularly inventive here and plenty of horror clichés thrown into the soup also.
The most vivid sequence is when Casey is drugged by her bitchy friend Shanna and for a spell it becomes unclear whether she is hallucinating or whether everything is real. There is a whiff of the unreliable narrator which might have strengthened the novel if it was developed more. The flashback sequences are interesting enough, but the teen stuff and the horror element didn’t mix too well for me. However, I suppose it’s in the same ballpark of many of the many 90s teen horrors we all love. We abandon our old boring and reliable friends for excitement and end up in a world of pain.
I really did wonder how on earth did ANYONE find this rave? Everybody’s mobile phone seemed to work fine also which was a bit odd considering how far underground they were. There were lots of drug references, Oxycodone was Casey’s drug of choice, so I suppose the druggy stuff pitched this book at slightly older teens, but I’m sure young teens would get into it no problem. The addiction angle is handled very sensitively and it shows how easy it is to fall off the sobriety wagon, especially when friends aren’t really your friends. But like those teen horror films of the 1990s just why is everyone in this novel so dumb? It had a cool final few pages so if you start it, stick to the end. Daniella Vega is certainly an author to watch and I’m going to backtrack and read her debut novel “The Merciless” (billed as “Mean Girls meets The Exorcist”) over the summer which also has a sequel out about now.