Book Reviews by NBPL Teens

Five Total Strangers by Natalie Richards

Review by Chloe

Post Date:05/05/2023

five total strangers bk cov


In the novel Five Total Strangers, a book written by Natalie D. Richards, the main character Mira, flies home to spend Christmas with her mother in Pittsburgh. A record-breaking blizzard has other plans and the aggressive turbulence causes a layover for who knows how long. Mira frantically tries to find a solution to get home to her grief-ridden mother dealing with a family death but turns up empty handed. As she steps outside, she sees her glamorous seatmate Harper, from the initial flight. Harper and her friends all rented a car together and offered to drop off Mira at her home on the way. But as they set off, Mira realizes her fellow travelers are all total strangers. Someone in the car is obviously lying but the question is, who?
As you go through the story, it is told in first person, the narrator being Mira. She tells the story by using words like “I” and “we” plus readers can hear the thoughts that are going on in her head. As stated before she is trying to travel home to her mother who was still grieving from the loss of her twin sister, Phoebe, making her even more desperate to reach her by Christmas morning. While Mira is sitting in the car, letters start popping up in between the pages of the novel addressed to her. Mira is oblivious to the notes that have been going on for months and it becomes clear that whoever is stalking her has been doing so for nearly a year. Whoever the person who was sending her the anonymous letters talking about their destiny and how they were meant to be together. Over the course of months the person seems to be getting angrier because of how Mira is ignoring him, not realizing that she isn’t even receiving them. So, while she doesn’t know what mystery she is solving right off the bat, she can clearly sense that something is wrong.

Next, is the list of suspects. It was clear that it is a man based on the letters that they sent Mira and that he had to be nearby. The main suspects were the two boys in the car, Brecken and Josh as well as another guy who seemed to be following them, or at least taking the same path. For all Mira knew, these guys were all just total strangers even if one of them had some recollection of her. In the most recent letter sent to her the writer tells her that he was now going to get revenge in return for her not responding to the unopened letters. While reading the book, Natalie D. Richards made readers believe that it was either Brecken or the mysterious man following them everywhere. At a sketchy gas station, Harper’s wallet had mysteriously vanished and Brecken knew that with no way of paying for the gas, he would just have to make a run for it. He hopped into the car and drove until he lost the men hot on the group’s trail. Later, when things got messy, it resulted in Brecken accidentally killing one of the men chasing them down. This threatening act made him a prime suspect along with the mystery man. This guy seemed to be following them everywhere even after going through countless, unpredictable roads. As he showed up at a gas station, rest stop, and even a bar, where he begged to get in the car with them, it seemed obvious that he was suspicious. Josh on the other hand, became a helpful friend of Mira and a partner in the car full of strangers.
Mira had to overcome many obstacles during the story but the slippery ice coated roads definitely played a huge role in worsening the situation. This led to them taking insane routes that could have, and should have, killed them all. While on the deathly roads, Mira was still trying to find out what was causing the churning in her stomach and constant fear she was battling. However, without her knowing about the threatening letters that had been sent to her for months, she wasn’t making very much progress. Only towards the end of the book is when Mira starts making some big discoveries. As one thing leads to another, the horrible weather makes

the car end up sideways in a ditch. Stranded with nowhere to go, Mira finally finds the stack of letters in her bag. She reads a couple of them and she finally realizes how long she has been being stalked for. She suspects Brecken and goes straight to Josh, thinking of him as an ally in her scary situation. Josh tells her to run to safety in the houses not too far away, with Kayla while he keeps Brecken away. Halfway down the hill, running as fast as she can with Kayla, she feels a push. She looks up and sees Kayla standing over her. Then Josh comes running after her holding a knife. Shocked by this unexpected betrayal, she knows the only way she will survive is by getting to Brecken and Harper by the car. She does so successfully and thankfully is able to stop Josh before he kills her. She is saved by Brecken who fought Josh, and came out victorious. Personally, I didn’t see this coming and I couldn't believe that Josh was the stalker. The weird man who followed them and Brecken’s murder really threw the scent of Josh and made it the perfect crime.
At the end of the story there was still one question that readers were left asking, who was the man following them everywhere? In the end, he explains that he was just trying to get home but it seems too similar to their crazy route to be just a coincidence. However, other than this minor detail, it did feel very well written. Most of the loose ends were tied up and Mira finally recalls the first time that she and Josh met which was where his stalking obsession started. I would definitely recommend this book to any one of my friends and in fact I already have! It keeps you on your toes and is a real page turner. Even if mystery isn’t your favorite genre, this particular book is an excellent read perfect for anyone.


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