This Young Adult Thriller Just Might Save Your Life, a guest post by Rektok Ross
Ever since I can remember, I have been fascinated with survival stories. I used to devour my mother’s Reader’s Digest Magazines as a kid, scouring the pages for adventure stories. Whether they are real life or fictional, at their base level, these stories have always captivated me because of the incredibly high stakes—it doesn’t get more thrilling than life or death—and also because they make you truly question things. What would you do in a similar situation? How would you react? Sometimes these stories can even make us question life itself and how we choose to spend it. When we see death this close up, we can’t help but wonder if we’re spending our time here on the things that matter the most.
I’ll never forget the true story that first inspired the snowy mountain setting for my debut young adult survival thriller Ski Weekend. I was home alone one weekend after I had just moved to San Francisco, spending the evening hanging out with my golden retriever Falkor and my television. At the time I didn’t have many friends in the area so I spent my night watching one of those true crime news shows. The story that night was about a family in the local area that got lost in the Pacific Northwest mountains after coming home from the holidays. It had such a tragic ending, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. When I was still thinking about the family and their horrifying ordeal weeks later, I knew there was something there that I wanted to explore.
Plus, I grew up in Florida and didn’t see snow until I was seventeen-years-old so there has always been something especially eerie and alien about the mountains in winter for me.
In my opinion, nature can be as terrifying as any supernatural monster. I have always been a fan of “natural horror” stories of the man-versus-nature variety like The Ruins by Scott Smith, Jaws by Peter Benchley, or Cujo by Stephen King. As human beings, we sometimes become so reliant on the comforts of our modern world and dependent on our technology that we forget how deadly and unforgiving Mother Nature can really be. And what setting could be more white-knuckle than the mountains in the winter? It is an environment that can literally kill you in a matter of minutes if you aren’t properly dressed for it.
The fun for me in writing Ski Weekend really began when I started to research the book. Since my teenage years, I have spent a lot more time in the mountains—my husband and I owned a condo in Tahoe—but I still wouldn’t say I knew a whole lot about mountain wilderness survival before this book. I knew I would have to research how these teens could make it through their time stranded in the mountains. Once I started really digging into all the real-life survival stories that exist out there, I knew I wanted to include some real-world survival skills that people reading my book could learn from and even use if one day they ever were to find themselves trapped in a similar situation to my characters.
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 because they took a shortcut and went down the wrong road. Before Ski Weekend, I always thought of remote places like Mount Everest and Antarctica as being dangerous and inhospitable, but the reality is that people wind up in very bad situations—even die—all the time in common scenarios you wouldn’t think of as life-threatening like going camping, visiting national parks, or even simply driving their cars around in the winter.
I spent hours upon hours on Google reading articles about people who survived in similar situations and then powered through all the nonfiction survival books I could get my hands on like Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer, Desperate Passage by Ethan Rarick, Miracle in the Andes by Nando Parrado, The Unthinkable by Amanda Ripley, 98.6 Degrees by Cody Lundin as well as watching survival reality tv shows like Man vs. Nature, Survivor, Naked and Afraid, and I Survived. It was important to me that the book show survival skills that would really, truly work in a similar situation and might save someone’s life. I once heard about a little girl who saved her entire family in Thailand during the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami because she’d learned about tsunamis in school and was able to recognize the signs of the tide pulling in and warn her family to shelter in time. I thought that was so incredible and truly shows how powerful knowledge is. Sure, fiction is about imaginary people and situations, but why not put some life-saving skills in our fiction books as well?
I don’t want to go into spoilers or ruin any of the surprises in Ski Weekend but you will absolutely find little gems throughout the pages that can mean the difference between life and death in a cold weather survival scenario. However, there is one skill that I can share now without worrying about spoilers because it happens right at the beginning of the book. At the opening of the story after the six teens first get stranded, a few of the character want to go outside and try to find help. They’re not that far off the road and not that far from civilization, they reason to each other. One of my favorite characters in the book, Hunter, happens to know a whole lot about survival because he was an Eagle Scout. Hunter tells his friends that leaving the car is a bad idea because, “[e]veryone knows you stay in the car until help arrives. That’s Wilderness Survival 101.”
Hunter is right. If you’re ever stranded in a car somewhere, the best bet really is to stay inside and wait for help. You will be far safer in shelter, rather than braving the outdoors, and you are more likely to be found near the road than wandering off it. Of course, sadly, the characters in Ski Weekend do ultimately wind up leaving the car to disastrous consequences. But it wouldn’t be much of a survival story if they didn’t, now would it?
Ski Weekend is available for purchase everywhere on October 26.
Meet the author
Rektok Ross is the pen name of Liani Kotcher, a trial attorney turned award-winning young adult author and book blogger. An avid reader since childhood, Liani writes exactly the kind of books she loves to escape into herself: exciting thrillers with strong female leads, swoon-worthy love interests, and life-changing moments. She graduated from the University of Florida School of Journalism and obtained her juris doctorate at the University of Miami School of Law. Originally from South Florida, she currently splits her time between San Francisco and Los Angeles with her husband, stepkids, and her dogs. 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.
About Ski Weekend
The Breakfast Club meets Alive in this gripping tale of survival, impossible choices, and the harrowing balance between life and death.
Six teens, one dog, a ski trip gone wrong . . .
Sam is dreading senior ski weekend and having to watch after her brother and his best friend, Gavin, to make sure they don’t do anything stupid. Again. Gavin may be gorgeous, but he and Sam have never gotten along. Now they’re crammed into an SUV with three other classmates and Gavin’s dog, heading on a road trip that can’t go by fast enough.
Then their SUV crashes into a snowbank, and Sam and her friends find themselves stranded in the mountains with cell phone coverage long gone and temperatures dropping. When the group gets sick of waiting for rescue, they venture outside to find help—only to have a wilderness accident leave Sam’s brother with a smashed leg and, soon, a raging fever. While the hours turn to days, Sam’s brother gets sicker and sicker, and their food and supplies dwindle until there isn’t enough for everyone. As the winter elements begin to claim members of the group one by one, Sam vows to keep her brother alive.
No matter what.
Filled with twists, secrets, and life-changing moments, Ski Weekend is a snow-packed survival thriller featuring a diverse cast of teens that will appeal to fans of One of Us is Lying and I Am Still Alive.
Publication date: 10/26/2021
Age Range: 14 – 18 Years
Filed under: Uncategorized
About Amanda MacGregor
Amanda MacGregor works in an elementary library, loves dogs, and can be found on Twitter @CiteSomething.
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