Terrifying trip down ‘Oblivion Road’ lets readers ride shotgun

Annie Yoskoski, Staff Writer

Taking a ski trip with your friends should be fun, if it doesn’t turn into terror.

In Alex McAulay’s “Oblivion Road,” five teenagers end up stranded on a rarely traveled Colorado road. While debating whether their survival skills are sharp enough to save them, they see another abandoned vehicle. Thinking they are saved, they open the door to find a dead prison guard, with dangling handcuffs in place of prisoners.

The ante is upped when the teens meet one of the convicts, who supposedly “used to be in the army,” thus giving him a range of survival skills that the five protagonists do not possess.

Can these kids trust him? Left with no other choice, our heroes end up trekking across the frozen tundra in the company of a potential psychopath.

Putting yourself in the shoes of Courtney, the narrator and main character, isn’t difficult. She’s a relatable character with normal everyday problems who just wants to get home alive.

The questions that Courtney asks herself are interesting for the reader to contemplate: “Can I do this?” “Should I run and leave someone behind?” “What do I do?” These are all questions that Courtney asks, seemingly imploring the reader to make the decisions with her.

For a shorter length novel aimed at young adults, McAulay’s writing is surprisingly sophisticated. Everything in the plot is well-connected, and the fear in the characters is portrayed vividly enough to give any reader the chills.

The book reminded me of a horror movie where the audience wants to yell “Don’t open that door! He’s right there!” The only difference is that the reader only has a hunch, he or she doesn’t truly know whether danger is around that corner or behind that tree.

With no loose ends, a wealth of bone-chilling scenarios and a relatable narrator, this novel has all the markings of a good horror story. It may not be on the level of Stephen King, but for what it is, it gets rather close.

Those who don’t like frightening movies or a lot of suspense might not enjoy this book –  even I didn’t read it at night – but those who love a good thriller will be right at home with McAulay’s haunting skills as a writer and will probably fly through “Oblivion Road.”

3.5 stars out of 5