Nature can be beautiful but also deadly! Do you love books about characters on a wilderness trip gone wrong, or books about YA characters facing natural disasters, like a fire or an earthquake? Here’s a list of those and other YA Books About Survival in the Wilderness.
The trend of YA books about survival in the wilderness started in 2020, with several YA books about characters facing dramatic natural disasters, things like wildfires and earthquakes. Fall 2020 featured even more survivalist YA, books with themes like “survival in the wilderness” or “human vs nature.” The trend has continued in 2021 and 2022 (thanks, pandemic and global warming) with some more new titles. NEW 2022 titles just added!
Note: This list will NOT include fantasy or dystopian books, just contemporary stories of wilderness survival!
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YA Books About Survival in the Wilderness
YA Books About Wilderness Trips Gone Wrong
It Looks Like Us by Alison Ames (Page Street September 13 2022)
Shy high school junior Riley Kowalski is spending her winter break on a research trip to Antarctica, sponsored by one of the world’s biggest tech companies. She joins five student volunteers, a company-approved chaperone, and an impartial scientist to prove that environmental plastic pollution has reached all the way to Antarctica, but what they find is something much worse… something that looks human.
Riley has anxiety–ostracized by the kids at school because of panic attacks–so when she starts to feel like something’s wrong with their expedition leader, Greta, she writes it off. But when Greta snaps and tries to kill Riley, she can’t chalk it up to an overactive imagination anymore. Worse, after watching Greta disintegrate, only to find another student with the same affliction, she realizes they haven’t been infected, they’ve been infiltrated–by something that can change its shape. And if the group isn’t careful, that something could quickly replace any of them.
The Woods Are Always Watching by Stephanie Perkins.
When two best friends go on a hiking trip, they feel like someone’s watching them. This combination of horror and wilderness survival will give you the chills! Check out my review here! (August 2021)
Best friends Neena and Josie spent high school as outsiders, but at least they had each other. Now, with college and a two-thousand-mile separation looming on the horizon, they have one last chance to be together—a three-day hike deep into the woods of the Pisgah National Forest.
Simmering tensions lead to a detour off the trail and straight into a waking nightmare; and then into something far worse. Something that will test them in horrifying ways.
Lies Like Wildfire by Jennifer Lynn Alvarez.
Hannah, the daughter of a sheriff, and her friends accidentally start a wildfire. (September 2021)
In Gap Mountain, California, everyone knows about fire season. And no one is more vigilant than 18-year-old Hannah Warner, the sheriff’s daughter and aspiring FBI agent. That is until this summer. When Hannah and her best friends accidentally spark an enormous and deadly wildfire, their instinct is to lie to the police and the fire investigators.
But as the blaze roars through their rural town and towards Yosemite National Park, Hannah’s friends begin to crack and she finds herself going to extreme lengths to protect their secret. Because sometimes good people do bad things. And if there’s one thing people hate, it’s liars.
The Distance Between Lost and Found by Kathryn Holmes.
Bullied over rumors, Hallie gets separated from the group on her church trip and has to survive in the wilderness.
Ever since the night of the incident with Luke, the preacher’s son, sophomore Hallelujah has been silent.
Six months later, on a youth group retreat in the Smoky Mountains, Hallie still can’t find a voice to answer the taunting. Shame and embarrassment haunt her, while Luke keeps coming up with new ways to humiliate her. Not even meeting Rachel, an outgoing newcomer who isn’t aware of her past, can pull Hallie out of her shell.
On a group hike, the incessant bullying pushes Hallie to her limit. When Hallie, Rachel, and Hallie’s former friend Jonah get separated from the rest of the group, the situation quickly turns dire. Stranded in the wilderness, the three have no choice but to band together.
Switchback by Danika Stone.
Two students get separated from the group during a class overnight in the wilderness.
Ashton knows everything about gaming. Real life, however, is a different matter. So when he and his best friend—social outcast Vale—head out on a camping trip to Waterton Lakes National Park with their P.E. class, Ash figures it’ll be two days of bug bites, bad food, and inside jokes.
Instead, the two friends find themselves in a fight for survival.
An unexpected October snowstorm separates Ash and Vale from the rest of their class. By the time the teens realize they’ve missed the trail, they have wandered deep into the Canadian Rockies.
Lost in the wilderness and hunted by deadly predators, their only hope is to work together. But with Vale’s limited supplies and Ash’s inexperience, can the best friends stay alive long enough to find their way back to civilization?
Be Not Far From Me by Mindy McGinnis
When a girl finds her boyfriend is cheating on an outdoors trip, she flees the group and finds herself in dire danger.
The world is not tame.
Ashley knows this truth deep in her bones, more at home with trees overhead than a roof. So when she goes hiking in the Smokies with her friends for a night of partying, the falling dark and creaking trees are second nature to her.
But people are not tame either. And when Ashley catches her boyfriend with another girl, drunken rage sends her running into the night, stopped only by a nasty fall into a ravine. Morning brings the realization that she’s alone – and far off trail. Lost in undisturbed forest and with nothing but the clothes on her back, Ashley must figure out how to survive despite the red streak of infection creeping up her leg
When I Am Through With You by Stephanie Kuehn.
Part thriller, part wilderness survival story.
Ben Gibson is many things, but he’s not sorry and he’s not a liar. He will tell you exactly how what started as a simple school camping trip in the mountains ended the way it did. About who lived and who died. About who killed and who had the best of intentions.
And he’ll tell you about Rose. But he’s going to tell you in his own time. Because after what happened on that mountain, time is the one thing he has plenty of.
I Am Still Alive by Kate Alice Marshall. Jess moves to her survivalist father’s cabin to get to know him, but is stranded there after he dies.
Jess hadn’t seen her survivalist, off-the-grid dad in over a decade. But after a car crash killed her mother and left her injured, she was forced to move to his cabin in the remote Canadian wilderness. Just as Jess was beginning to get to know him, a secret from his past paid them a visit, leaving her father dead and Jess stranded.
With only her father’s dog for company, Jess must forage and hunt for food, build shelter, and keep herself warm. Some days it feels like the wild is out to destroy her, but she’s stronger than she ever imagined. Jess will survive. She has to. She knows who killed her father… and she wants revenge.
The Other Side of Lost by Jessi Kirby
Mari Turner’s life is perfect, at least to the thousands of followers who have helped her become an internet starlet. But when she breaks down and posts a video confessing she’s been living a lie—that she isn’t the happy, in-love, inspirational online personality she’s been trying so hard to portray—it goes viral and she receives major backlash.
To get away from it all, she makes an impulsive decision: to hike the entire John Muir trail. Mari and her late cousin, Bri, were supposed to do it together, to celebrate their shared eighteenth birthday. But that was before Mari got so wrapped up in her online world that she shut anyone out who questioned its worth—like Bri.
With Bri’s boots and trail diary, a heart full of regret, and a group of strangers that she meets along the way, Mari tries to navigate the difficult terrain of the hike. But the true challenge lies within, as she searches for the way back to the girl she fears may be too lost to find: herself.
YA Books About Survival After a Plane Crash
No Accident by Laura Bates (Sourcebooks Dec 2022)
After a small plane crash ends with a group of seven teens washed up on a desert island, their first thought is of survival. But a terrible secret from a party the night before they flew has followed them ashore. Facing deadly threats and the fear of being stranded forever, they quickly discover that being the most popular kid in high school doesn’t help when you’re fighting to stay alive. As the island deals each of them a dangerous blow, it’s clear that someone is looking for justice. Now survival depends on facing the truth about that party: who was hurt that night, and who let it happen?
Survive by Alex Morel.
Jane is flying to a treatment clinic (and contemplating suicide). When the plane crashes, she will have to re-evaluate how much she wants to live.
Jane is on a plane on her way home to Montclair, New Jersey, from a mental hospital. She is about to kill herself. Just before she can swallow a lethal dose of pills, the plane hits turbulence and everything goes black.
Jane wakes up amidst piles of wreckage and charred bodies on a snowy mountaintop. There is only one other survivor: a boy named Paul, who inspires Jane to want to fight for her life for the first time.
Jane and Paul scale icy slopes and huddle together for warmth at night, forging an intense emotional bond. But the wilderness is a vast and lethal force, and only one of them will survive.
YA Books About Surviving Forest Fires
Playing With Fire by April Henry (2021).
When a fire cuts off a popular trail in the Oregon forest, a small group trapped by the flames must find another way out―or die.
Natalia is not the kind of girl who takes risks. Six years ago, she barely survived the house fire that killed her baby brother. Now she is cautious and always plays it safe. For months, her co-worker Wyatt has begged her to come hiking with him, and Natalia finally agrees.
But when a wildfire breaks out, blocking the trail back, a perfect sunny day quickly morphs into a nightmare. With no cell service, few supplies, and no clear way out of the burning forest, a group of strangers will have to become allies if they’re going to survive. Hiking in the dark, they must reach the only way out―a foot bridge over a deep canyon―before the fire catches them.
Wildfire by Carrie Mac.
A story of friendship, grief, and survival about two friends on a backpacking trip who get trapped by wildfires.
Annie and Pete have been best friends since they were little. But they always survive, because together, they’re invincible.
And they’ve always been just friends. But lately, Annie has been thinking that maybe friendship is just the beginning, and she’s been mentally replaying all the times they were almost something more.
Now they’re heading out on their next great quest: a ten-day backpacking trip through the mountains of Washington State, ending at Fire Camp, where they’ll learn to fight the area’s growing wildfire problem.
The woods spark with the promise of adventure, but a freak climbing accident interrupts their progress, the wildfires close in and smoke envelops them.
YA Books about Kids Sent to Wilderness Camps
The Wild by Owen Laukkanen (2021).
A girl is sent to a wilderness boot camp where things go terribly wrong.
Dawn isn’t a bad person–she’s just made some bad choices: wrong guy, wrong friends, wrong everything. But she wasn’t expecting her parents to pay a boatload of money to ship her off to a wilderness boot camp with a bunch of other messed up kids to learn important “life lessons.”
It’s true that Dawn and the other cubs will learn a lot–but it’s not what any of them expect. Because what happens in the woods isn’t what their parents planned. Sometimes plans go very wrong. And this is one of those times. Suddenly Dawn is more scared than she’s ever been in her life.
Wild Bird by Wendelin Van Draanen.
A girl is sent to a survivalist wilderness camp by her family.
Wren Clemens gets hustled out of her house and into a waiting car, then a plane, and then taken on a forced march into the desert. This is what happens to kids who’ve gone so far off the rails, their parents don’t know what to do with them any more. This is wilderness therapy camp.
The Wren who arrives in the Utah desert is angry and bitter, and blaming everyone but herself. But angry can’t put up a tent. And bitter won’t start a fire. Wren’s going to have to admit she needs help if she’s going to survive.
YA Books About Mountain Climbing
Above All Else by Dana Alison Levy. Two teens attempt to ascend Mount Everest.
Rose and Tate have been climbing for years, training in harsh weather and traveling all over the world. Accompanied by Tate’s dad, the two will finally make the ultimate climb at the end of their senior year.
But neither Rose nor Tate are fully in the game—not only is there a simmering romance between them, but Rose can’t get her mind off her mother’s illness, while Tate constantly fails to live up to his ambitious father’s standards.
Everyone on their expedition has something to prove, it seems. And not everyone is making the best decisions while short on oxygen and physically and mentally exhausted.
The farther up the mountain they go, the more their climbing plans unravel and the more isolated each team member becomes. Rose and Tate will have to dig deep within themselves to determine what—or who—they value above all else.
Valley Girls by Sarah Nicole Lemon. After an intervention over her partying, Rilla is sent to live with her half-sister, a Yosemite National Park ranger.
When 17-year-old Rilla is busted for partying 24 hours into arriving in Yosemite National Park to live with her park ranger sister, it’s a come-to-Jesus moment.
Determined to make up for her screw-up and create a stable new home for herself, Rilla charms her way into a tight-knit group of climbers. Rilla sets her sights on climbing El Capitan, one of the most challenging routes in Yosemite, and her summer becomes one harrowing and ecstatic experience after another: first climb, first fall two thousand feet in the air, first love.
But becoming the person Rilla feels she was meant to be jeopardizes the reasons why she came to Yosemite—a bright new future and a second chance at sisterhood.
YA Books About Earthquakes, Floods, and Blizzards
Canyon’s Edge by Dusti Bowling. Nora and her father head on an outdoors trip after a tragedy but a flash flood sweeps away Nora’s dad and all their supplies.
A novel in verse about a young girl’s struggle for survival after a climbing trip with her father goes terribly wrong.
One year after a random shooting changed their family forever, Nora and her father are exploring a slot canyon deep in the Arizona desert, hoping it will help them find peace. Nora longs for things to go back to normal. But when they reach the bottom of the canyon, a flash flood rips across their path, sweeping away Nora’s father and all of their supplies.
Suddenly, Nora finds herself lost and alone in the desert, facing dehydration, venomous scorpions, deadly snakes, and, worst of all, the Beast who has terrorized her dreams for the past year. If Nora is going to save herself and her father, she must conquer her fears, defeat the Beast, and find the courage to live her new life.
Aftershocks by Marisa Reichardt. When an earthquake hits, Ruby finds herself trapped with a boy she’s just met.
When a magnitude 7.8 earthquake hits California, Ruby is trapped in a laundromat with Charlie, a boy she had her first conversation with only moments before. She can’t see anything beyond the rubble that she’s trapped beneath, but she’s sure someone will come save them soon.
As the hours and days tick by, Ruby and Charlie struggle to stay hopeful—and stay alive. Ruby has only Charlie’s voice and her memories to find the hope to keep holding on.
Trapped by Michael Northrop. A group of teens is trapped together during a blizzard.
Do you like books like this? Have any others to add to my list? Talk to me in comments! Also check out my very (sorry to say) popular list of YA Books About Pandemics which includes both speculative and historical fiction!