I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.The Last Girl by Michael Adams
Series: The Last Girl #1
Published by Allen & Unwin on 1st October 2013
Genres: Apocalyptic, Young Adult
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The end of the world happened quickly. The sun still shone, there was no explosion - just a tsunami-sized wave of human thought drowning the world in telepathic noise as everyone's inner-most secrets became audible. Everyone's thoughts, that is, except sixteen-year-old Danby.
Everyone looked like bad actors in a poorly dubbed movie. Their expressions didn't match their emotions and their lips didn't sync with what they were saying. But they were all so loud.
The end of the world happens in the blink of an eye.
When The Snap sweeps the globe, everyone can instantly hear everything that everyone else is thinking. As secrets and lies are laid bare, suburbs and cities explode into insanity and violence. What might have been an evolutionary leap instead initiates the apocalypse.
Sixteen-year-old Danby Armstrong's telepathy works very differently. She can tune into other people but they can't tune into her. With only this slender defence, Danby must protect her little brother and reach the safety of her mother's mountain retreat. But it's 100 kilometres away and the highways are blocked by thousands of cars and surrounded by millions of people coming apart at the psychic seams.
Danby's escape is made even more dangerous by another cataclysm that threatens humanity's extinction. And her ability to survive this new world will be tested by a charismatic young man whose power to save lives may be worse than death itself.
Adams has written a total psychopath, and sometimes I’m kind of worried because he doesn’t seem to think this character is necessarily a psychopath. Or maybe he’s fooling us. See, I interviewed him about this terrifying character and this was his response:
“I loved writing X because he doesn’t see himself as a bad guy at all. And maybe he’s not. What he has is a plan to save the world and the power to put it into action even though his means seem ruthless. But, like he tells Danby, God didn’t say to Noah, “Hey, beardy, get all the animals” – he said get two of each. X thinks it’s important to save people with skills to rebuild the world rather than try to save everyone. I think if you got access to government emergency plans, they’d have similar sort of ideas on the books. If you’re an author, sucked in. If you’re an engineer, we’ve got your Ark berth all made up. X’s point is also that circumstances have allowed him and Danby to create a new world from the ground
up. There are no billionaires or politicians or celebrities to get preference over ordinary folk. Being able to explore his complexity – and Danby having to admit that he makes sense – made him feel very real and their relationship a joy to write. Those themes are picked up in the second book. Danby might not be as all-knowing as she can think she is. Or is she? Whaaaaaaaat?”
No, Adams. You’re a tops guy and I can’t wait to chug back beers with you one day (Editors note: OMG. We are so goddamn Australian it hurts), but no. He is eviller than someone who doesn’t like My Little Pony (the worst kind of evil).
I say this because The Last Girl is the best kind of Apocalypse book around. Not only original, but an actual apocalypse. With a lot of apocalypse books, you tend to see things just after the world has gone to shit. The story starts with a survivor, just after most of humanity is lost. The Lost Girl doesn’t shy away from all that, and Danby is in a situation where she has to choose who dies and who lives. Who she can save and who she has to abandon. That’s pretty intense. And that’s also hard work for a writer, thus why a lot skip it over in preference for getting down to the fun carnage bits. Believe it or not, it’s kind of hard to orchestrate a believable end of the world, from a writerly point of view.
Doesn’t mean it’s perfect. Mainly, it’s biggest issue is me. Because I’ve read so many bloody apocalyptic novels that they all tend to blend into each other. However, for someone mostly new to the genre – this would be a good place to start. Think John Marsden meets Pyscho, though I’m not sure Adams meant it to be this way. The concept is original, Danby is cool, but the set up isn’t. Love triangle, psycho boyfriend, only one girl who can save them all. It’s pretty run-of-the-mill stuff in Young Adult Landia. Shatter Me did the psycho boyfriend better, but since The Last Girl doesn’t have the horrible purple prose, it wins on all other accounts. And the setting in Sydney is refreshing to the usual middle America. Writing is pretty good.
It took me a while to get into this book. The love-triangle thinggie didn’t help, but then things get full on scary and that’s when the book gets good. The first half of the book is a 2.5 star read for me, but the second half was a solid 5 star because it gets suspenseful as all hell. The narrative itself feels kind of critical of social media, and Adams seems to be aware of that. Is constant connectivity a good or bad thing? I feel like that’s what The Last Girl is really asking. And it’s answer is that we don’t really want to be connected to everyone at all times, we only think we do. We want everyone to know that we’re eating a cake in the shape of Steampunk Harley Quinn’s face for our birthday party, but not that we think anal beads would be a fun thing to try this weekend. And that’s an interesting distinction, one it pays to wonder if future generations will have to struggle with more than us. The line between our real selves and our online selves becomes increasingly blurred. And what if we stop knowing the difference? The implausibility of the story vehicle aside, The Last Girl asks a lot of questions. Ones I’d be happy to answer as soon as I’m finished looking up pictures of cats who like cheese burgers and can’t spell.
I have no complaints, people. I’m putting this on my Christmas List Recommendation Guide Thinggie for Teenagers. I guess I’m just waiting for book #2 to come out to see if it can really deviate into amazing territory, and if Adams can keep up the momentum from the second half of the book. It seems to me, his strength lies in the psychological thriller side, which the second book seems to promise a lot of.
Until then, peanut butter jelly time! (Because I’m shallow and all moral quandaries result in the celebration of useless memes.)