••• The International Writers Magazine:YA Review
The Loneliest Girl in the Universe
by Lauren James
Walker Books (2017)
Samantha Maw review
The title is not just referring to an exaggerated state of mind here – 16-year-old Romy Silvers really is the loneliest girl in the Universe. Lauren James, the author of The Next Together and The Last Beginning, has excelled herself yet again with this psychological thriller set in space for a 13+ audience. This book has everything for the modern young reader; suspense, romance, humour, intrigue, and a very clever plot line that keeps you guessing.
The book opens with a newspaper article dated 26/06/2048 describing the successful launch of The Infinity, the `first ever manned spacecraft destined to travel to a different star system`. The Infinity has a vital mission: to determine if there are planets outside our solar system that can support human life. Once a planet is confirmed as habitable, then the crew will begin the process of founding a new community to ensure the survival of humanity.
Romy Silvers is the only surviving girl on The Infinity, 17 years after its launch. Her only contact with the outside world is a series of emails from her `therapist` Molly and later, a young man called J, who is commanding a second ship on its way to meet The Infinity. We learn from Romy how she has been surviving all these years on her own, and we become intimately acquainted with her daily routines on the ship. It isn’t long before Romy is engaging regularly (via email) with J, and both look forward to literally `hooking up` in 12 months’ time. Romy realises she is falling in love, and with huge relief, realises that she can look forward to a future with another human being by her side. Along with these feelings, she goes through the usual experiences of adolescence: her body changing, managing her periods, and trying to make the best of herself with the limited resources on the ship. Romy is an ordinary young woman dealing with extraordinary circumstances.
The twists and turns of the plot leave us realising that perhaps loneliness is the least of Romy’s concerns. What does she really know about the boy she is falling in love with? What is really happening on Earth while she speeds towards the new planet? Life on the ship begins to change for her and although Romy remains positive and upbeat, at times it seems like she will be overcome by circumstances. She wonders herself whether she will be defeated by the situation and lost forever in the vastness of space, another unremembered casualty in the fight for human survival. Although at first the plot seems implausible, the author manages to build up the story with extensive and convincing detail. There are moments of nail-biting suspense, and the psychological and physical violence increases as the story reaches its very satisfying (but unexpected) conclusion. A very memorable and enjoyable read for a teenage audience; although I am sure adults would enjoy it just as much.
© Samantha Maw October 2017
Samantha is studying for her Masters at Lincoln University
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