Bookish Review: The Loneliest Girl in the Universe by Lauren James

The Loneliest Girl in the Universe by Lauren James

Published: 7 September 2017 by Walker Books

Genre: Sci-fi, Young Adult

Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ 1/2

Goodreads | Book Depository

Synopsis from Goodreads: Can you fall in love with someone you’ve never met, never even spoken to – someone who is light years away? Romy Silvers is the only surviving crew-member of a spaceship travelling to a new planet, on a mission to establish a second home for humanity amongst the stars. Alone in space, she is the loneliest girl in the universe until she hears about a new ship which has launched from Earth – with a single passenger on board. A boy called J. Their only communication with each other is via email – and due to the distance between them, their messages take months to transmit across space. And yet Romy finds herself falling in love. But what does Romy really know about J? And what do the mysterious messages which have started arriving from Earth really mean? Sometimes, there’s something worse than being alone… untitled

Review: I managed to grab a copy of The Loneliest Girl in the Universe at YALC back in July. Honestly, it was no mean feat – every time the Waterstones got new stock of the book in (and we’re talking like a hundred copies!) they’d be sold out within minutes. Anyway, back on topic, this book was a superbly unexpected wild ride! I confess I did glance over some of the Goodreads reviews of The Loneliest Girl before I read it and lots of them said something along the lines of “the less you know going into this book, the better”. I have to say I wholeheartedly agree! This is one of those books that just cannot be pigeonholed into any one label, be it YA, sci-fi etc. So keeping the above advice in mind, this review will be unusually brief and will be spoiler free 🙂 

If I get ill, there will be no one to help me. No one to fix me if I break.

The setting of The Loneliest Girl is one of the most unique selling points – we’ve got a young girl captaining a ship, completely alone, in the far reaches of space. For one thing, titles do not get much more literal than that, and secondly, I don’t think I’ve ever come across a premise like that in any YA sci-fi so major points already going in to The Loneliest Girl and it just gets better from there on out. James has taken a common setting of a spaceship and made it into something feels totally original. I loved how creative James was with the tech on board the Infinity – all of the attention to detail to explain how the spaceship could feasibly keep going made the whole book all the more realistic and immersive. I have to admit though that the light-speed transmission lags were totally lost on me…

Staring through the porthole, I watch the spiralling stars until I make myself dizzy.

The way Lauren James writes really does drive home just how alone Romy is. The casual references to things Romy has not experienced forced me to really consider just how isolated she is. It’s also told in first person and there are mundane “slice of life” details alongside the plot that you just become immersed in Romy’s life, as uneventful as it can be at points I still felt engrossed and totally invested. Films with a similar premise like Gravity and The Martian use all sorts of things like visual effects, body language and amazing scores to make the audience feel unsettled so I’m totally in awe of how James managed to put across the lonely and slightly creepy factor using just words! 

I’d like to have wild stories about my university days to tell my kids, someday. I’d like to have any anecdotes at all, actually.

I also enjoyed how James managed to weave in some really interesting ideas like the ethics around such a mission as well as mental health issues. Romy was a realistic character, struggling to cope, given the magnitude of her responsibilities and the trauma she has experienced. Heroism does not come naturally to her – she often rebels against her predicament, especially as she had no choice in it. Her naiveté is also totally realistic, there are points where she casually drops that she hasn’t been in physical contact with another human being in years, and so anything else would’ve felt unconvincing. Beyond that though, Romy is a really relatable character with her love of fictional characters and fanfic and I really found myself rooting for her throughout the book!

This voyage was never meant to be easy. It was meant to be important.

The Loneliest Girl in the Universe is a solid standalone (whoop!) book that you will not want to put down! It is totally unique and was a fresh take on YA romance/space/sci-fi novels. The plot has a hint of mystery and James did a great job of feeding the reader enough to keep you intrigued whilst also keeping you just enough in the dark that you feel this weird uneasiness as you read on. I would wholeheartedly recommend this book to fans of all genres! The Loneliest Girl in the Universe is out tomorrow so be sure to grab a copy ASAP!

Have you read any books that surprised or blindsided you? Are you planning to read The Loneliest Girl in the Universe? Drop me a comment below 🙂

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Bookish Review: S.T.A.G.S by M.A. Bennett

S.T.A.G.S by M.A. Bennett

Published: 10 August 2017 by Hot Key Books

Genre: Thriller, Young Adult

Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥

Goodreads | Book Depository

Synopsis from Goodreads: Nine students. Three bloodsports. One deadly weekend. It is the autumn term and Greer MacDonald is struggling to settle into the sixth form at the exclusive St. Aidan the Great boarding school, known to its privileged pupils as S.T.A.G.S. Just when she despairs of making friends Greer receives a mysterious invitation with three words embossed upon on it: huntin’ shootin’ fishin’. When Greer learns that the invitation is to spend the half term weekend at the country manor of Henry de Warlencourt, the most popular and wealthy boy at S.T.A.G.S., she is as surprised as she is flattered.

But when Greer joins the other chosen few at the ancient and sprawling Longcross Hall, she realises that Henry’s parents are not at home; the only adults present are a cohort of eerily compliant servants. The students are at the mercy of their capricious host, and, over the next three days, as the three bloodsports – hunting, shooting and fishing – become increasingly dark and twisted, Greer comes to the horrifying realisation that those being hunted are not wild game, but the very misfits Henry has brought with him from school..untitled

Review: This is one of those books that has been marketed well – the cover was gorgeous whilst the blurb was tantalisingly simple. S.T.A.G.S started off well, the premise really intrigued me, it’s exactly the sort of mystery/thriller that would entice me – old private school dripping in privilege and thousands of years worth of history, and the misfits who couldn’t be more out of place. The writing style was pretty brilliant – the teaser first sentences at the beginning of the chapters were genius. But my favourite had to be the canny, wry asides peppered throughout the text – these cleverly acknowledged the frustration felt when characters respond in a silly way to something deeply obvious to the reader. 

Going back to the premise, the idea that people are so entrenched in traditionalism and conservatism that they take preservation to the very extremes is an interesting concept and one that was refreshing to see in a YA book. There were also some promising conversations between characters in the book covering issues like privilege, racism, proliferation of social media which rang true. We are surrounded by these issues on a daily basis and dialogue is absolutely integral to working through issues. I thought Bennett handled both sides of the argument really well – the marginalisation that some characters felt, as misplaced it might seem to some readers, was deftly portrayed.

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Buuuuut… I felt these messages were lost within a convoluted plot that required the suspension of major disbelief and took something plausible and made it unnecessarily into something much bigger. The ending felt really contrived to me. It was like the author was trying so hard to shoehorn in what may have been her favourite film/literary ending that she bent and twisted the story to pay homage to this. Don’t get me wrong, the references to the movies, from film noir to cult classics, to blockbusters was great and  I liked how the protagonist tied them into key scenes. I just didn’t think the references needed to be woven into the actual plot… you’ll see what I mean when you read the book!

One of the things I did enjoy was Bennett’s portrayal of the intricacies of life in the upper echelons of society! The details around the bloodsports, etiquette and traditions, as well as manor house life was brilliantly described and it was clearly very well-researched. However, at times it did feel like a disproportionate amount of page time was given to building the setting of Longcross, sacrificing character development in the process. it meant we didn’t get to know the main characters beyond the stock description given at the beginning to set the scene. I found it difficult to engage with the characters and bring myself to care too much about their predicaments, it all seemed a little too passive. It was a shame because I feel there was much more scope to show the obvious differences between the characters social backgrounds rather than tell us especially in such a setting.

I won’t go into the ending itself because #nospoilers but all in all I am disappointed in S.T.A.G.S because it started off really strong! It was different to most other YA thrillers in terms of the premise and setting but that wasn’t enough to convince me to suspend my disbelief at the ending. If you’re after a solid YA thriller with a great story and character development do check out One of Us is Lying 🙂

Do you have any YA thriller recs? Let me know in the comments below!!