The Blurb On The Back:
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 on a spaceship bound for a new planet. She is the loneliest girl in the universe, until she hears that a second spaceship has launched from Earth, with a single passenger on board. A boy called J.
Their only communication is via email, and the messages take months to transmit, yet Romy finds herself falling in love. But what does she really know about J? And what do the strange new messages from Earth mean? Sometimes, there’s something worse than being alone …
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The Review (Cut For Spoilers):
It’s 2067. 16-year-old Romy Silvers is the only surviving crew member of The Infinity, a spaceship on a 50 year journey to the Alpha Centauri system to assess whether Planet HT 3485c can support human life and, if so, start a new colony using the astronauts stored in cryogenic pods and a host of frozen embryos.
It’s been 5 years since Romy’s parents died in an accident and her only human contact is with Molly, a NASA therapist who’s helped her with the anxiety and depression she’s experienced ever since. Molly’s messages take 2 years to reach the ship so in between Romy writes fanfiction for the TV show called Loch & Ness, studying astrophysics and performing the maintenance tasks needed to keep the ship running.
Then Molly reveals that another ship – The Eternity – has launched and should catch up with The Infinity within a year. When The Eternity’s 22-year-old commander, J, emails her, the two slowly form a friendship and maybe something more when Molly’s messages suddenly stop, replaced by messages indicating a coup on Earth. But as Romy and J try to make sense of the new world order, Romy finds herself questioning both the new Earth instructions and everything J’s told her …
Lauren James’s YA SF psychological thriller is strong on the psychological elements (with Romy’s depression and anxiety being credibly portrayed) but the thrills are weak and predictable, the antagonist two dimensional and I found the ending to be a bit of an anti climax such that while I would read James’s other books, this didn’t really work for me.
I really enjoyed the work James did in setting up Romy’s character. I believed in her anxiety and isolation and the way this would make her rush to look for a connection with J. However the fanfiction element didn’t work for me (I think it’s difficult to do when you’re having to work double time establishing a source material and then the fanfiction of the same) and I wanted to see a bit more of Romy’s exchanges with Molly to establish the relationship between the two.
Without going into spoilers, I wasn’t a fan of the portrayal of J, especially in the last quarter where revelations raised more questions for me than they answered. The ending was rushed, which meant that key scenes lacked emotional resonance and didn’t have the impact that they should have done. I could see why Romy reached some of the conclusions she reached given the set up before hand, but that didn’t make it any less painful to see her behaving in such a credulous way that makes her prone to manipulation.
Ultimately, although this book didn’t really work for me, I would be interested in checking out James’s other work given the strength of Romy’s characterisation.
THE LONELIEST GIRL IN THE UNIVERSE was released in the United Kingdom on 7th September 2017. Thanks to Walker Books for the review copy of this book.