ARC Review - The Loneliest Girl In the Universe

Title: The Loneliest Girl In The Universe 
Author: Lauren James
Publisher: HarperTeen
Series: n/a
Published: July 3, 2018
Source: e-ARC for review
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The daughter of two astronauts, Romy Silvers is no stranger to life in space. But she never knew how isolating the universe could be until her parents’ tragic deaths left her alone on theInfinity, a spaceship speeding away from Earth.
Romy tries to make the best of her lonely situation, but with only brief messages from her therapist on Earth to keep her company, she can’t help but feel like something is missing. It seems like a dream come true when NASA alerts her that another ship, the Eternity, will be joining the Infinity.
Romy begins exchanging messages with J, the captain of theEternity, and their friendship breathes new life into her world. But as the Eternity gets closer, Romy learns there’s more to J’s mission than she could have imagined. And suddenly, there are worse things than being alone….


As you can see from the synopsis above there's not a ton of information, so I wasn't really sure what I was going to get with this one, but it had been recommended to me so I decided to give it a shot.  In the end what I did get was a quick, interesting read that, while not outstanding, was fresh enough to keep me turning pages and wrapped up nicely with the potential for more books about the same main character in the future.

There are a few things that I really want to talk about with this book, and in my head, they're all screaming to be talked about first but in the end, I think the thing that needs to be front and center is this; for almost two thirds of the book there are really no other characters.  The main character, Romy, is the only remaining occupant of a deep space exploration headed for another planet, and for over 200 pages the only interaction she has with other characters are basically through email.  She sends emails and she gets emails, so it's not 100% accurate to say that there aren't any other characters, because technically there are, but they might as well be long dead because Romy can't actually have a conversation with them.  They send her messages and she sends them messages, but the lag-time between when messages are sent and when they arrive is about 2 years for most of the book.  That might sound a little weird, and it is, but for the most part, I think it works.  There are enough incoming messages from those few other characters and enough other things going on that it's not a huge detriment to the story.

The other thing that really jumped out at me was the fact that the main character had anxiety.  The story takes place in the future and lightyears away from Earth, but despite all that there's still that piece that connects it to the here and now, because so many people now live with anxiety, and the chances of it going away are next to nothing, so that being included makes it seem more real.  I also appreciated the fact that while it was a part of the story Romy was able to do things despite being anxious.  It was a part of the story, a part of her, but it wasn't the ONLY thing that defined her.

I don't want to talk too much about the plot because I think part of what makes this book work is that there isn't an enormous amount of information given in the synopsis.  Individually the pieces of the story aren't entirely original, but as a whole, they come together into something I can honestly say I don't think I've seen before.  This is a thriller, so if you were expecting some kind of extremely thoughtful sci-fi story about humanity this isn't it, but I think there are some things that would be an interesting starting point for some discussions.  All of the action is really packed into the end of the book, but there's enough going on throughout that you shouldn't be bored getting there, and there are certainly mysteries abound (perhaps more than there should be, considering the whole book takes place out in the middle of space).

There were a few things I didn't love, and surprisingly my main problem also had to do with Romy's anxiety.  I loved that it was included, but the fact that she was able to keep it under control when she had had no direct contact with another human being for several years (and only had contact with a therapist via messages that took forever to go back and forth) she had it remarkably under control.  I also felt like some of the big reveals kept being hinted at but were kept from us just to prolong the story.  Things could have been revealed earlier on, although I suppose part of that had to do with Romy's anxiety; there were pieces she had under control and pieces she didn't.  I was really surprised that the whole isolation aspect wasn't really addressed.  Humans are social creatures and I can't imagine what it would be like to be completely cut off from all human contact for several years and that such a thing wouldn't cause some serious psychological harm even with messages coming in every day from a therapist.

Overall I would consider this book a fast (I read it in two days), fresh addition to the YA world that will probably appeal to people who don't like their sci-fi quite as technical, along with first time/newer sci-fi readers.  In the end, I'm not sure that years from now I'll remember many specifics of the book, but it kept my interest, which is more than can be said for all books.  There's sequel potential here, and I would be interested enough to see what happens when humans finally reach this new planet that I would at least put any kind of follow-up (I don't think there is one scheduled at this point) on my TBR list and attempt to work my way around to it should it come out.  In the end, the biggest thing I probably got out of this book was that Lauren James has some interesting ideas and that I'll for sure be keeping an eye out for some of her other novels because I imagine that as time goes on her writing and stories will only get better.

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