Today I review two Aussie YA reads, The Last Girl and The Last Shot which is a dystopian set in Sydney. These books are currently only available in Australia at the moment but with enough interest, hopefully overseas!
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.
The Last Girl wasn’t perfect by any means, but it was a unique, thoughtful entry into the Aussie YA market as a dystopian that happens in the very near future.
The concept of the book is based on danger of technology and social media binging today – The Snap happens and everyone begins contracting telepathy in their heads. Secrets, affairs, cheating and stealing are all broadcasted to everyone else and violence, death and arguments start breaking out all over Sydney. Danby is the only one whose thoughts aren’t exposed, and as the world begins shutting down with people’s minds short circuiting, she seemingly ends up as the last girl in existence.
The start of the book was difficult to get through, with many jilted sentences and skipping of events that makes it difficult to follow. I’m glad I stuck through it however because there were some deep exploration of issues as to where our world is heading. It is told in three very distinct parts – the first were Danby experiences the demise of the world as she knows it, the second where she meets pre-med student and discovers hope, and the third where she meets an extremist with scary practicality hellbent on ruling the world – who scarily reminds me of The Governor from The Walking Dead. Just give him a few years.
More often than not, dystopians tell us of the post-apocalyptic world that has happened as a result of a ground zero event. The Last Girl takes us through the apocalypse as it is happening, planes crashing, people committing suicide and going insane – a fascinating and disturbing view of the world’s end. Instead of zombies consuming the world, aliens invading or a disaster, everyone’s minds simply shutting down was an interesting way to approach the apocalypse. The book offers a pretty morbid view of the world, that it’s not outside forces that will bring the end to mankind, but human nature who choose to react badly in obscene circumstances.
Even when Danby and med student Nathan find a way to revive fallen humans, with a view to them passing on the cure and saving each other, most of these humans choose the selfish route to focus on their own needs and revive family and friends. Even worse, some of these humans waste time that could be spent saving people to indulge in drugs, alcohol and violence. It seems Michael Adams isn’t terribly optimistic in people’s altruistic abilities, with only 3 people who seemed to want to revive everyone else.
Another interesting topic explored within the book is the downside of the connectiveness of social media and technology. Instead of using it to benefit others and solve the world’s problems, the majority of us use it for frivolous activity such as porn, online shopping and entertainment. When you think about it, we’re constantly absorbed in an interconnected world of other people’s thoughts, secrets, and emotions, only in The Last Girl, it’s literally in our heads. It’s a wonder we haven’t gone crazy yet, which is what The Last Girl demonstrates to us.
I quite enjoyed the thought provoking experience offered by The Last Girl, and am proud of our homegrown talent in Aussie YA. While it takes off to a slow start and wonky sentence structure, I enjoyed the deep experience and look forward to reading the next book (cliffhanger alert).
Rating: 4 out of 5
I glance at my fellow fugitives in the glow of the fire: black-streaked, white-eyed, faces fearful but fierce. Whoever any of us were a week ago, we’ve now become people we could never have imagined.
After facing the heartbreaking truth in Shadow Valley, Danby is determined to have her revenge on Jack.
With Jack dead, her little brother Evan and hundreds of other Minions will be free of his control. With Jack dead, she and her friend Nathan will be able to revive thousands more from the millions of catatonic Goners.
But what if she’s wrong – about everything?
After Danby confronts Jack on a dying stretch of highway, all of her beliefs are turned inside out. Not only are his feelings for her real, he’s working against the clock to save lives and rebuild society. To Danby’s horror, it’s Nathan who appears to threaten the new order.
With her emotions raging and blood on her hands, Danby has to take a side in a deadly battle that’ll decide the future of the world. And as allies become enemies and foes turn into friends, she’ll have to embrace methods so dark that the price of survival may be her very soul …
While The Last Girl explored some interesting concepts of a world connected, The Last Shot ended up being an uninspired and stock standard sequel. Most of the story involves the psychopath Jack and Danby wanting to kill him and then attempting to escape him with some other survivors.
Jack is your typical dictator who is evil and has extreme influence through his insane charisma and leadership. Being a previous stoner and someone who wasn’t very respectable, I had no idea what the appeal was for Danby. Witnessing him raise people and manipulate him to do his own deeds was scary. Like a hive mind, he uses all of his minions into gaining knowledge, eating and even sleeping for him.
There wasn’t much to the story, I felt like it dragged through most of the 400 page story and ended up skimming the bulk of the book. There’s moments where the survivors who are hunted by Jack, try and escape him by travelling through Sydney’s rural areas. This mostly involved escaping, sneaking around, locating weapons, pillaging houses and finally locating military weapons, which is something that has been done before. Besides the emotional scenes where they have to put Danby’s brother Ethan under, to make sure that Jack doesn’t find them through Ethan’s mind, the bulk of the book involved a lot of padding and could have been condensed into a more succinct read.
Using medical explanations for the people who didn’t get affected by the Snap was an interesting concept, especially when it’s set in a relatively present day world. I hope more of this is explored in the last book, especially when it comes to Jack being able to awaken people into a daze that he can control.
Overall, I think The Last Shot was lack lustre and suffered from middle book syndrome. I do hope the final book in the trilogy is more exciting.
Rating: 2.5 out of 5
Thank you to Allen and Unwin Australia for sending me these books in exchange for an honest review.