She wanted an adventure. She never imagined it would go this far.
It begins with a reality TV show. Twelve contestants are sent into the woods to face challenges that will test the limits of their endurance. While they are out there, something terrible happens—but how widespread is the destruction, and has it occurred naturally or is it man-made? Cut off from society, the contestants know nothing of it. When one of them—a young woman the show’s producers call Zoo—stumbles across the devastation, she can imagine only that it is part of the game.
Alone and disoriented, Zoo is heavy with doubt regarding the life—and husband—she left behind, but she refuses to quit. Staggering countless miles across unfamiliar territory, Zoo must summon all her survival skills—and learn new ones as she goes.
But as her emotional and physical reserves dwindle, she grasps that the real world might have been altered in terrifying ways—and her ability to parse the charade will be either her triumph or her undoing.
Sophisticated and provocative, The Last One is a novel that forces us to confront the role that media plays in our perception of what is real: how readily we cast our judgments, how easily we are manipulated.
Author: Alexandra Oliva
Title: The Last One
Published: July 12, 2016 by Ballantine Books
I love to get lost in a good dystopian novel, and The Last One is truly magnificent. The premise—twelve completely isolated contestants filming a reality TV show, unaware something horrible has happened in the real world—was brilliant in its simplicity. There was no need to suspend disbelief; it was completely plausible that such a thing could actually happen, and for me, that made the story even better.
I also loved the way the story was told, in a before-and-after way. The before portions center on the filming of the reality series, where we learn how Zoo came to be part of the filming, and what she and the other contestants go through. The after portions focus on Zoo’s journey alone, thinking everything she sees is part of the game—potential clues and challenges—and what happens to her along the way. I sometimes find myself feeling a little impatient with flashbacks, because the events in the story’s present are so engrossing I want to keep reading more of that, rather than past events. This was not the case in The Last One. Each storyline was gripping in its own way, and rather than being impatient about it, each timeline shift was eagerly anticipated and welcomed when it came. In fact, the only thing that I found upsetting was reaching the end.
If you enjoy reading dystopian novels, I highly recommend this one. It’s one of the best I’ve ever read, and I fervently hope Alexandra Oliva will write more dystopians in the future!
About the Author
A graduate of Yale University, Alexandra Oliva grew up in a small town deep in the Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York. She earned an MFA in Creative Writing from The New School University and undertook intensive wilderness survival training while researching The Last One. She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and their brindled mutt, Codex. The Last One is her first novel.
Photo via Goodreads, Bio via Google search.