The Last One by Alexandra Oliva #bookreview

For readers of Station Eleven and The Passage comes a dazzling and 27245997unsettling novel of psychological suspense. In Alexandra Oliva’s thrilling fiction debut, survival is the name of the game, as the line blurs between reality TV and reality itself—and one woman’s mind and body are pushed to the limit.

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. –

I’m a fan of both The Passage and Station Eleven – plus I’ve watched every season of Survivor from day one (the only reality show I’ll watch).  So, obviously I needed to read this book.

This is a great concept – kind of a behind the scenes look at what the television crew goes through, deciding on what to air, how to spin it, what to leave on the cutting floor.  The psychological degradation Zoo experiences is entirely believable and adds to the intensity of the story.  Although Zoo is the main character, I didn’t particularly like her, but I kept reading because I wanted to know the fate of the contestants.

I found the varying timelines a bit confusing at first – normally I don’t mind time jumps, but in this case, it interfered with the flow of the story for me.  The characters are given names based on their occupation or physical description (Waitress, Carpenter Girl, Black Doctor), but when Zoo mentions them with their actual names, other than maybe a couple, I had no idea to whom she was referring, because the reader is never told the characters’ real names.  And the ending – surely there’s a sequel in the works, because I felt cheated and kept thinking I must be missing some pages.  It just didn’t fit.

While I loved the idea and suspense of this novel, for me, it didn’t make it over that last hurdle to accomplish its goal.  The Last One is scheduled for publication July 12th, 2016.

Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for giving me this book in exchange for an honest review.


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