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BOOK REVIEW: The Loneliest Girl in the Universe by Lauren James

BOOK REVIEW: The Loneliest Girl in the Universe by Lauren James

Walker Books
September 2017
Paperback, $16.99
Reviewed by Steph O’Connell

Young Adult / Science Fiction

8/10

 

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 of a spaceship travelling to a new planet, on a mission to establish a second home for humanity amongst the stars.

I’ve been alone on this spaceship since my parents died. The last time I hugged someone, smelt their shampoo, or even just spoke to them face to face, was 25 February 2061. Five years ago. Right now I’m officially further away from any other human being than any one else has been since the evolution of the species.
I’m pretty sure I’ve forgotten what other people feel like. When I dream, I dream in screens. A line of text, a voice in my ear. Nothing real.

Alone in space, she is the loneliest girl in the universe until she hears about a new ship which has launched from Earth – with a single passenger on board. A boy called J.

I let myself get caught up imagining they’re sending me a handsome young man, but that seems too fantastical. Whoever it is, at least I won’t be on my own any more. I’m not going to be on my own ever again!
I’m going to have to share my space with someone else. That’s going to be strange. What if I hate it?

Their only communication with each other is via email – and due to the distance between them, their messages take months to transmit across space. And yet Romy finds herself falling in love.

Love takes so much energy, and it just leads to pain. I think it’s probably best for people to be self-sufficient. If I was strong enough to be independent, then I wouldn’t be so desperately lonely, I’m sure of it.
I just want someone who holds on. Someone who won’t ever let me go, whatever tries to tear us apart. Is that too much to ask?

But what does Romy really know about J? And what do the mysterious messages which have started arriving from Earth really mean?

Sometimes, there’s something worse than being alone . . .

 

This is the book I always wanted to read as a teenager.

I’ve always been space mad, and fascinated by the idea of colony ships, and you have to admit that there’s something both wondrous and terrifying about the vastness of space and its lack of habitability for humans.

In this story, we join Romy, alone in the depths of space, many years after the deaths of her parents and the rest of the crew. Surely there’s nothing so terrifying as being stuck in that cold vacuum, constantly moving further away from all other humans in the universe.

Except, perhaps, finding out that Earth as you once knew it (but have never seen it) is in turmoil, and all your previous contacts are not responding.

The Loneliest Girl in the Universe is in turns terrifying, with the pitch black coldness of travelling alone in a twenty-year-old space ship that isn’t what it used to be, has its ghosts, and is the only thing stopping you from freezing, suffocating, or both; and cutesy and upbeat with the most unconventional kind of blossoming puppy-love you could imagine.

These things might sound like they don’t belong together, but Lauren James weaves them beautifully for a story unlike anything you’ve read before.

There were only minor qualms with this novel:

  • It was difficult to picture the spaceship as described, especially with regards to the concept of connecting with the second ship when it had caught up.
  • It would have been nice if the point at which Romy’s responses first started reaching J had been more noticeable, as each started writing to the other years or months before the response would be received – though Romy got her first email from J early on in the book and was responding to his, it took a little under two years for his message to reach her, and another four months for her response to reach him.
    It’s understandable that maybe they both decided to gloss over that because communicating with that much lag had to be difficult, but there wasn’t even a nod to it by way of, “I got your first message today!” before continuing on with what they wanted to say, whether responding or not. 
    It would also make sense that we’re not seeing all of their emails because then it would just be a book of emails and little daily life, but again this would have been a nice thing to include so readers don’t have to keep flicking back to the “Predicted date of receipt” on the first message to see if they’re in contact yet.
  • Romy’s fanfiction was quite simplistic and short, but given the environment in which she writes it, this maybe isn’t so much an issue with the writing or the setting as it is about the reader wanting to get a little more context. As she is on a spaceship, all alone, with limited contact from Earth (most of which is from her dedicated psychologist) it makes sense that she wouldn’t have the feedback that would lead to her further developing her writing skills.

But for each one of these, there are undoubtedly countless other issues Lauren might have faced, but overcome with amazing flair. How do you make communication with that much lag natural enough that Romy and the readers find themselves falling for J? Ask Lauren James, because this book stole my heart.

It was read in one sitting. There was laughter, tears, and chills. 

This was the book I’d been waiting for, to suck me in and not let me go until I was finished. I felt more connection to Romy than I have any other protagonist in months, and will eagerly read any of Lauren James’s future work (plus her backlist)! 

BOOK REVIEW: The Loneliest Girl in the Universe by Lauren James

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