The Loneliest Girl in the Universe by Lauren James
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
Release date: July 3, 2018 (US edition; UK edition is already out)
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 the Infinity, 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 the Eternity, 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….
Warnings: murder, anxiety
This sci-fi thriller starts off pretty innocent – Romy has been alone in space for 5 years, and her ship is speeding further and further away from Earth to a new star system, and she learns that another ship will join her soon (relatively soon, as it will still take about a year for the ship to get to her from the time she receives the message about the ship). It is about a young teenage girl who has never set foot on Earth (her ship, Infinity, left Earth 19 years prior and she was born on the spaceship), whose only life has been in the walls of her ship, and who is feeling a bit overwhelmed by this burden of watching over the ship until the destination planet. Her parents had died 5 years ago (the circumstances of which are a mystery to us, which is revealed over the course of the book) and the loneliness and boredom get to her, and so do her anxiety-fueled nightmares. Messages from Earth arrive with a two-year delay (19 months to be precise) so lagged communication is an understatement. So when she gets to know that another ship, Eternity, will be joining up with her, she is firstly glad to finally have some company.
The tone for the first two-thirds of the book is mostly about her life on the spaceship, her anxiety and the slowly building friendship with the commander of Eternity. She also passes her time by reading and writing fanfic about her favorite show (which is a crime procedural romance with supernatural tones). There is the worrisome situation of what is happening on Earth and her being cut off from communication due to some politics, but she is deep in space, so all she can do is hope for the best. But the last third shifts rapidly to the thriller category, and it gets really unnerving. I was so tense for most of this, and even though I kind of had an inkling about the possible intentions of the other Commander, I was still pretty surprised. It was the kind of twist that would chill your blood, and in a good kind of way. It leaves us in an open ending (as to the success of the mission) but the main storyline is resolved so it is a satisfactory ending, even if the climax was predictable.
The writing comes off as simplistic at first, mostly because it is in the first person and the protagonist is a lonesome and naive 16-year old girl. But it builds a slowly escalating mystery and along the way starts answering some of them, like – what happened to the crew of Infinity? how did her parents die? – questions like that. I would say, though, that with respect to world-building, it feels sparse, with a few indications of how advanced the science is in the second half of the 21st century, but not many details. And a key element of her personality – her paranoia and anxiety – was abandoned partway when it came to one important event, because she doesn’t suspect it until later. And finally, there was one things that was nagging in my mind – how did the communication lag between Earth and Infinity still have the same 19-month lag throughout the novel (consider that her ship is moving further away from Earth so ideally the lag should increase). But these were small things when you factor in how entertaining this novel was – I was finding it difficult to put down and devoured it in most of my afternoon.
In conclusion, all I want to say is – get this book for the thrills and existentialism in deep space.
Received an advance reader copy in exchange for a fair review from Harper Teen, via Edelweiss.
P.S. I recently heard the Girl in Space podcast, which, though independent, has a similar set-up. It was what had motivated me to take up this galley earlier than intended, and I am so glad I did.
2 thoughts on “ARC Review: The Loneliest Girl in the Universe by Lauren James”
This one sounds interesting. I like that the author does a large build up for the background story. Great review!
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