Saturday, March 19, 2016

The Last Girl

The Last Girl by Joe Hart
Thomas & Mercer: 3/1/16
eBook review copy; 386 pages
ISBN-13: 9781503952089
Dominion Trilogy #1

The Last Girl by Joe Hart is a recommended dystopian thriller.

Zoey is not the last girl, but one of 7 girls who live in a well-guarded compound called the ARC run by the NOA (National Obstetric Alliance). They have all been taught by Miss Gwen about the mysterious dwindling birthrate of females that began years ago and the plague that hit and wiped out most of the population outside the walls where they are kept protected and safe. They are kept there for the common good of all. When the girls turn 21 they are told that they will be released and reunited with their parents.

Zoey doesn't believe the propaganda they are being told, but she has nothing concrete or firm to base her suspicions on, besides a well-tuned skepticism and suspicion that all is not as it seems. The girls are under heavy, armed supervision, and the guards and men who care for them are mainly creepy, sadistic control freaks with perverse rules to subjugate the girls, who are their test subjects. Zoey longs for freedom and knows that she must find a way out soon because she is just a few days away from her 21st birthday. She is certain that the girls are being lied to and knows that she will not be meeting her parents. Zoey is confident that what awaits her via those who run the NOA will not be for her good, or even for the common good of all.  Zoey must discover if she has the inner strength to escape.

I really wanted to love The Last Girl based on the description so I was disappointed that the writing is uneven, at best. The actual technical writing ability is good, but things fall apart in the narrative with the plot development.  There were simply too many questions raised as I was reading about various facts and choices in the storyline. I kept telling myself to ignore the nagging questions I had about things and just see where the story heads to next. That is good, because I was invested enough in the story to keep reading, but the fact that questions were cropping up is telling.

Chiefly, and the first question most readers will encounter, is the poor, misogynistic treatment of these girls.

So let's think about this. (It's not a spoiler since this all happens early.) Okay, these girls are supposed to be humanities last hope for the survival of the species. They, the NOA, are looking for the keystone, the girl who can have female babies. Pretty grim stuff, considering they have only 7 girls to pin humanities survival on. So, do they keep the girls happy? Do they make sure they feel loved, cared for, important? Do they make them comfortable so they want to stay and help humanities chance for survival?

No. They treat them like prisoners. The girls are threatened with punishment; the guards are there to keep the girls in line. The girls sleep in cells, have just two sets of clothes, and attend indoctrination classes with a shrew who hates them. Some of them remember being taken from their parents. They don't get to have a last name. They are simply living test subjects. You might not really care about them, but have some smarts and at least act like you do so they are more compliant without the armed guards threatening them.

Now, this is not an isolated question about the plot, there are others but I don't want to include spoilers. Additionally, the uneven part is found in the fact that Zoey is clueless on some things but not other things that she should be clueless about, and there are several very convenient and predictable occurrences.

I did finish The Last Girl, which counts for something. Despite the fact that there were several points were I was ready to set it aside, there were more places where I wanted to know what happened next and see some questions resolved. This was a good airplane book. It will keep you engaged but you won't cry if you lose or misplace it.

Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of Thomas & Mercer via Netgalley for review purposes.

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