This is a novel I read because I got asked if I wanted to read something from the German publisher´s current program. I wanted, and The Last One was among those titles. The blurb had made me curious. The Last One is a great book or at least good entertainment – for all those, who love to watch survival shows on TV. For the rest, this book is not a good choice; at least it wasn´t one for me. 

The Last One*
by Alexandra Oliva
Publisher Ballantine Books on July 12, 2016
Genre Thriller
Pages 304
Format Hardcover
Source Publisher

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 producer 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.
Zoo is not really happy in her life. Yes, she is married to a great man she loves dearly, but his wish to become a father is not what she is sharing. Her own mother is too much of a bad example for her. So she decides to go on that survival show to have one last adventure before she starts a family. But when she realizes that this adventure is not what she expected it to be and she has to face the bitter truth that she actually doesn´t want children, it is too late. She´s in the middle of a nightmare, reality kicks in and what she has to face is almost more she can bear.

An invisible narrator tells during some chapters how things work during producing a survival show. There are things that will never appear on the screen, others are cut out and others edited in a totally different sense. The rest of the chapters are told from Zoo´s point of view and throw the reader into a completely different and dangerous world. Alexandra Oliva writes lots of details in her story. You will learn how to make fire by hand you will know what exactly Zoo is carrying in her pockets as well as in her backpack and some things she does along the way. Yes, the authors writing style was very new to me and yes, she obviously knows what she is writing about. But at some point, I missed other words. Seems like Alexandra Oliva knows only some certain words and those she uses over and over and over again.

The plot jumps back and forth between the solo challenge Zoo is doing and the days when the entire team is doing team challenges in front of the hosts´ eye. Sometimes that made it confusing for me to see where exactly the story was at that moment and those pages where all those chat messages were shown was not helping either. 

A lot of different characters are brought here together and the author plays a bit with them. There is the stupid blonde, a man who is so fanatic about religion and who is a wanna-be macho and the man who actually lives and breathes nature. Some of those figures you keep in mind, others you don´t. There was, for my taste, way too much information in the story about all those different figures, information´s I wasn´t really interested in. Yes, the author didn´t give much description when it comes to her figures, but what she gave was confusing and my fantasy had to do a lot of the work. Usually, something I like, getting my own imagination involved, but here it was not very helpful.

Zoo is a, at least, at first sight, strong woman; a fighter and survivor. But she doesn´t look close enough when it counts. She rather runs away without using her brain. At least she acts like that during the first half of the book.

Brennan is an incredibly strong teenage boy with a beautiful way to act. He impressed me very much.

This is a very weird novel. And to be honest, not at all mine. The writing style is interesting and the author knows for sure a lot about the wilderness and how to survive without all the stuff we know from our civilization, but her style in creating a plot was definitely not mine. Sorry, but this was average, at least for me.

Happy reading

*I read the German edition new release by Fischer Scherz July 28, 2016

Alexandra Oliva
Alexandra Oliva ©Audrey Guidi

Alexandra Oliva was born and raised in upstate New York. She has a BA in history from Yale University and an MFA in creative writing from The New School. She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband. The Last One is her first novel.


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