The Last One by Alexandra Oliva

ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

First of all, I want to give all the props in the world to Alexandra Oliva, because this is one of the best debut author novels I’ve ever read. I was so impressed by her fresh take on a survivor/pandemic story in this heavily saturated market.

β€œThat’s how they do it; they blur the line between reality and nightmare. They give me bad dreams, and then they make them come true.”

The Last One is about a TV survival reality show that is airing right before a global pandemic happens. The contestants are unaware, still thinking they are participating in the show in hopes of winning the one million dollar prize.

The cast is made up of 12 people, with different color bandanas, that are reduced to mere stereotypes:
1.) Zoo, sky blue bandana – female, main protagonist, loves animals, white, blonde, glasses.
2.) Tracker, red bandana – male, survival expert, has a sick mother.
3.) Waitress, violet bandana – female, very good looking, viewed as dumb.
4.) Rancher, black & yellow bandana – cowboy.
5.) Air Force, navy blue bandana – male, military pilot.
6.) Black Doctor, mustard yellow bandana – male, radiologist, calm.
7.) Cheerleader Boy, pink bandana – college student, viewed as weak.
8.) Biology, orange bandana – lesbian, 7th grade science teacher.
9.) Engineer, maroon & brown bandana – male, young, Chinese-American, wants to learn.
10.) Asian Girl, neon yellow bandana – very skilled in carpentry.
11.) Exorcist, lime green bandana – male, red hair, performs exorcisms, viewed as crazy.
12.) Banker, black & white bandana – male, filler, Jewish, super nice.

You do, eventually, find out their names in a very tricky way that is lightly laced throughout the book. This ended up being one of my favorite parts of the story, and every time I would come across a name I would get giddy and have to write it in my notes so I could figure out all twelve upon completion. You, also, find out the fate of all twelve contestants, and I really appreciated not having any loose ends. I also believe the author could make at least one spin-off novel if she so desired.

The start of the story was a little slow, yet overwhelming, to me. It was mostly overwhelming because you are thrown so many stereotypes and descriptions. I can’t even imagine reading this book without notes. It felt slow because this story has alternating chapters where one will be pre-apocalypse and the following will be post-apocalypse. I really wanted to just binge read all the post-apocalypse things, so when the pre-apocalypse chapters would come they would feel really slow and somewhat drag. Once you get into the middle ground where the chapters and time start to merge, and once you meet Brennan, it becomes an easy five star read that I wasn’t able to put down.

Brennan completely made this story for me. His struggle, his pain, his loss, all resonated greatly with me. Seeing him grow, learn, be able to still love and take care of others without losing hope was something of magic.

β€œBecause his future is more important than my past.”

Watching Zoo break down, physically and mentally, was very emotional for me to read. Watching her break just broke me. She was a wonderful main protagonist, and her struggles provoked so much sympathy from me. I can’t, and never want to, imagine the pain she felt and everything she had to endure. All of her different revelations made this book one of the most heartbreaking reads I’ve read. Yet, despite it all, this book definitely left me with a greater feeling of hope.

The rest of the cast that are stereotyped to the world will really open reader’s eyes. We are so quick to judge, so quick to cast assumptions. This book heavily weighs in on this and how sad it, and the media, really is. If anything, this book is just worth reading for that eye-opening experience that I think a lot of people in this world need.

I have not read Station Eleven, but I do see many of my friends comparing this book to it. So I’m feeling like if that was your cup of tea, this will also be. Regardless, this was a wonderful book that I’m still in disbelief over. I would completely recommend getting this upon release, and this story will stick with me for some time to come.

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