Saturday, December 15, 2018

The Loneliest Girl in the Universe, by Lauren James

The Infinity is a spaceship designed to make a trip from Earth to Alpha Centauri at sub-light speed -- a trip that will take many decades to achieve.  A tragic accident on the ship has killed most of the crew while they were in cryogenic sleep and the surviving adult passengers are killed in the aftermath.  All that is left is Romy, an eleven year-old girl.  Forced to learn how to take care of herself and so far away that communication with Earth takes years, Romy has to grow up fast.  Over the subsequent five years she has managed the practicalities, although the loneliness and the nightmares persist.

So, when Romy gets a message that another ship is coming and, because it is capable of faster speeds, will overtake her in a few years, she is excited to know she will have company.  Over the next months, she gets to know the pilot of the other ship, a young man named J.  He’s everything Romy could hope for – not just another human being, but a nice, young, handsome boy.  She can’t wait for them to meet and her time alone to end.  But then, things go terribly wrong and her adolescent dreams of romantic bliss and companionship are replaced by terror and a fight for survival.

Two books in one:  a character study of a sensitive and fairly realistic adolescent who has to rise to the occasion to survive and the science-fiction survival story in which she lives.  It's a gripping adventure that had me from the very start, but full of more than the usual YA navel gazing due to the character being basically alone in her thoughts.  The book is full of sci-fi tropes -- sub-light space travel, cryogenics, etc. -- so hardly breaks new ground, but I loved Romy and that made the book really fun to read.  I think the book's dedication ("For all the girls who've never felt brave enough to be the hero in an adventure story") sums it up well.

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