The Last One
* This review is based on an advanced reading copy. Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for a chance to read the book in exchange for an honest review*
I'll give this book credit, I haven't read anything like it lately. I definitely fought with myself throughout reading about whether I liked it or not, and in the end I decided that it was passable... not quite good but not bad either. I was a bit impartial and still a little undecided but I do think that I'll be randomly drawn to reminiscing over parts of this story. The setting is a mixture of an epidemic and a reality TV show filming in the same time period.
The chapters of the book alternate between before and after the sickness hits. I felt that this was unnecessary; I'm just so sick of authors trying to pull off going back and forth between people or time or places with chapters, especially if it is confusing or if it isn't needed in order to tell the story. In this case, it isn't needed other than it creates a semi-dramatic atmosphere of waiting to find out what happens or dispersing the action instead of going from 'okay kinda boring' to a little better to being more drama-filled (since the taping of the reality show is not as exciting as what you may think a survival show would be). Either way, it's still annoying.
So, the show. It seems like it's a spin off of Survivor or anything that has to do with wilderness and competitions for teams and solo challenges as well. I remember in high school a guy that was on Survivor came to talk to our class (not really sure why) but he explained how different things are before everything is edited for TV, so this aspect didn't really surprise me. The added dramatic effects of cutting out certain parts of a conversation, or turning 5 hour footage into 15 minutes, or twisting the contestants' words to add to their perceived character were all included and all of this makes sense. I liked that this was put in the book because it made the 'reality' of the reality show visible which strengthened the plot in my eyes.
I also liked the main character. I can see how she will probably be disliked by the majority of people, but her character fit her actions and she wasn't totally predictable or one-dimensional. She had feelings, she didn't always show them but we knew what they were. There was one scene in particular that I thought about, in which the 'waitress' hurt herself doing something and their other teammate, a man, was consoling and comforting her while our main character, 'zoo' sat idly by concentrating on the task at hand. We were told that the viewers wondered why a woman wouldn't be the nurturer and care for the hurt woman, but this wasn't what zoo was about. She's competitive by nature, she was scared, and she's not one to comfort others especially just because she's a woman.
Since we see the 'after' chapters of the outbreak, we know that zoo believes that the cameras are still rolling and that this whole 'quarantine' situation is just another way for the producers to get inside her head and create a situation she must overcome. She believes that she's getting clues as to what she needs to do, but we can figure out that she's misinterpreting things as directions that are meant for her. She has no idea that the situation is real or how close she was to being one of the many who died from the illness. This wasn't overdone as much as I thought it might be. She's confused enough not to realize what's really going on, even when she starts to realize that it's no longer part of the game.
I thought that the entire concept was a good one, not something I would normally go for but I thought that it was interesting. I'm not really crazy about the title, I didn't really care what happened, and I think the only reason I kept reading was because I liked the character building of zoo and how much she transformed because of this experience. Other than her, everything about this book screamed mediocre to me, I'm not really sure why. I don't regret reading it, though.