How did 16-year-old Romy Silvers end up all alone in outer space, on the way to Earth II?
Even the premise of the book alone is intriguing. The Loneliest Girl in the Universe by Lauren James starts off with a news story of the biggest space project the world has ever seen: NASA has sent off The Infinity – with a team of the smartest people on Earth – to Earth II in a bid to guarantee the survival of humankind. But something horrible happens on the way to Earth II, killing all the passengers on board except for Romy – the only human ever born in outer space.
Trained by her parents before they died, Romy runs The Infinity on her own. Luckily, Romy is also a genius so calculations about physics and rocket science are not too hard to deal with.
Having witnessed the deaths of all the other scientists and having grown up in outer space, Romy gets daily audio messages from a NASA therapist, Molly, who helps her deal with her anxiety and panic attacks. When she is not running the ship, Romy watches her favourite TV show Loch and Ness and writes fan fiction about it, regularly sending her stories to Molly.
It is unclear at first what exactly happened to the rest of the crew. We are fed morsels every time something reminds Romy of that day. But the big reveal isn’t until close to the end. And what a reveal it is.
On the brink of resignation to her solitary existence, NASA tells Romy they have sent a newer, faster ship, The Eternity, to catch up with The Infinity to decrease travel time by decades. Overjoyed at the news of having another human being to finally talk to after years of being alone, things go haywire when Molly suddenly stops sending her messages, replaced instead by someone from the new government that emerged after the third world war on Earth.
Romy is confused and scared, distrustful of Molly’s replacement. Her only reprieve is corresponding with Commander J Shoreditch of The Eternity – someone she has learned to trust, and is falling in love with.
The Loneliest Girl in the Universe defies expectations. The twist near the end will have readers staying up all night to find out what happens next. Questions are answered, previous theories are crushed. Readers will be desperate to find out how it is resolved.
The science is dumbed down for the sake of the readers. The more clever ones will probably have something to say about it, but given that few people will have a background in how to fly spaceships into deep space, it is enough to maintain the suspension of disbelief.
Although the book is set in space, it is all about finding strength when the odds are so stark it seems like there is no way out but death. And the isolation of the character is intensified because it is set in outer space. The Loneliest Girl in the Universe is a gripping young adult book that will appeal to sci-fi and non sci-fi fans alike.
Kristyn M. Levis is a freelance writer, author and photographer based in Sydney. She is currently the managing editor of Her Collective. Her first novel, The Girl Between Two Worlds, was published in 2016. Book two is set for release next year.