The Last Girl – Joe Hart 

★★★★

The day I read The Last Girl started out annoyingly. It was hot. Not Australia-hot, not even particularly Africa-hot, but definite Cape Town-being-a-bastard hot. Hot, humid air puffing in on the sullen breeze, like being panted on by a dog from all sides. The sun burning with the power of a thousand itselves, in its usual last hurrah of spiteful pre-autumn heat. I woke up sticky, headachy, and in a foul mood. Also, it was a public holiday, and much as I love and enjoy and appreciate the holiday part, the “public” bit is bothersome: crowds of humans all over the place, walking and chewing and noiseying all over the place, and getting in the way of my solitude¹. So I set such days aside for reading, snack consumption, and staring balefully at the blanket I’ve been crocheting for about two years.

Then I realized my toilet would not flush.

Those bastards renovating the place upstairs had turned off the loo valve for the building and gone home, the night before a public holiday. So, picture me, on a day too hot for dealing with the hordes. Stuck indoors with a recalcitrant toilet and a rapidly-inflating sense of self-pity.  “Fine,” I sulked, “I’ll read this book but it had better be good.” Which is of course the best attitude with which to approach reading. It is a mark of how good The Last Girl is that within a few minutes I was hooked, and my mood was considerably improved.

A mysterious epidemic has reduced the birth rate for female babies to almost zero: women are going extinct. This of course means nobody to make new babies, and as 25 years of research have failed to find a cure, things are understandably dire. Zoey (our protagonist) is one of six women who are living at the ARC, where they are told that they are humanity’s last hope (although it’s never quite explained to them what their role will be, or why they have to live this way). Zoey, however, is suspicious. Someone’s been sneaking her forbidden books like The Count of Monte Cristo,  books that give her ideas. She doesn’t trust her captors, not one bit, and she decides to get the hell out of there.

Zoey is a consummate survivor, who claws and shoots and stabs her way through increasingly insurmountable obstacles. She should be dead at least thrice-over but survives though sheer will and a fair amount of rage. Do not cross Zoey. If she wants your cookies, you give them to her. Zoey will not hesitate to do what she needs to do, and although she regrets having to hurt people, and even kill, she recognizes the necessity of these acts.

Compelling heroine aside, the story is taut and well-crafted, a relentless thrill ride that offers little chance to catch your breath before pummeling you with the next barrier to Zoey’s freedom (and the next, and the next).

The book suffers a little from some logical inconsistencies (I struggled to understand how a society so in desperate need of female wombs would dispose so easily of those wombs simply because they can’t produce girls). There were also a few scenes that veered precariously close to silliness, but thankfully they were few and far between. The Last Girl is a compelling, fast read and I can’t wait to dive into book 2!

¹hot weather elevates my introversion level to blatant misanthropy, and mild stabbicidal urges.

Provided by Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.


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