Book Review: The Loneliest Girl in the Universe

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Here’s the thing: in the spirit of no spoilers, I fear the marketing and reviews of The Loneliest Girl in the Universe by Lauren James are so cautious that they don’t adequately warn a reader what they are getting into. This is not a romance. This is not a light-hearted coming-of-age story. The blips out there that call the book a psychological thriller are the closest I’ve seen to actually, without spoilers, letting readers know what they are about to read. It is definitely YA and a psychological thriller and it is science fiction and it includes, sort of, some romance (though more like references to the romance that she enjoys in fan fic). But because of the way this book unfolds, it’s going to attract two different types of readers and since those two types won’t always be combined in one person, it’s going to lose some interested readers before the end of the first chapter (even though they’d like the second half) and others half-way through. And I am going to say it: it gets violent. It gets scary. Believe it or not, it could also be categorized as horror. That doesn’t give a thing away. It just lets you know before page 200 that you don’t want to read it if you scare easily or don’t tolerate violence.

I mean, I found the tension over what this book was going to become actually drew me in. It felt just a teeny, teeny bit creepy, at least increasingly so. However, when I finished the book at 11:30 and then turned out the lights and went to bed, I had one crappy night. I had nightmares. And though they were my own style and particulars, they very clearly came from the final chapters of Loneliest Girl. Very. Clearly. And when I woke up in the middle of the night and felt like there were murderous, intelligent gorillas in the corners of my room (there are no murderous, intelligent gorillas in this book, that is where my style came in), I knew it was this stupid book, but I was terrified anyway.

It’s not really a stupid book. And I feel like if I had read it on a sunny day and then watched Pride and Prejudice before bed, I probably would have been fine. Not that this was my favorite book, either. It’s really YA-y, and yet the plot is very compelling and what it has to say about coming of age and being alone (and even the future of science) is quite interesting. I just found the writing to be ehn. Actually, I sometimes found the writing to be less than ehn. More like ug. But I doubt that the average teen reader will have my same poetic scruples or even grammatical standards. I could see a lot of people enjoying the mix of genres, the mix of first person and epistolary forms, and the subject matter.

Note: I read this book because it was on a list I made of fiction, particularly YA fiction, dealing with NDEs. Don’t ask me how it got on that list. It has nothing to do with NDEs. It is appropriate reading for the YA adventure fantasy trilogy I’m writing, anyhow.

Romy Silvers is your average highschooler and she’s nothing like your average highschooler. Sure, she’s dealing with puberty and awakening desires and schoolwork motivation, but she is also living alone on a spaceship bound for a very distant planet which Earth hopes to colonize with, well, her. Technically, the plan was to colonize with the hundreds of brilliant astronaut couples that were on board the ship when they set out years before. But things didn’t go as planned, and now the baby born on board is a teenage girl who is completely alone, captaining the ship, and still like ten or twenty years out from attempting colonization with the embryos in the freezer. Her only contact with Earth and NASA is a voice who keeps tabs on her named Molly, until she puts Romy in contact with another ship, a ship moving so fast it will catch up to her in about a year and speed her toward Earth II—no longer alone. But Romy’s communication is slow and limited, which means she has to trust what is being told to her. And she’s not so sure…

It is, as I said, a coming of age story and it deals with being alone, grief, fear, anxiety, and love, among other things. The delivery system is unique, especially when you realize it’s about to take you on a roller coaster and there are going to be some twists. At first you think the mysteries are obvious, like what happened in the past to land Romy alone like this and will she make it to Earth II? But the mysteries keep popping up, and there are layers to what happened in the past and what is happening in the present. Creepy becomes terrifying. And you are left guessing up until the end, on the edge of your seat, being given little bits of information along the way. There is also some level of investment in Romy, too. As an adult, I sometimes found her silly and, uh, immature. But as a story about being a teen, most of this is not only appropriate but pitch perfect. Romy, in some crazy ways, could be any of us as teens and her unique life is on some levels just a metaphor for being a teen and especially a teen in a pandemic and during the age of social media. Also, who’s to say how a kid who can see the world through media but had (only) parents until she was like eleven and then has been completely isolated and living in a very narrow space since then would even be like?

There were, I thought, a couple plot holes. They are both related to what Romy doesn’t realize until way after she probably would or should have. Like, there are a couple obvious things she doesn’t question. We’re supposed to think she’s just carried away by potential friendship/romance, I think, but these two holes are a little unbelievable, even allowing for the science fiction. (I mean, she thinks for a second that the dude is alone? That’s vague enough, since there are a hundred ways for it to play out.) And she didn’t realize she’d be famous?

Despite the lackluster writing, I would recommend this book across most teens and even some interested adults. I would, however, provide the warning that it is going to meander through genres until it lands someplace much more intense and scary/violent than where it started. Perhaps the creepy tension could have been built in earlier, but there is something about the journey that is kind of fun.


“Is no life at all better than the constant fear and fight for survival I face every day? …. Whatever happens, I can’t see a point in time when I will ever be happy. For the rest of my life, I’ll be struggling. I’m always going to be moments away from sinking completely” (p228).


There is not actually a movie for this book, nor do I see that any are being thought of. Though it was not my favorite book, it does seem like it would make an excellent movie and one that would be on point for what’s popular right now. Just sayin’.


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