Title: The Loneliest Girl in the Universe
Author: Lauren James
Genres: Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Young Adult
Published: September 2017
Alone in space, Romy Silvers is a teenage girl on an important mission to find the next home for humanity. The only contact she has with the outside world is with the NASA therapist Molly until they send out a new spaceship with another single passenger called J. They start to chat via email and a bond starts to form. Romy quickly falls for J but is there something that he isn’t tell her? Also will the upcoming news from Earth ruin their space mission altogether?
I have only ever finished a book in one sitting once before which was Carry On by Rainbow Rowell and I can now add The Loneliest Girl in the Universe to that list! As well as that, this was one the same day that I received the book in the post so if that isn’t dedication then I don’t know what is.
When I first read the synopsis I expected the story to be more of a sweet, soppy teenage romance set in Space but oh how wrong I was. This is another book that throws some surprises for the reader and Lauren laid them out perfectly!
It’s been a while since I read a space story and I’m glad I have made a change to that with this. Lauren was able to describe the technical side of the spaceship and outer space (which the nerd in me loved by the way) without throwing the reader off. Despite some of the dark stuff that happened on the ship, you will still want to give it a chance yourself if you ever got the chance.
From the very start I could sense that Romy was a very anxious and fearful person. She always panicked about something going wrong with the Infinity spaceship and that she wouldn’t be able to fix it now her parents aren’t around. I felt so much empathy for her because I knew this isn’t what she planned; she was born on the spaceship so has never been to Earth and with her parents unexpectedly passing she had no choice but to take charge of the ship and make sure they arrive to the next possible planet for humans. She gets the chance to escape reality ever-so-often by reading her favourite fan fiction and as someone who uses books for the exact same reason, I could relate to her a lot. If I were her I would have gone doolally by now.
Then all of a sudden Romy’s dream came true – another spaceship called the Eternity was going to join her with a boy called J! From then on the format would alternate from Romy’s perspective to the email chats between herself and J which lets the reader feel like they are there reading the emails along with Romy getting to see her reactions each time. I could tell something wasn’t right but I couldn’t put my finger on it at the time. He was very evasive with certain details about what was going on at Earth at the time as well as not answering simple questions. It made me doubt his integrity but I couldn’t help but feel happy for Romy that she finally had someone other than NASA to talk to.
Lauren did a great job on not giving away too much and keeping the reader questioning after every page and not just about J.
What happened to Romy’s parents, and why was her Mother distant with her before she died? Where is the rest of the Infinity crew? What’s really going on with Earth? Will she ever get to talk to Molly again?
I cannot express enough how impressive those last few plot twists are! I don’t want to spoil them for anyone but honestly they are absolutely genius. I normally have some idea of what’s going on with but I really didn’t see them coming! My heart sank at one point when Romy was in real danger and that just shows how engrossed I was in the story. Trust me when I say avoiding spoilers of this is a must because you will enjoy the shockers so much more!
“I stare out of the helm window, straining my eyes against the infinite blackness, pressing my fingernails into my palms so hard they sting. I can’t see anything except the silver pinprick stars.”
If you are looking for a psychological thriller that transports you to space with a vulnerable narrator and a dark, twisted story ahead then I urge you to pick The Loneliest Girl in the Universe when you’re next hunting for a new read! I wish I could experience it all again.
Author Q&A with Lauren
To start off, many may not know that you studied Chemistry and Physics at University. Did this influence your interest in wanting to write a book set in Space?
Yes, definitely – funnily enough, it started with a question from some Physics coursework at university! The question was about special relativity, and went something like this:
An astronaut travels in a spaceship to a new planet. After a few years, a newer faster ship is developed and launched, which overtakes the first ship. How old are the two astronauts when they each arrive on the planet?
I started thinking about what it would be like to be that first astronaut, and dedicate years to travelling alone in space, only for your ship to be overtaken by a faster one before you even arrive! What would that feel like? What kind of relationship would you have with the person on the faster ship? From that, the story of Romy Silvers was born.
Which phrase in The Loneliest Girl in the Universe are you most proud of?
“On good days, which don’t come often, I love my ship and everything it represents. I thrill at the thought of seeing Earth II. There are going to be so many things there that have never been seen by human eyes before. I’ll get to study the planet using priceless, brand-new equipment that’s just waiting to be unpacked. I’ll discover things that might change the fate of humanity for ever. The Infinity is the biggest, most expensive scientific mission in history. I get to be the very first person to see the results. I’m so lucky.
On bad days, I worry about my responsibilities until my gut cramps and my head feels full of knives.
On my very worst days, I think of nothing but how vulnerable I am out here. I’m balanced on the edge of oblivion with only a fragile skin of metal separating me from the void of space.”
Are there any books you’ve read that helped or inspired you to write this book in particular?
I love Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho, Radio Silence by Alice Oseman, Lirael by Garth Nix, Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susannah Clarke and Far From You by Tess Sharpe.
I particularly love Neil Gaiman, Rainbow Rowell, Sarah Waters, P. G. Wodehouse, Audrey Niffeneger.…..I could go on all day, I think! In particular I’m always making notes when I read books by Douglas Adams – he’s the master of humorous sci fi. I’ve adored his work since I was young.
I love The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater. She has an incredible way of really making her characters seem like real people, and I learn so much about writing different perspectives from her work. The set up of that series is just absolutely my favourite thing, and I’m forever jealous I didn’t invent the character Gansey.
I also read Laura Ruby’s writing with a huge amount of jealousy. Her latest, YORK, is so so so good.
There are some shocking surprises for both Romy and the reader. What was it like creating these plot twists whilst keeping the reader engaged and wanting to learn more?
I loved writing the twisty, scary parts! I found the parts in the stores particularly scary. The Infinity is a circular ship, and the living space is around the perimeter. The centre of the ship is used as storage for the supplies needed for the new planet, like building materials and food. Romy explores the dark, cramped storage area, which hasn’t been visited since the ship left Earth’s orbit. At times, it gets quite atmospheric.
How do you hope the readers will feel while reading The Loneliest Girl in the Universe?
The book for me, from the very beginning, was a psychological thriller. I wanted to write about the fear and confinement and constant stress of being alone on a small spaceship, where you’re completely responsibility for running the ship. Early readers have said that they definitely felt the horror of it, so I’m happy!
A big thank you to Walker Books for sending me this ARC in exchange for a review and to Lauren for agreeing to answer some of my burning questions. All opinions are 100% my own as always.