Roses & Thorns

Roses & Thorns

Sunday, September 11, 2016

The Last One by Alexandra Oliva


Survival is the name of the game as the line blurs between reality TV and reality itself in Alexandra Oliva’s fast-paced novel of suspense.

She wanted an adventure. She never imagined it would go this far.

It begins with a reality TV show. Twelve contestants are sent into the woods to face challenges that will test the limits of their endurance. While they are out there, something terrible happens—but how widespread is the destruction, and has it occurred naturally or is it man-made? Cut off from society, the contestants know nothing of it. When one of them—a young woman the show’s producers call Zoo—stumbles across the devastation, she can imagine only that it is part of the game.

Alone and disoriented, Zoo is heavy with doubt regarding the life—and husband—she left behind, but she refuses to quit. Staggering countless miles across unfamiliar territory, Zoo must summon all her survival skills—and learn new ones as she goes.

But as her emotional and physical reserves dwindle, she grasps that the real world might have been altered in terrifying ways—and her ability to parse the charade will be either her triumph or her undoing.

About the Author:

Alexandra Oliva was born and raised in upstate New York. She has a BA in history from Yale University and an MFA in creative writing from The New School. She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband. The Last One is her first novel.


When you mostly review romance novels, they can get kind of boring. You know when you pick up the book the couple will have a happily-ever-after, and you pretty much know from page-to-page what’s going to happen next. Sometimes I want to write, “It’s a romance. You know how it goes,” and just award roses based on the quality (or lack thereof) of the editing. Rarely does a book come along that is completely different. That surprises you. Knocks your socks off. Horrifies you. And fascinates you.

“Zoo” is a veterinarian participating in a survivalist reality program. I avoid these shows. For one thing, my idea of roughing it is a hotel with no Jacuzzi. For another, I hate programs where people get voted off. At least on Zoo’s show, people are eliminated by being the last ones to complete various “challenges.” But even Zoo and the members of her team challenge are disgusted when the “lost and injured hiker” they’ve been tracking stumbles over the side of a cliff when they get there because they were ten minutes late. The sexy bimbo (thrown in by the producers for eye candy) stubbed her toe and spent fifteen minutes sitting on a rock crying. What the viewers don’t know is that the team can see a cable secured from the top of the cliff and the battered and bloody dead body at the bottom is a dummy. The “brains” are cottage cheese and food coloring, and the “blood” is colored corn syrup.

So when Zoo finds herself alone on a challenge and comes across a house with balloons in her signature blue color with a mat that says “Home Sweet Home,” it’s easy to delude herself into believing the challenge is to make her way home following the rules of the game. And to believe the dead bodies in the house are more props. As are the rest of the ones she encounters on her journey.

I’m not normally drawn to apocalyptic or post-apocalyptic books, but Zoo’s journey—her absolute inability to accept reality, the way she rationalizes the things that happen to her, made The Last One truly one of the most fascinating books I’ve read in quite awhile. You have to read it yourself.

Heat Rating:  R—Graphic Violence
Length:  305 Pages
Digital:  $12.99
Hardcover:  $18.25
Audible:  28.46

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