By Ekta R. Garg
August 10, 2016
Rated: Bookmark it! / 4 stars
A group of contestants on a reality TV show must deal with the elements and one another as they compete for a huge financial prize. At some point, however, it becomes clear that what started as a challenge for the purpose of entertainment has morphed into a challenge for life itself. Author Alexandra Oliva’s debut in fiction will keep readers flipping or swiping pages as fast as possible in order to reach the heartbreaking end in the riveting book The Last One.
Television producers have created a reality show that pushes the idea of “surviving the wild” to its breaking point, and twelve brave contestants agree to the rules. They arrive for their series of challenges in a remote location with nothing but a varied natural landscape as far as they can see. In their pre-show interviews and during the initial taping of the show, the producers keep an eye on the contestants and peg their ability to drive up ratings.
Of the twelve brave souls, producers closely monitor a woman they’ve nicknamed “Zoo” for her love and knowledge of animals. As shooting progresses, Zoo works with the other contestants and learns several new skills that allow her to advance in the competition. The show’s schedule demands a challenge where the contestants must spend an extended amount of time alone, and Zoo sets off with the supplies she’s earned through winning smaller challenges or as gifts from other contestants.
Zoo makes her way through the woods confident that she will conquer the game. It is a game, after all, and she continues to remind herself of that. Even when she loses crucial supplies, she keeps going. Nothing allows her to waver from her objective. Zoo wants to be the last one standing, the one declared the winner. She’s come on the show to prove something to herself, and the longer she moves alone the more imperative it becomes for her to succeed.
The challenges that come her way start to become downright bizarre, however, and after a point nothing makes sense. Clearly she needs help, and while Zoo understands that what she’s doing makes for good TV she also feels a little cheated. How far will the execs at the network let her struggle? Soon enough the answer to the “why” become clear for Zoo, but she doesn’t know if she can handle the cost of the challenge for the financial advantage at the end.
From the book’s outset, fiction debut author Alexandra Oliva will grab hold of readers and not let go. She doesn’t hesitate to dive head first into the incredulous lengths television travels in the name of ratings. Just as she lulls readers into one corner of her story world, she reveals the true intent of her story. Without even realizing it, readers will encounter a book that deals with some of the most pressing concerns of our current times.
Many experienced authors would find the switch between the two layers of story a challenge. Oliva uses a deft hand and doesn’t shy away from the difficult moments. Instead, she throws herself into them headlong and demands that her readers follow her. She’s created in Zoo a protagonist who will impress readers at first with her dedication to winning and then her helplessness in her circumstances.
Anyone who enjoys suspense will thoroughly enjoy The Last One, and readers should definitely Bookmark it!
(I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)