Monday, October 31, 2016

The Last One by Alexandra Oliva

Alexandra Oliva — Ali, for short — grew up in a tiny town in the Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York. Her last name is pronounced "all of a," like the first three words of the phrase “all of a sudden.”
In 2001, Ali left the Adirondacks for Yale University where she made some of the best friends of her life, failed to learn Russian, and wrote a very long essay about Robin Hood, which earned her a B.A. in History.
After Yale, Ali moved to Ireland to write, travel, and wait tables.  When her work permit ran out, she briefly returned to her hometown before moving on to New York City.
In New York, Ali waited more tables, worked as a private tutor, met her husband online, learned to rock climb, and received an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from The New School. She also volunteered The Prospect Park Zoo, where she particularly enjoyed narrating the Friday morning sea lion feedings to visitors and getting to hold bearded dragons.
During this time,  Ali also wrote two novels that she now refers to as her “practice novels,” though she didn’t know that's what they were at the time. While gathering rejection letters for the second of these, she had the idea for The Last One and immediately knew it was her next project.
To pull off this novel, Ali knew she needed to get her hands dirty. Soon she was using “writing research” as the impetus to sign up for an experience she would have been too scared to undertake otherwise: a fourteen-day field course with the Boulder Outdoor Survival School (B.O.S.S.) — which is known for providing some of the most authentic and challenging wilderness survival and primitive living experiences in the world.
Ali and her husband flew to Utah for the course, where they hiked out into the desert with expert guidance and minimal supplies. In the field, she pushed herself walking water source to water source without food for three days, learned how to start a fire using a bow drill, and glimpsed an elusive mountain lion minutes before being left to camp entirely on her own for two days. It was a difficult and amazing experience, and one that was extraordinarily helpful to writing The Last One.
In 2014, Ali and her husband moved to the Pacific Northwest and got a puppy. That puppy is now a dog and pretty much rules their lives.
(bio taken from: )
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 human-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.

Sophisticated and provocative, The Last One is a novel that forces us to confront the role that media plays in our perception of what is real: how readily we cast our judgements, how easily we are manipulated.
For a Media and Communications Major like me this one was a definite steal, I had to read it! It is a one of a kind experiment with a definite twist and originality that can be read for pleasure, or to be used for study. I am honestly impressed with it and can't wait to have time to read it a second time. Dystopian novels are my guilty pleasure, and The Last One was one of the sweetest treats I had given myself this week.
I felt engaged throughout the whole reading and fell head-over-hills with the alternating stories between the two perspectives and timelines. The way the narration plays with your own perspective and  the susceptibility of your psyche is incredible. Psychologically, considering the tricky mind-games reality television plays even when there's not an apocalypse going on, where viewers are complicit in their own manipulation for entertainment - required to accept a semblance of reality with the tacit understanding that the 'reality' is largely fabricated. 
My inner Literature freak was rapturous. An extremely good debut. There are a couple of weak parts and a bit of a three-quarter mark slump, but it held my interest and there are some terrifically intense scenes that will stick with me. I can see why some readers failed to feel connected to some of the characters, but I am fairly convinced it was done on purpose, because the novel has to be read as reality TV, and lets be honest no one ever gets that attached to the participants, right? Or is it just me? I have never been a big fan of reality TV - I might as well live without it, as I am sure many of us can.
I liked how everything progressed. It didn’t seem like it was going to wrap up nicely, but the author managed to do it. At one point you’re probably assuming that this is going to happen, or this is not going to happen, but the author throws in a completely different situation and you’ll be knocked off your seat.
Along with Zoo on her journey you'd feel shocked, confused, angry and emotional at times. I hugely enjoyed this fantastic debut novel from Alexandra Oliva and would definitely, 100% read any future releases!
The storyline was interesting, well crafted, entertaining and, most of all (despite the quite serious subject matter) really fun to read!