The Last Girl on Earth
Author: Alexandra Blogier
Genre: Young Adult
Publisher: Delacorte Press
A review by Brooke Ali
Sixteen-year-old Li is the last human on Earth. Saved as a baby by a human-sympathizer and raised as his own child, she is constantly aware of what makes her different from the Abdoloreans who took over the planet and wiped out her species – and how hard she has to work to keep her secret. With placement assessment for the upcoming mandatory military conscription looming, Li can’t afford to lose focus if she hopes to place as an officer, the only rank that doesn’t risk exposing her true identity. But when she meets Ryn, the captivating new boy in her class, her whole world threatens to fall apart.
As YA goes, it’s fascinating to see the format tackle post-colonialism. The Abdoloreans are serial colonists; the seven year mandatory military conscription is centred around setting up new colonization initiatives or putting down the resistances to the current ones; they’re constantly fighting the indigenous populations of various planets. I would have liked to learn more about why the Abdoloreans are engaging in this initiative so intensely: is it a form of manifest destiny? A righteous need to police all the populations of the universe? Are they fleeing their own ruined planet to colonize others? Or are they just parasites and this is what they’re driven to do? Their motives for eliminating the humans is that humans didn’t deserve to live on a planet that they were actively destroying, but their motives for traveling to Earth in the first place are less clear.
The theme of environmentalism is also present. The humans were deemed unworthy of the planet due to their abuse and neglect of the environment, yet the Abdoloreans’ response was to kill the inhabitants (including most of the animal life) with radiation. Even some of their own settlers died, in the early years of post-human colonization, of radiation poisoning. The hypocrisy seems lost on them and the narrative they maintain of their history on this planet. This threatens to chip away at any message the book may have had about the importance of environmental stewardship, especially with how Utopian the current Abdolorean world seems to be, with their high levels of technology and beautiful beach-front landscape.
Li is able to hide among an alien species because Abdoloreans are almost identical to humans, except for greater physical strength, better resilience to disease and injury, higher mental acuity, and gills. Its a bit of a stretch, but the idea of a universe populated by humanoid creatures is a suspension of disbelief we’ve all been maintaining for the history of the sci-fi genre so I’ll give it a pass. However, in many ways it’s hard to see much of a difference between Abdolorean culture and our own. They wear pants, dresses, and shoes. They live in slightly higher technology versions of human houses. They go shopping at a downtown shopping centre. They have prom. I even noticed the characters using words and terms that etymologically would have no place in a non-human culture. The only thing that really made the Abdoloreans “other” was Li constantly telling the reader that they are. I feel there was a missed opportunity to create a really distinct culture. Instead, all the teenaged characters just act like, well, American teenagers.
Check it out! The Last Girl on Earth is an interesting premise with some enjoyable, relatable characters, a good plot, and a sweet, if predictable, romance. I wish more detail had been put into the world building, but the end is set up for a sequel, so there’s always hope that the next book will fill in more of those details and that it will dive deeper into the post-colonial themes.