What would happen if the female birth rate fell to below 1% thus decimating the world’s female population? Joe Hart runs with this concept in the first book in The Dominion Trilogy, The Last Girl.
Author: Joe Hart
Genre: Science Fiction › Dystopia
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
A mysterious worldwide epidemic reduces the birthrate of female infants from 50 percent to less than 1 percent. Medical science and governments around the world scramble in an effort to solve the problem, but twenty-five years later there is no cure, and an entire generation grows up with a population of fewer than a thousand women.
Zoey and some of the surviving young women are housed in a scientific research compound dedicated to determining the cause. For two decades, she’s been isolated from her family, treated as a test subject, and locked away—told only that the virus has wiped out the rest of the world’s population.
Captivity is the only life Zoey has ever known, and escaping her heavily armed captors is no easy task, but she’s determined to leave before she is subjected to the next round of tests…a program that no other woman has ever returned from. Even if she’s successful, Zoey has no idea what she’ll encounter in the strange new world beyond the facility’s walls. Winning her freedom will take brutality she never imagined she possessed, as well as all her strength and cunning—but Zoey is ready for war.
I first requested The Last Girl because I was intrigued with the dystopian concept, the idea that an epidemic has reduced the female birth rate to less than 1%. What is causing this? What is the solution? How will the human race survive if there are no females left to repopulate the world? I’ve said that the YA dystopian has been a little overdone over the past 10 years, but I still had high hopes that The Last Girl would bring a little something new to the table.
The first 60% of the book is set inside a scientific research compound, where a few of the world’s last remaining girls are housed. Here the girls are treated as prisoners, locked away from the unknown of the outside world. Unfortunately this chunk of the book is where I had most of my issues with The Last Girl. Despite the intriguing premise behind The Last Girl, there seemed to be a decent amount of plot holes throughout the story. For example, if the girls housed in the compound are really among the last remaining girls in the world, then why the harsh treatment? I can understand why they are not allowed outside the compound, but they are treated as criminals and are even subjected to harsh punishments… It all seemed a little extreme. I also didn’t really believe the naiveté of the girls. Who would believe after living in captivity for 21 years, that they are simply going to be released to be reunited with their families, especially after all the harsh treatment for no apparent reason? Furthermore, it is never exactly fully explained why girls are the source of the birth rate problem in the first place… Since the male sperm determines the sex of the baby, wouldn’t they need to be running experiments on males? Had the author spun it so that the female womb rejected all female fetuses, it would have filled in some of the gaps and made more sense.
Zoey was a likeable enough character, but she was very much the stereotypical YA dystopian female lead. Nothing really set Zoey apart or made her special in comparison to all the YA female leads we’ve seen before. The remaining cast of The Last Girl are just as lack luster. I never really felt that the remaining characters were developed enough in order for me to form any type of connection with them. While Hart did give us a diverse group of characters (character on the spectrum – not specifically stated, but I’m assuming – characters of color, a lesbian character, a mute character…) none of these characters were well fleshed out. It almost felt like they were thrown in for the sake of diversity. While I commend Hart for NOT writing an all white & able bodied cast, it didn’t feel like enough to just include these characters. Maybe if he had focused on one or two representations instead of multiple, it would have felt more authentic.
Let’s talk about the girl hate in The Last Girl. Don’t get me wrong, I totally know how some girls (and grown women) can have a tendency to be petty, competitive, and victimize others… mostly due to their own insecurities. I get it, girls can be mean, HOWEVER there is typically a reason in most cases. Sometimes it is over a boy, sometimes it is about differences, sometimes it is a competitive factor, etc. etc. Generally there is some underlying reason. This really wasn’t the case in The Last Girl. There was no reasoning or backstory as to why there was so much animosity between the girls in the compound. I would think that a handful of girls living together in these conditions would band together instead of divide, but that’s just my thought. Girl hate, while very much prevalent in real life, is a pet peeve of mine.
Despite all my grievances, The Last Girl is not a bad book, and I can see why many have enjoyed it. There was a readable quality about it that many YA dystopian books posses. Why are we so fascinated by stories where the world is in complete chaos? Unfortunately, there just wasn’t enough new & unique concepts that we have already seen done many times in the YA dystopian genre. There wasn’t anything that sets this book apart, or makes it stick out in my mind. There isn’t anything wrong with Joe Harts writing. I just almost feel as if he was trying to write this book to please the YA crowd. I’d actually like to see him write something in the adult sci-fi genre.
*I would also like to add that parts of this book are a little graphic and could be triggering to some, especially those that are sensitive to sexual assault.*
*More like 2.5 stars*
Joe Hart was born and raised in northern Minnesota, where he still resides today. He’s been writing horror and thriller fiction since he was nine years old. He is the author of five novels and numerous short stories, including the books The River Is Dark, Lineage, and The Waiting. When he’s not writing, Joe enjoys reading, working out, watching movies with his family, and spending time outdoors.