The Last Girl by Joe Hart is a survival story. Zoey is the survivor and if there were ever a series of games called “Extreme Survivor,” she would probably win it. She was born into a world where for some reason the birth rate of females declined to almost zero. I think one in a million qualifies as almost zero. This fact for which no reason can be determined plunges the world into chaos as almost everyone comes to the conclusion that with the inevitable death of humanity there is really no reason to go beyond selfish immediate gratification goals. Gangs form, crime increases exponentially, law and order are reduced to vigilante level and the populace blames governments. So there are outright rebellions along the lines of civil war.
But there is a band of educated elite scientists who think they might be able to research their way out of the problem. But they will need females to experiment with. Since there are few to none of those being born, the educated scientists hire or create teams of black ops military types to roam the country (in this novel the reader is confined to the US) to kidnap girls and place them in a confinement facility for a time that lasts from their age of capture until twenty-one. Then they are “inducted,” disappear from their confinement colleagues and are never heard from again. Where do they go and for what purpose? No one knows, but Zoey is suspicious.
The confinement facility, ARC (Advanced Research Facility), is similar to a supermax prison. During pre-induction confinement, the girls are brainwashed and required to recite daily the mantra of NOA (National Obstetrics Association). The girls are the future, they must remain pure and they must daily prepare for their mission, which is to give birth to female infants. To encourage them to do this, they are told that after induction they will be reunited with their parents. They do not watch television, read newspapers, read books, or have any contact with the outside. But someone is sneaking books and chewing gum to Zoey. One of the big mysteries of the novel is the identity of who is encouraging Zoey to think outside the box.
Speaking of which, violation of any rules results in a girl’s confinement to The Box. This is sensory deprivation in that there is no light, no sound, and no contact with anyone. Hart spends many, many pages describing Zoey’s stay in The Box. It is so detailed that I wonder if Joe Hart had some experience with this (such as in the military).
Zoey will escape from this confinement in a series of graphically violent confrontations. Hart also spends many, many pages describing her escape, injuries she suffered during the escape, and her experiences combatting hunger, the weather, and an infected wound that the reader knows will kill her without intervention. Again, the experiences are described in such detail that I wondered if Joe Hart had similar survival experiences (such as in the military).
Zoey is out of the ARC, that is not a spoiler. But what of all her colleagues still in the facility, colleagues that she cared for? There was Lily, who couldn’t care for herself, Meeka with a great sense of humor, Terra, a best friend recently lost to induction, Rita, an enemy but Zoey still felt sorry for, and a couple of lesser lights, Shelley and Penny. And Zoey also wanted to kill the facility director, vice director and a bunch of facility guards. She couldn’t very well do this on her own. Remember the medical intervention needed to rescue her from that earlier infection? There could be a source for a retaliatory army and rescue mission here.
This is a book full of action, some of it incredible (uncredible?) but the book is well written, entertaining, and will satisfy a yearning for a strong female protagonist(s).