It's not real. That is what the protagonist in Alexandra Oliva's The Last One keeps telling herself. She's only been participating in this extreme Survivor-style reality show for a few days (weeks?) and every obstacle she faces, she tells herself it isn't real. What she doesn't understand is that a few days into the competition, a pandemic has swept the nation. The producers told her that part of the challenge will be spending extended periods of time all alone. She is sure that hidden cameras are following her every move. She's sure that the desolate towns she finds have been meticulously set up by tireless production assistants. She doesn't know that most of them are dead.
Told in alternating chapters and points of view, we see the beginning of the reality show production, told in third-person omniscient so that the reader has a clear view of how it all began. These chapters then trade off with first-person narrative chapters of our main character, of whose name we're never really sure, struggling through what she thinks is still part of a great big game. Part of the fun is in knowing what our heroine does not. In the third-person chapters, the reader gets a "grown-up Hunger Games" feel for the story. This is especially strong when we read about the editors "creating" characters and removing any shots that may disrupt the story about each contestant that they are trying to tell.
This book was intense and so much fun to read! I got a little frustrated wondering how long it would take her to figure out what was happening, but that was part of the suspense. The only thing that I really found irritating was that there were two sets of names- one set that the producers used to refer to the competitors (Zoo, Tracker, Waitress, etc.) and another that our main character uses when she thinks of the people she met on the show. With the alternating chapters, it made things even more confusing, though that could have been the intent as well. This book was hard to put down and I really liked it. This would make a great summer vacation read- be sure to add it to your list!