Lauren James’ Loneliest Girl in the Universe was recently recommended for me on Amazon. What made me put it in my cart was the cover. I know you’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but I liked how the color palette contrasted with the image of a girl sitting alone in a window. What finalized my decision was the title itself. Since quarantine began, the loneliness has really set in, and I thought this would be a good read to help with that.
In The Loneliest Girl in the Universe, Romy is the sole survivor onboard The Infinity, a spaceship headed towards Earth II. Her astronaut parents died en route five years ago, leaving her alone for the long journey.
The very first scene features Romy steering the ship out of the way of an oncoming asteroid, and the narration focuses on how if her dad were there, he’d be able to help her, and she wouldn’t feel so scared. The reader can truly feel Romy’s sorrow at the loss of her parents and understand the extent of her loneliness: it isn’t due to her being alone in space, it’s that she lacks the emotional ties to another person, except for her therapist Molly, who’s back on Earth.
Soon, Romy gets word from NASA that they are sending another ship, The Eternity, to join her and speed up her journey, which has already taken more than 6,800 days. Romy starts corresponding back and forth with Commander J Shoreditch from The Eternity, and it seems like the story picks up and that Romy is going to get her happy ending.
Romy and J really hit it off, but tragedy strikes when Romy gets word that there is a war on Earth and all communication will be cut off. So it’s just her and J in space. At least she isn’t alone. Soon after this, Romy begins to unravel, as I’m sure some of us have during this quarantine. With orders coming from the Union of the People’s Republic—the group that took over NASA—telling Romy to conserve water by showering less, turning down the temperature, and setting a lights out schedule, immersing Romy in darkness, Romy is in hell.
This is where I felt for Romy the most. Being stuck at home for over a year, I felt I was beginning to lose my mind. But reading this made me realize that I didn’t have it so bad. I wasn’t trapped on a spaceship by myself with someone messing with me. There are worse things than being alone at home with family in the middle of a pandemic.
Although The Loneliest Girl in the Universe doesn’t really turn into a thriller until about three-quarters of the way in—and some of the events were kind of predictable—it was still a terrifying read with a twist ending that truly had me on the edge of my seat. It will make you feel all the things YA makes you feel but most importantly, it helps the reader appreciate the people in their life and to realize that they’re never truly alone. Plus, the novel really puts things into perspective: things could always be worse.