The Loneliest Girl in the Universe by Lauren James – Book Review and Author Interview
Posted by kirstyes
This year at YALC we were once again lucky ducks with the opportunity to purchase an early copy of Lauren James’ new science fiction story The Loneliest Girl in the Universe. The book is finally out for everyone else to enjoy this week and I was cheeky and asked Lauren answer a few questions which I’ll share here with my thoughts on the Loneliest Girl.
Can you fall in love with someone you’ve never met, never even spoken to – someone who is light years away?
Romy Silvers is the only surviving crew-member of a spaceship travelling to a new planet, on a mission to establish a second home for humanity amongst the stars. Alone in space, she is the loneliest girl in the universe until she hears about a new ship which has launched from Earth – with a single passenger on board. A boy called J.
Their only communication with each other is via email – and due to the distance between them, their messages take months to transmit across space. And yet Romy finds herself falling in love.
But what does Romy really know about J? And what do the mysterious messages which have started arriving from Earth really mean?
Sometimes, there’s something worse than being alone . . .
Lauren James was born in 1992, and graduated in 2014 from the University of Nottingham, UK, where she studied Chemistry and Physics.
She started writing during secondary school English classes, because she couldn’t stop thinking about a couple who kept falling in love throughout history. She sold the rights to the novel when she was 21, whilst she was still at university.
The Next Together was described by The Bookseller as ‘funny, romantic and compulsively readable’ and Kirkus as ‘An ambitious, promising premise . . . James is one to watch’. It was longlisted for the Branford Boase Award, a prize given to recognise an outstanding novel by a first-time writer.
Her other novels include The Last Beginning, the epic conclusion to The Next Together which was named one of the best LGBT-inclusive works for kids and young adults by the Independent. Two short stories set in the world of The Next Together series, Another Together and Another Beginning, are also available.
The Loneliest Girl in the Universe was inspired by a Physics calculation she was assigned at university. Lauren is a passionate advocate of STEM further education, and all of her books feature scientists in prominent roles.
Lauren is published in the UK by Walker Books, in the US by HarperCollins and in translation in five other countries around the world. She lives in the West Midlands and is an Arts Council grant recipient. She has written articles for the Guardian, Buzzfeed and The Toast. You can find her on Twitter at @Lauren_E_James, Tumblr at @laurenjames or her website http://www.laurenejames.co.uk, where you can subscribe to her newsletter to be kept up to date with her new releases and receive bonus content.
What I Thought
This was such a quick, intense and thrilling read. The formatting of e-mails between the two characters – modern day epistolary style – helps you zip through and you build a relationship with the characters, Romy and J, as they do with each other.
I like that Romy’s anxiety at her situation is explored and that NASA have got her a therapist to discuss things with. As well as prompting her to keep up with schoolwork. I also loved the addition of the Fandom elements with Romy being a big fan and fan fiction writer for a TV series about supernatural detectives ‘Loch and Ness’. As well as adding authenticity to her teen status this is a much bigger plot point than you might think.
The Loneliest Girl reminded me a little of one of my favourite sci-fi reads Illuminae and if you loved that definitely pick this up too.
Gradually the incident that left Romy alone is revealed along with a growing concern about what is happening back on the Earth she has never known.
Having written your last two books and a couple of shorts in one world how did you prepare yourself to move on to a new one?
I was very ready to write something different – I started The Loneliest Girl while I was working on edits for The Last Beginning, so I couldn’t make any progress on that project, and it felt incredible to write something fresh and new that wasn’t tangled up in plot holes. I did enjoy leaving easter eggs in the books for each of my others, though!
Was the writing process different or similar to with your first books?
I always think the last book I wrote was the easiest and best to write, and then start another and remember how hard it is. The one I’m always writing always feels like a terrible disaster while I’m in the process of getting it down on paper. When I’ve done all the hard work and can look at a complete, perfect finished book, I like it – but during the writing process it’s torment. That’s true of all my books!
How did you develop the character of Romy? Knowing that she would be alone for much of the book did that affect this?
I’ve always loved stories of isolation – it’s a great way to really get to know a character. I knew that if I was writing a whole book where there was only really one person, I would need to create a character who would keep the reader’s attention and loyalty. It was a big challenge, but I fell totally in love with Romy while I was writing about her, and I hope everyone reading The Loneliest Girl in the Universe does too.
How much did the idea of online dating influence the plot?
A lot – I think online dating is something that teenagers today experience more and more, whether that’s apps like Tinder or just chatting on Facebook Messenger. I wanted to explore that in a way that wasn’t a UK contemporary novel, and setting it in space was a nice twist.
How did it feel seeing everyone glanced up in Galactic Glitter make overs to celebrate the launch of your book at YALC?