Review: The Last One

When Zoo signs up to be one of 12 contestants on a TV reality show, she does so intending to have one last adventure before she and her husband try to create a family. She knows she'll face hardships during her stint in the woods, will have to deal with the scripted personalities of the other 11 members of the show, and will have to pretend that what is happening around her is real despite the cameramen, hidden cameras and drones that record the contestants' every move. Because the show has promised that the experience will be tough, Zoo expects to be challenged and welcomes the idea. In addition, the chance to win a million dollars is enough to keep her in the game. What Zoo and the other players in the woods don't realize is that something goes very wrong during the filming of the first week; Zoo figures the events and devastation she has to contend with are part of the game. Through Zoo's eyes, readers slowly learn the truth about the game and the world.

With The Last One, Alexandra Oliva has written a debut novel that combines elements of reality TV with those of a post-apocalyptic world to create a tense atmosphere, filled with memorable characters who move through the game and surrounding world with varying levels of proficiency. Using their wits, the game players must undergo Team and Solo Challenges, following the colored clues that match their individually colored bandanas, while dealing with obstacles that only nature can provide.

Oliva has done her homework on orienteering, the basic hunting and trapping of animals, and other survival skills a person might need to live alone in the woods without much more than the clothes on one's back. The depth of research adds a level of authenticity to the novel, which supports each character as he or she contends with the various tasks that the host and producer have concocted as part of the game. Oliva also does an excellent job of portraying the psychological and emotional traumas that the contestants face, particularly those of Zoo, who begins to question her motives for playing as time progresses. For fans of Survivor and The Hunger Games, Oliva has melded the best of both worlds and added her own unusual twist to produce a fast-paced world that expertly balances fiction and faux reality. --Lee E. Cart, freelance writer and book reviewer

Shelf Talker: The contestants on a survival-based reality TV show face hardships that make them wonder what's real and what's part of the show.

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