The Last 8 by Laura Pohl (TL8 #1)
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Release Date: March 5, 2019
Cover Artist / Illustrator: Luke Lucas
Summary: A high-stakes survival story about eight teenagers who outlive an alien attack—perfect for fans of The 5th Wave
Clover Martinez has always been a survivor, which is the only reason she isn’t among the dead when aliens invade and destroy Earth as she knows it.
When Clover hears an inexplicable radio message, she’s shocked to learn there are other survivors—and that they’re all at the former Area 51. When she arrives, she’s greeted by a band of misfits who call themselves The Last Teenagers on Earth.
Only they aren’t the ragtag group of heroes Clover was expecting. The group seems more interested in hiding than fighting back, and Clover starts to wonder if she was better off alone. But then she finds a hidden spaceship, and she doesn’t know what to believe…or who to trust.
My Rating: ★★★★☆
My Thoughts: The Last 8 is a YA Sci-Fi post-apocalyptic novel that follows a pilot named Clover Martinez and her journey when an alien attack brings about the end of the world. Pohl delves into profound themes of survival, trauma, even mental health as a ragtag group of teens learn to fight back, knowing they are the last humans on Earth! Through mysteries, twist, and a plot spurred by unique concepts, this novel cleverly examines the idea of humanity by way of science fiction!
I distinctly remember hearing about this book through the initial book deal and felt so much joy in hearing about a novel with a Latina teen featured in YA Sci-fi. Because of that I knew I had to read this, but sadly when a tbr continues to grow, its inevitable that some books get pushed to the side, but being a mood reader there finally reached a perfect time to pick it back up (about 2 years later). Now that I’ve finally finished reading, I’d definitely say its changed how I view and hopefully will view science fiction books in the future. It all starts with this first line that will forever stick with me: “My abuelo says that there are people who belong to the earth, and others, like us Martinezes, belong to the sky” (1).
Pohl’s debut does what I wished was more present in Sci-Fi: examining mental health and the aftermath of traumatic events through the protagonist. She made this such a present part of Clover’s story and I think that’s what made this story so impactful for me.
Clover is living a simple life in her small town, living with her caring grandparents and pursing her dreams of studying aerospace engineering at MIT. She doesn’t have many friends other than her ex Noah and is ready to present her science fair project when out of nowhere, an alien apocalypse descends. Within a short amount of time, her loved ones soon disappear and are obliterated, until she is all alone left to travel across the country, no destination in sight but her one goal is to survive. But months later, she hears a radio signal leading her to Area 51 where she meets other teen survivors. Keeping her at a distance upon her arrival plus Clover’s independent nature, we are left wanting to know more about this found family who seem comfortable with their day-to-day lives, unconcerned with avenging the planet.
At its core, this story is not only about survival, but fighting back as Clover tries to inspire the crew in her help to take down the aliens. As she struggles to convince them, she also tries to uncover the mysteries she finds at the base, now that she’s decided to stay with them. This can at times make it feel like there isn’t much for Clover to do as she’s figuring out her next step, making the plot feel aimless at times, but as the mysteries begin to build and clues are uncovered, the ordinary-ness made more sense to me the further I read.
Pohl’s novel features a bi-aro Mexican-American lead, a side f/f relationship, Black and Brown characters as well as having an almost all-queer cast.
I adored how Pohl tackled so many real and human themes through an intergalactic, post-apocalyptic lens. In addition, being told from Clover’s POV it makes themes elements come through her as a character and realistic layers to her story. However, it also becomes a very personal kind of sci-fi tale unlike any I’ve ever read before as it takes time to carefully delve into and discuss themes such as depression, ptsd, and mental health in general (TW for suicidal thoughts / attempt).
However, throughout the novel there was just this sense of lots of ambiguity to this story which came across through the text, which leads to the discussion about my least favorite part of this novel was the writing style. While I did love it because of the distinct connection you get through Clover’s voice, there could have been just a bit more detailed and descriptive qualities to add more to the immediacy of how her thoughts come across. It felt like members of the group: leader Violet, Flint, Avani, Adam, Andy, Brooklyn, and Rayen despite having their own distinct roles in the story (which is awesome), there’s still this lingering thought that even once I turned the final page, I sadly never really connected with them too much.
The novel is filled with surprises when it comes to the action, intrigue, and mystery that left me with many questions just waiting to be answered. Though the ending is a bit abrupt and rushed, I am super curious to see what happens with Clover and the crew. However, at the same time I think it also genuinely enjoyed the emotions the ending make you feel, so I’m conflicted on when I should pick up the sequel. As a whole though, I truly enjoyed how inventive Pohl was with this concept in making it such a human, thematic tale of survival.
I think as far as dystopian and science fiction go I thought I was over them, but Pohl’s creativity with this concept has reminded me why they are such exceptional stories no matter passing of trends. I think this is what has me even more excited to read her upcoming book Grimrose Girls, to immerse myself into yet another of her inventive concepts.
The Last 8 is the best kind of Sci-fi, character-driven and not afraid to tackle many different themes! The mystery, intrigue and unique story will keep you on the edge of your seat. Pohl’s layers Clover’s story will leave you rooting for her amidst an alien apocalypse!!