Sao Paulo used to be known for it’s insane traffic. According to 2012 news reports, on good days, traffic jams in and out of the megacity could extend up to 180 km on a good day (295 km when things got really bad). As a result, the very rich would travel using helipads, and everyone else would spend a month out of every year in their car. But then Covid hit.
In 2020, social distancing became a thing, and this impacted pretty much every aspect of peoples in lives including driving habits. In Sao Paulo, the number of vehicles on the road dropped by 62% when comparing to 2019, and the city’s global traffic ranking plummeted from 24 to 59. I’d say now would be the perfect time to visit, except Covid, and Brazil’s abysmal ranking. Now is not the time to go visit megacities.
Anyway, why am I talking about this? Because today’s author Laura Pohl currently lives in Sao Paulo, and Clover Martinez, the teenage protagonist of today’s book, The Last 8, is a serious traffic hazard. Clover somehow came through 13 car crashes, 2 plane crashes, and an alien invasion without a scratch. I’m assuming physics somehow works differently in this novel because, for me at least, that is the only way this book could make any sort of sense.
Aliens Killed Almost Everyone
“as long as they’re on Earth, the sky will never belong to me like it once did. It’ll never be mine again.”
Clover Martinez, is a Mexican American teenager. She is young, smart, an excellent pilot, and a horrible driver. Originally, she had hopes of going to MIT and eventually applying to NASA, but then an alien fleet invaded the planet, killed her grandparents and exterminated the human race.
For some reason, Clover is invisible to the aliens. She can walk right in front of them, and they won’t even notice her, which is a useful thing when it comes to survival, but not very helpful when it comes to revenge. Clover has zero means of physically harming the invaders, which means that the only thing left for her to do is despair and contemplate suicide, but then she finds out that she is not alone.
After six months of surviving in what is now the American wastelands with her dog Sputnick, Clover discovers that there are seven other human teenagers huddling in Area 51, forced against their will to become functional adults. Now all Clover has to do is convince them to do something insanely stupid – fight back against the invading alien force.
“That’s reassuring,” Brooklyn mutters. “Nuclear weapons in the hands of teenagers.”
This book was written well, even very well. The style is light, and the chapters were easy to devour. The plot moved forward at a pretty good pace, and the action was fun. I could easily have devoured this book in the day. Unfortunately, the rest of the book didn’t justify the effort.
This book had a content warning for depression, suicidal thoughts, and post-traumatic stress disorder, all of which Clover experiences in the book (the human race was exterminated after all). However, I felt that his book didn’t come even close to showing what it is really like living with these disorders. I know people who struggle with depression, and sadly also those who committed suicide. Without diminishing what Clover Martinez lost, she was still able to function and feel. Most people suffering from these disorders would do anything to experience them the way Clover did. She got off lightly, which is the overall style of this book.
This book is a young adult novel. For me it felt as though the author didn’t feel like her target audience could handle difficult subjects because I failed to detect any real depth, in well pretty much anything. Examples: the invading aliens disintegrate the humans. Result? A bloodless invasion. Also, by design most of the characters couldn’t really get hurt, and this drove me up the wall.
Early on we learn that Clover Martinez survived 13 car crashes with no scratches, which caused me to immediately suspect that something about her didn’t make sense. Later her plane is shot out of the sky, and again Clover didn’t suffer any serious harm. This pattern repeats itself throughout the book, and eventually I learn the reason. I’m not going to spoil it, but it was weak, very weak. I would have expected at the least for Clover to somehow question her luck, but this never happens. Maybe, I could accept that being depressed and suicidal prevented her from questioning her apparent immortality, except she grew up in God Mode so it should have raised eyebrows earlier (you’d think the hospitals would have asked questions). As far as I can tell the only reason this protection existed was to allow the author to put her characters in dangerous situations without having to deal with consequences.
Overall, I felt like both the setting, plot and the characters themselves managed to cover most of the cliches expected from teenagers and apocalyptic alien invasions. The book did try. It really did try, but at the end of the day, I felt I was reading a bunch of stereotypes. They were written very well, and were very fun, but they were still stereotypes.
This book is the first in a two-part series. I was half-tempted to buy the sequel The First 7, but decided against it because there were too many other books on my list. I may come back to it at some point, the next time I need something light and fun to distract me from the real world. However, for now I’m going to give it a pass.
The Omer today is kindness in grandeur. Kindness exists in this book, but it is also a struggle. There are seven teenagers in this book who try and show Clover kindness, and Clover struggles to reciprocate, but it is really hard for her considering all she underwent. That struggle though is important for her (weak) character development. People need to be able to accept kindness and internalize that they are worthy of being loved and valued. I think Clover largely fails at this, but others succeed, and when they do it is inspiring.
There is also grandness on a global and galactic scale, which is not really explored. A dead planet is a sight to behold, but it’s also humbling to remember that it is only one planet. There is a whole cosmos out there waiting to be explored – in the next book. and while I don’t plan on continuing thinking about it served as a reminder to me why I’m doing this project. Our world is huge, and there are still a lot of countries I really can’t wait to visit.
About The Author
Laura Pohl is a Brazilian writer who lives in Sao Paulo. She likes writing messages in caps lock, quoting Hamilton, and obsessing about Star Wars. When not taking pictures of her dog, she can be found discussing alien conspiracy theories. She has not crashed any cars or spaceships yet.
You can find out more about her on her website at onlybylaura.com