The Last Boy and Girl in the World by Siobhan Vivian | Rating: ★★★★☆
As a note, an e-galley of this novel was sent to me via Edelweiss by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not effect my opinions in any way.
What surprised me most about The Last Boy and Girl in the World was how it didn’t water down the attitudes of the cast of teenagers we are introduced to. It gave me a feeling of where the plot might go, but it didn’t end up the way I’d expected. If anything, readers are going to be surprised by the novel itself–I had assumed it was going to be farther into the thriller genre, yet it didn’t go that route at all. Still, it was compelling and Siobhan Vivian has a certain grace about her writing when it comes down to portraying teenagers and their coming of age stories.
You see, a lot of what people won’t like about this release is that the characters can often be insufferable and are horrendously flawed in the way that only teenagers can be. You’re going to be annoyed at times, you’re not going to like everything that they do, you’re going to scoff and roll your eyes at their actions or statements. Not everyone is going to be able to overlook that, but I cannot stress enough that that’s what makes them real.
You aren’t reading about adults. You’re reading about kids. Kids, who’s lives are changing. Kids, who are still learning and making mistakes and growing up and falling out–there’s a breath of life in each of them. It’s as simple as that and you can’t hate them for it. That’s what I found most endearing about the kids and the way they acted–they were real and they needed to grow, and maybe they won’t by the end of the novel, maybe they will.
It’s what kept me reading and interested, really.
This still felt very lifelike and made the experience quite nice because it felt like, when we reached the final pages, it wasn’t an end to a story but the beginning. Again, I wasn’t sure where the story was going to lead us and the title, paired with our introduction, made me think something far more tragic would happen, but it didn’t. This isn’t to say there weren’t sad parts, but I was expecting a lot more to happen.
Our plot was unique in a lot of ways, our tone dreamlike, but felt very true to life and there was something so bittersweet about it all. It is a pretty solid release and very true to its coming of age tone–which in itself is hard to find.
Characters–let’s chat about those.
I didn’t like our narrator, Keeley, a good chunk of the time but in spite of her actions and her so-called-jokes, I still loved her. That doesn’t make much sense, but it’s because of her flaws and her insensitivity and the way she can’t bring herself to be serious much of the time, all the way to her reality check, that made me grow quite fond of her.
This isn’t to say she was easy to like. Don’t mistaken my fondness of her for something that was there from the start–it certainly wasn’t. I saw a lot of myself in my teenage years in Keeley. I saw a lot of my friends in her. I saw a lot of my friends and myself in her classmates, too, and thought that perhaps these kids are amongst the best portrayals of teenage angst.
Keeley’s friendship with Morgan and Elise is quite realistic, too. It’s not always easy being good friends and being part of something like a trio. You’ve got to navigate that territory carefully so you don’t feel like you’re a third wheel. I thought the way that Keeley felt about Elise’s closeness with Morgan, who has been her best friend forever, was really true to what it feels like to have a newer arrival in your friendship.
Almost as if it’s competitive. I liked that the girls were each different and there was a lot that could have hit the fan sooner, but their friendship was solid in spite of the flaws. I liked the promise that someday, things would get better–that Keeley had a lot of growing up to do, but it wasn’t the end (in spite of it seemingly ended between two of them).
I also appreciated the concept of space between friendships. Because of the flood and these girls living situation, their town going under so to speak ahem, we already had a feeling that they’d each separate in some ways. But friendship never really dies and I liked that Keeley and Elise became closer as Elise moved away. I felt very deeply for Elise and how she lost everything she and her family owned. I liked that she was able to start anew elsewhere and rebuild her life with her family, yet she still kept in touch with our girls.
Life works in funny ways and that made me smile a lot. Sometimes distance is what breaks us, other times it’s what builds onto something, and in the case of Elise and Keeley, it made something special. They grew even closer with all that distance, and that surprised Keeley–especially with the silence from her best friend.
As for romance. I don’t want to spoil it all, but I was really surprised to how the romantic aspects of this played out. I kind of expected it, but kind of didn’t. I can’t say if I was happy or sad with who didn’t work out and who did, but I enjoyed it. It felt sweet and realistic and I love how first loves is portrayed. It was full of emotion and flaws and “what ifs” and I appreciated that.
Aside from the characters and all of that, I really enjoyed the concept of life changing unexpectedly and having to pack up and leave everything and everyone you once knew. Aberdeen is a community where everyone knows everyone, where most people lived and died there, and one day they are told the unthinkable: their homes would be no more, they need to pack up and leave and it’s heartbreaking.
At this point on, you have to wonder: what would you do in this situation? And where would you go? Keeley and her friends, her family, the community, band together in some ways (while others separate) and I thought that the dynamic and actions were all quite interesting. I was surprised how things turned out on some notes (a plot twist of sorts I won’t mention) and I liked the idea that the teenagers acted out their last days in Aberdeen in abandon houses and it was just very fun.
A very fun tone that began at the start of the storm, when Keeley was dancing in the rain. Most of the novel conflicts with its serious tone by showing Keeley’s humor and her liveliness and although we get a glimpse of that in the first few pages, it goes on full force at the school dance.
All in all, I was surprised by this one a lot! I came into it thinking one thing, but left with a whole other side to the story that wasn’t expected. I can't wait to buy a finished copy and to see what changes were made to it, an when I do, I promise you I will be posting some of my favorite quotes from the story. The Last Boy and Girl in the World is full of growing up, loss, love and more. Sometimes it’s out there and unfortunate, other times it’s spot on and heartwarming, but I will say that I am incredibly privileged to have finished it and would recommend it to anyone looking for something new to read.