Review: The Last Boy and Girl in the World by Siobhan Vivian

I received this book for free from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: The Last Boy and Girl in the World by Siobhan VivianThe Last Boy and Girl in the World by Siobhan Vivian
Published by Simon & Schuster BFYR on April 26, 2016
Genres: Contemporary, Romance
Pages: 419
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
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four-stars

What if your town was sliding underwater and everyone was ordered to pack up and leave? How would you and your friends spend your last days together?

While the adults plan for the future, box up their possessions, and find new places to live, Keeley Hewitt and her friends decide to go out with a bang. There are parties in abandoned houses. Canoe races down Main Street. The goal is to make the most of every minute they still have together.

And for Keeley, that means taking one last shot at the boy she’s loved forever.

There’s a weird sort of bravery that comes from knowing there’s nothing left to lose. You might do things you normally wouldn’t. Or say things you shouldn’t. The reward almost always outweighs the risk.

Almost.

It’s the end of Aberdeen, but the beginning of Keeley’s first love story. It just might not turn out the way she thought. Because it’s not always clear what’s worth fighting for and what you should let become a memory.

In my head, I have Siobhan Vivian down as quite a popular author. Certainly, based on GR reviews, her books from 2010-2014 got a lot of attention. Somehow, though, The Last Boy and Girl in the World turned out to be an under the radar title. As of this writing, there are only 1521 ratings for this book, and none of my Goodreads friends have read it, though one DNFed partway through. Here I am several months post-publication finally getting to my egalley, and I can be the first to ford this stream (or maybe I should caulk and float?). The Last Boy and Girl in the World wasn’t the sappy romance I expected from the title; it’s a real character study and a thoughtful depiction of a town in crisis.

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The Last Boy and Girl in the World opens with Keeley in a kayak, being escorted out of her town by the cops, begging to retrieve something from the house of a friend. Then the book goes back in time to the beginning of the end of Aberdeen, as the town prepares for potential flooding by piling sandbags by the river in anticipation of a big storm.Vivian made a bold choice in deciding to use that scene as her hook, because she spoils the plot in doing so, hoping that the curiosity about the referenced boy and what Keeley needs from her friend’s house, will keep you hanging on until the end. Obviously, that worked on me, since plot’s pretty low on my list of reading priorities, but could be a negative for other readers.

The town of Aberdeen suffers terrible flooding in that storm, some houses even pulled off their foundations and completely destroyed. The Governor announces that Aberdeen is going to be dammed and made into a lake, because deforestation and some other environmental factors make the town of Aberdeen an unsafe place to live. The government will offer settlements to the affected families.

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Keeley’s father has been depressed and unmotivated, ever since a car accident injured his leg and made his construction work impossible. With the news about Aberdeen, her father comes back alive. He wants to fight and save Aberdeen. He’s suspected that the Governor was doing this to profit off of a deal to sell property at what would be the edge of the new lake. Knowing that Aberdeen will end up covered in water, the battle to try to save Aberdeen that he wages, and, to a lesser degree, Keeley does, is imbued with a sense of futility. This isn’t the perky book about how one person make a big difference in politics. It’s very decidedly not that book. It’s good that those books exist, but I do think it’s also important to have books like this that show that sometimes the system wins, which is good in some ways and bad in others. There are a lot of complexities to the morality of this situation which Vivian unpacks deftly.

Keeley has a strong voice, and she makes for an interesting heroine. She’s not like too many (possibly any) YA heroines I’ve read previously, which is quite impressive and in of itself. Keeley’s a class clown type, which I’ve encountered plenty in male characters but you don’t often see girls taking on that role in fiction, because that’s not really the archetype. While this makes her narration vibrant, her character also makes her a frustrating heroine at just about every turn.

i laugh in the face of danger

In all situations, Keeley makes jokes or does silly things to try distract herself and others from sadness, pain, and fear. She bonds, at the start of the book, with her long-term crush Jesse Ford, a hot soccer player. Jesse’s just like her: trying to have fun while their small world ends. For example, he films Jaws reenactments in puddles for his YouTube channel and throws parties in buildings that have been abandoned. Keeley’s relationship with Jesse is really beautifully done, because he’s everything she’s wanted for so long and nothing she’s needed.

Because of her nature, Keeley has very little self-awareness, because if she starts thinking too hard about anything that’s not easy, she throws herself into something, anything that will get her head out of that. She goes along with Jesse’s schemes and changes the subject when her best friend asks how she’s feeling. Keeley one hundred percent cannot deal with reality, and she thinks that by trying to keep the mood up, she’s helping. It’s only in seeing that reflection of herself in Jesse’s behavior that she starts really understanding how she treats people and why it’s unhealthy if that’s her strategy all the time. For pretty much all of the book, Keeley’s a girl in crisis, both because her town is and because the way she’s always been doesn’t translate to the new gravity of her life.

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I never really got the feels from The Last Boy and Girl in the World, aside from a vague anxiety through most of it because Keeley makes such terrible decisions constantly. Her romance with Levi could have been super excellent, but, title aside, The Last Boy and Girl in the World isn’t as much of a romance as it is a character development piece for Keeley alone. For it to be an excellent romance with Levi, the Jesse Ford stuff would have had to come to an end a good deal earlier, but Jesse was an important catalyst for change in Keeley’s life, so he really did need to be around. Levi makes a better match for her than Jesse, but I don’t know enough about them together to know if they’ll actually be a couple. Also, I know this is sort of a spoiler, but honestly I called this early on, so I don’t think the outcome of the romance will surprise anyone.

From The Last Boy and Girl in the World, I’d expected a fluffy contemporary romance, maybe a bit more to the sentimental side than I like. Actually, it’s not so much a romance and very much not sentimental. I really liked this book from the beginning to the end, and I love that Vivian has a very different kind of heroine than any I’ve read before.

Favorite Quote:

Levi dropped his head backward. “Are you always like this?”
“Like what?”
“Fucking impossible?”
I let my mouth fall wide open. I had never, ever heard Levi curse once.
“Sorry.”
“Don’t be. I’m actually kind of impressed.”
He rolled his eyes. “Well, that says a lot.”

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

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One response to “Review: The Last Boy and Girl in the World by Siobhan Vivian”

  1. Leah says:

    This has been in my TBR since it came out. I’ve seen nothing but middling and downright negative reviews. O_O But I am determined to get to it soon!

    Thanks for your thoughts.

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