A girl sits in the giant circular window of a spaceship surrounded by darkness.

About the Book

Title: The Loneliest Girl in the Universe
Published: 2018
Swoonworthy Scale: 3

Cover Story: Alone in the Universe
BFF Charm: Let Me Love You
Talky Talk: Slow Burn to INTENSITY IN TEN CITIES
Bonus Factors: Space Travel, Mental Health, Fanfic, Pen Pals
Relationship Status: My Loneliness Ain’t Killing Me No More

Cover Story: Alone in the Universe

Simple as it might be, this cover works so well for the book. The U.K. version is more eye-catching (and actually reminds me of the cover for one of my faves), but this nails the vibe of loneliness and isolation.

The Deal:

In 2048, NASA launched the Infinity, a spacecraft full of astronauts headed to a colonize a planet in a different star system. Nearly two decades into the 44-year journey, however, only one passenger remains: Commander Romy Silvers, who was actually born on the ship. Not only has she never known life outside of the Infinity, but Romy’s been completely on her own for Y-E-A-R-S. 

Until now, anyway, because NASA has launched a second spacecraft, the Eternity, to catch up with the Infinity and speed up the journey to Earth II. Even better news, Romy begins exchanging messages with J, the commander of the Eternity. But as the two ships — and the two newfound friends — get closer, they’re about to discover a worse fate than being alone in space.

BFF Charm: Let Me Love You

BFF charm with teary eyes hugging a heart

Not that Romy isn’t genius smart and an impressive individual with a heckuva life story to share, but OH MAN, did I feel for her whole… existence? Which seems way harsh, Tai, but I kept likening it to solitary confinement aka psychological TORTURE. Except this isn’t her punishment; it’s her life. And she’s never had the chance to experience even the most ordinary things that we take for granted. (Like ice cream! OMG, she’s never had ice cream. As well as human contact with people who weren’t her parents.) So, Romy, here’s a standing invitation for friendship and also showing you how to Earth.

Swoonworthy Scale: 3

OK, I know that swoon can always find a way in YA, but I definitely rolled my eyes at J obviously being an age-appropriate young man. Despite my heavy skepticism, I did like the shizz of how their relationship unfolds. 

Talky Talk: Slow Burn to INTENSITY IN TEN CITIES

Given the circumstances, the bulk of the novel is driven by Romy’s narration. The arrival of the Eternity is still a year away at the start, and Romy even notes that she probably hasn’t spoken out loud in years. There might not be a lot of action initially, but there’s definitely a lot of interest — especially of the speculative variety. Lauren James puts her STEM background to good use in worldbuilding, although I can’t deny being a little disappointed by some of the things that’ll survive in the decades to come. (Ahem, Twitter.)

And then, of course, FACE-MELTING GOODNESS. (Well, not actual face-melting in the book, but for me figuratively.) I wouldn’t exactly qualify it as being shook — at least tremors, though — but it’s the kind of plot development that makes you sit up straight and clamor for more, like HOLY SHIZZ IT’S ALL HAPPENING. 

Bonus Factor: Space Travel

Space shuttle flying over earth in space

Even though I find space travel fascinating, the idea of interstellar travel that spans half of your life and could be headed towards absolutely nothing is more than a bit terrifying. This book started out reminding me of The Martian, in how the protagonists both have to fend for themselves and also deal with the underrated boredom involved with their situations, but then I realized an even more apt space movie comparison. (It’s a little spoiler-y for the book if you’re familiar with the film in question, so click through at your own discretion.)

Bonus Factor: Mental Health

Rebecca Bunch sitting with her therapist, Dr Akopian, in her office from Crazy Ex Girlfriend

Romy’s been in regular contact with a therapist at NASA ever since her parents’ death, or as regular as it can be with an 18-month-and-growing communication delay. On top of her grief, Romy’s also dealing with anxiety and panic attacks. (As if those weren’t tough enough to handle with on solid ground, SHEESH.)

Bonus Factor: Fanfic

Sam and Dean Winchester surrounded by paranormal creatures in a cemetery.

With nothing but time aboard the Infinity, the ship’s hard drive contains every bit of entertainment created before its launch to peruse. But since Romy can’t exactly stream the final season of her favorite supernatural detective show Loch & Ness, which aired after the Infinity left Earth, she reads and writes fanfic instead. 

Bonus Factor: Pen Pals

Close up of a person's hands while writing a letter

Seeing as J’s the fourth new person that Romy has talked to, like, EVER, it’s understandable that she’s going into their written correspondence with high hopes. Luckily, J is a lot of fun to talk to — so much fun that Romy develops a crush on him before they even meet. 

Relationship Status: My Loneliness Ain’t Killing Me No More

I was attracted to this book for the science, but it really kicked things up a notch down the home stretch. Once it was clear what the book had been leading up to, I could have practically jumped and cheered because OK YOU ARE GOING FOR IT, and I am DOWN TO F… ollow. 

FTC Full Disclosure: I received my free review copy from HarperTeen. This review was originally posted on Kirkus Reviews in exchange for monetary compensation, which did not affect or influence my opinions. The Loneliest Girl in the Universe is available now.

Mandy (she/her) lives in Edmonton, AB. When she’s not raiding the library for YA books, she enjoys eating ice cream (esp. in cold weather), learning fancy pole dance tricks, and stanning BTS. Mandy has been writing for FYA since 2012, and she oversaw all things FYA Book Club from 2013 to 2023.