Title: The Final Six (The Final Six #1)
Author: Alexandra Monir
Genre: YA Sci-fi
Release Date: March 6th 2018 from HarperTeen
Narrators: Alexandra Monir & James Fouhey
Listening Time: 7 hours, 40 mins
Goodreads Synopsis: When Leo, an Italian championship swimmer, and Naomi, a science genius from California, are two of the twenty-four teens drafted into the International Space Training Camp, their lives are forever altered. After erratic climate change has made Earth a dangerous place to live, the fate of the population rests on the shoulders of the final six who will be scouting a new planet. Intense training, global scrutiny, and cutthroat opponents are only a few of the hurdles the contestants must endure in this competition.
For Leo, the prospect of traveling to Europa—Jupiter’s moon—to help resettle humankind is just the sense of purpose he’s been yearning for since losing his entire family in the flooding of Rome. Naomi, after learning of a similar space mission that mysteriously failed, suspects the ISTC isn’t being up front with them about what’s at risk.
As the race to the final six advances, the tests get more challenging—even deadly. With pressure mounting, Naomi finds an unexpected friend in Leo, and the two grow closer with each mind-boggling experience they encounter. But it’s only when the finalists become fewer and their destinies grow nearer that the two can fathom the full weight of everything at stake: the world, the stars, and their lives.
I had bought this book on a Kindle deal sometime last year but it stayed on my Kindle shelf for quite a while. Then booksandlala on Booktube did a video of space book recommendations and she mentioned this book and I suddenly remembered that I had it. Then, I decided to try the “whisper-sync” option that you can do on the Kindle with the audio and you can switch back and forth between the formats. I figured I was in the mood for another sci-fi book and wanted to see what this one was about, since no one really has talked about it since it came out.
The first thing that I liked about this book was our male protagonist Leo, an Italian boy who lost his family when Italy flooded. The book opens with him living in Italy with his grief after the natural disasters that made so much of the country now underwater. His grief was so potent and raw that I immediately felt for him. He captured a person who lost so much and doesn’t have a lot to live for after such a disaster. Then he gets chosen to compete to be in the Final Six due to his swimming abilities. (He did deep diving in Rome, finding lost objects under the water for people) I felt like he was the most fleshed out character in this first book, as he tries to make sure he makes the Final Six, since he doesn’t have a family to go back home to. He’s desperate to stay and even starts to fall for Naomi. We really don’t get many male protagonists in YA, but he was very well done and I felt his desperation, loneliness and then fighting for what he finds during the space training.
The second thing that I enjoyed was the mystery element of the book. There’s something going on in the background of this space training that the teens don’t know about. It starts small but gradually starts to show its face and that was well done. I liked how there was that sense of panic of something being wrong and how both Naomi and Leo do their best to not only reveal their intentions to uncover this mystery, but how they work together to figure it out. This mystery element made the pacing well balanced throughout the book and while a couple questions are answered, there’s more to come in the final book.
The third thing that I did like was the “entertainment factor.” I needed a book that would entertain me, where I didn’t have to think too hard and that book delivered. If you like reading SFF stuff over summer, this is a great “summer read” since it’s an entertaining book with an interesting (if a little bonkers) premise, likable protagonists and enough of a light mystery to keep you going. I heard that this book was optioned to be a movie and I think this would make a great teen sci-fi movie, letting the film immerse you even more into the story.
The final thing I liked was how this book ended. With this series being a duology, I was somewhat surprised by how this book ended. The author surprised me with not going the route I expected and that made the ending a bit more enjoyable. It leaves you with enough for this book to be satisfying enough, but leave a final thread that makes you want to know what will happen next. Things progressed well and there’s more at stake with the final book.
But now for the cons, the first thing that was disappointing to me was Naomi as a protagonist. She’s an Iranian-American teen (ownvoices rep from the author) whose extremely efficient in science. She has a family to go back to, especially a younger brother with heart failure. But she was a flat character, with barely a personality and she just didn’t never grew much like Leo had with his emotional arc. I never felt like she was much of a character and even her Iranian heritage wasn’t there either. She felt like a one track mind type character and not much else. Her feelings for Leo felt kinda forced when his felt a bit more natural.
The next con was how the adults were in this book. Oh man, I never felt like many of these adults actually cared about this mission or what was happening on Earth. They all just felt so selfish, power hungry and a couple “mustache twirling” villains. None of them, except for two of them, felt like they were actual humans and not just villain plot devices. While many of them were scientists involved with the project, they just felt like stupid humans that should’ve been involved with the mission.
The next con was two things combined: the length of this book and the space training itself. I think this book should’ve been longer to not only develop Naomi and some side characters, but also give us more space training. There were a few sequences of stuff like: how to land on the planet Europa, how to dive through the ice crust to get to the ocean underneath, etc. But these felt short and just “flashy” moments when I feel like the author was trying to hurry these sequences and just get back to the more romance part and mystery part of the plot. The space training is so important since they’re going to one of Jupiter’s moon since they’re trying to find a new planet to live on. These scenes seemed to be over too quickly and it felt like at times they didn’t train enough? Of course, I don’t know hardly anything about how someone trains for space. But the length of the book felt like it made the “space training” parts a little underwhelming and not feel as important.
The final con is the author narrating Naomi. I haven’t had much experience where I listen to audio books narrated in part or mostly by the author themselves, but I don’t think she did a good job. At times, she was reading a bit too fast like the prose was supposed to be read that way. Her voice also didn’t really change for the emotional or shocking moments like expected. They should’ve gotten a professional narrator to do Naomi’s part to get the actual personality of what Naomi had, as well as any emotional weight of the book to come through. While I did enjoy James Fouhey’s narration well enough for Leo, the author narrating Naomi was a snorefest many times throughout the book.
Overall: This book entertained me liked I hoped it would. This is an easy sci-fi book perfect for summer or when you need something easy to pick up. While parts were solid enough, I do think parts really suffered from the terrible, one dimensional adults and the story needed to be longer to bring more to Naomi and the actual space training. But I will say that the mystery was interesting, great male lead in Leo and a solid ending that I am interested in reading the sequel. Is it amazing? No, but it satisfied what I needed at the time.
Rating: .5 stars
Narration: (read the print/ebook version instead, not really recommended)
Have you read this book? If so, what did you think? Do you want to read the sequel? Let me know in the comments!