Review: The Final Six
It’s the end of the world as we know it. The effects of global warming are claiming city after city and millions of lives have been lost. Nope, it’s not the front page of the newspaper. It’s the plot of THE FINAL SIX (Amazon) by Alexandra Monir.
Looking to escape an increasingly devastated earth, the international community selects Europa as a site for future colonization. And who better to colonize a distant moon and save humanity than six teenagers?
THE FINAL SIX follows two teens who must compete against twenty-four others for one of the coveted spots on the Europa mission: Leonardo Danieli from Italy and Naomi Ardalan of the United States.
The ocean has swallowed Rome and Leo must eke out a living in what’s left of the doomed city. Having lost his family, who all died in the initial inundation, Leo feels he has nothing to live for and attempts to take his own life. The fortuitous passing of a boat from the European Space Agency is enough to pique his interest into choosing to not die (apparently) and Leo soon discovers that he has been chosen as a possible underwater specialist for the upcoming Europa mission.
Naomi Ardalan is an Iranian-American and self-proclaimed science nerd, whose brains get her selected for the program. Unlike Leo, she dreads the thought of being selected as one of the final six colonists and leaving her younger brother and parents behind. However, when she and Leo form an immediate bond, Naomi’s determination to stay on earth is tested by her desire to be with him. Naomi is also skeptical of the international community’s motivations for the mission. She’s convinced that there’s something mysterious about Europa–and suspects that the contestants won’t be the only lifeforms there when they arrive.
While Monir has planted some mysteries into THE FINAL SIX for the reader to mull over, the plot itself is never a mystery. Naomi and Leo must compete in a variety of tests of skill to show their fitness for the space program. Some people are eliminated in early rounds, but our protagonists they are not. A number of revelations at the end manage to simultaneously be surprising but not unexpected.
Monir's novel brings together a number of classic YA tropes that could be fun, but the writing never ignites the story in a compelling way.
Some of what the novel suffers from is the feeling that the reader is wading through all of the preliminary work of the competition when it’s obvious that the novel is designed to hit a certain point of the story and then lead into the sequel. I like sequels. But I also like reading complete and complex stories with arcs that offer at least some kind of resolution. THE FINAL SIX is mostly exposition and rising action without a real climax or satisfying denouement. While this may incentivize readers to keep going with the series it also makes for a first installment that doesn’t quite feel like a complete story.
A fairly by-the-book (pardon the pun) plot isn’t a big deal for me if I care about the characters. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case here. Despite their vastly different upbringings, interests, and native languages, Naomi and Leo’s POVs are virtually indistinguishable.The label on each chapter is the only way tell them apart, other than remembering that Leo wants to go on the mission and Naomi wishes to stay on earth. To be fair, Monir is trying to cram an awful lot of plot into a limited page count (350) and the multiple POVs may have made it easier for her to move the plot along; however, the two POVs ultimately feel unnecessary.
The love story between Naomi and Leo, while sort of sweet, also seems to be mostly pro-forma. They do seem to share an inherent earnestness, but their main attraction seems to be that the protagonists of YA novels are supposed to fall in love. In fact, when Monir gives them a fade-to-black “first time” scene, it doesn’t feel particularly in-character for either of them. Yes, they’re in love and about to be separated, but the scene feels strangely obligatory, like something that was supposed to be included in the story instead of a part of the natural progression of their relationship.
Monir’s novel brings together a number of classic YA tropes that could be fun, but the lackluster writing–while perfectly competent–never ignites the story in a compelling way. According to the acknowledgements, THE FINAL SIX may be heading towards the big screen. Even though I one that will usually say the book is better, in this case I think the movie might be the more appropriate medium for this story.
- Recommended Age: 11+
- Language: None
- Violence: An attempted suicide by drowning
- Sex: Kissing? A scene that immediately fades to black