Monir, Alexandra. The Final Six. Harper Collins, 2018. 352p. ISBN: 9780062658944. $18.99. MS, HS ***
The earth is ravaged by floods and environmental devastation and governments around the world are trying to figure out how to get a colony started on one of Jupiter’s moons. But time is running out and in a desperate attempt to save humankind, the 24 most exceptional and talented teens have been selected to compete for the job. Leo is an Italian with no family left and nothing to lose, and he intends to use his exceptional swimming abilities to make sure he’s on the mission. Naomi is an Iranian American science prodigy, but the last thing she wants to do is leave the Earth and her beloved parents and younger brother. Naturally, the mission is not optional, and as the two become closer they start to see clearly what is at stake for themselves and the whole planet. Too bad they also start to see that the mission is not quite how it’s been portrayed to them, let alone the public.
The world on the verge of a human-created environmental apocalypse that only teens can save is a fantastic premise for a book. The plot unfolds in interesting ways, but there’s something about these teens and the pacing that just isn’t quite there. The romance is pretty unrealistic, even given the unreality of the set up. And the characters use an awful lot of really bad teen logic, despite being the most exceptional 24 young people in the entire world. But the biggest issue with the book is the speed of plot resolution. The first story arc is wrapped up hastily and left me wondering how I was supposed to feel about it. Readers spend 90% of the book investing in the knowledge and growth and determination of young people, only to end with adults upending everything and showing the teensto be pawns. Maybe that is the necessary set up for book two in a planned trilogy.
With all that said the book is not a complete disappointment. The story brings together compelling young people on an earth ravaged by climate change-induced disasters. The drama is high in everyone’s life but in this book that drama is authentic to the time place as families have been ripped apart, cities drowned and global relations obliterated by what is acknowledged to be our own poor treatment of the earth. Exceptional teens from all over the world come together and so the cast is pleasantly international. The main characters are an Italian boy and an Iranian-American girl and they take turns narrating. Naomi is the brains in the book and I appreciate it is an #ownvoices book by an Iranian-Amerian woman (married to an Italian). Supporting characters are from all over the globe, but don’t get much depth beyond small markers of their culture.
This series has already been optioned and the story may play out better on film than the page. In the meantime, recommend to teens who care more about concept and plot than writing or character development.
-Andrea Mullarkey, Berkeley Public Library – Tarea Hall Pittman South Branch