The Last She

­Wattpad. Dec. 2021. 352p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781989365717.
Gr 11 Up–Ara is the only female survivor of a plague that has killed most of the population. Alone for the first time in three years after losing her father, she is taken prisoner by a group of men. Their leader, Kaden, claims he is holding Ara prisoner to protect her and takes her to join the larger clan led by Gabriel. Upon realizing that Gabriel might take Ara for himself, Kaden agrees to help Ara escape. When their escape attempt fails, they face greater dangers than before. This is a fast-paced, easy-to-read story, but depictions of gender dynamics are problematic. Throughout the story, Ara is a captive with varying levels of freedom for her safety. Ara’s autonomy is violated many times as she is often tied up, expected to behave and dress in a traditionally feminine manner, and coerced into a marriage. Despite these violations, Ara focuses on her feelings and attraction to Kaden, even when he acts as her jailer. The implied threat of sexual violence is addressed only when it conveniences the plot, usually when male characters want Ara to obey, and she is sexually assaulted by the main antagonist. Her trauma is minimally addressed; instead, the focus is on her romantic relationship with Kaden. Some readers will be able to look past these issues and enjoy the novel for its premise, action, and romance. However sensitivity is required as some readers may be triggered by the content. The main characters are white.
VERDICT Consider other depictions of postapocalyptic gender dynamics such as City of Beasts by Corrie Wang.

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