Last of Her Name by Jessica Khoury Book Review

This is an example of a pretty-much equal feeling of optimism and uncertainty. I liked a lot about this book, especially its ending, but its aftertaste kind of rings hollow. 

Stacia Androva’s home planet has had the resources to care for her and her two best friends Clio and Pol. Their energy is given through Prisms, crystals with powering abilities. The trio’s lives are turned upside down forever when Alexei Volkov, his intimidating gaze below his blond hair effective because of everyone knowing him as the executor of the Romanova family, arrives on his spaceship. He’s the leader of the Union, a relentless dictatorship unwilling to ask questions later. He says Anya Romanova, the last descendant of the family, has been living in hiding for years at this planet and demands to be handed over or else all the children will be terminated (no, murdered, that’s the proper way to say it) to avoid chances. And the mayor decides to blab and say…Stacia is that girl. An unexpected explosion and a dart  of a getaway at the hands of Pol allows her to escape but Clio was unable to come with them, and her best friend, her community, as well as the parents she thought she knew as hers, are all in captivity. Now on the run from the universe, she has no idea how to rescue her friend and family, nor how much of her old life was a big lie. She also is really unsure if she’ll ever have a chance at starting a new life, the chances of her capture and death astronomically high.

According to the blurb, this is a fugitive book, and I’m always game for one of those. Whether it is someone who escaped from jail to dream of a better life or someone wrongfully accused and out to find the real criminal, fugitive stories have a protagonist having to start off with not a clue in the world and having to figure out how he or she will outsmart highly trained and educated authorities and keep themselves sane as the threats spike every day, and having no certainty every night they’ll go to sleep and not wake up pre-handcuffed. I guess I wanted a little bit more of that than I got. There’s also a side story involving a well-known mental illness, and it’s meant to convey heartbreak and acknowledgment of those in real life who live through it, but the execution of what takes place as a result of it I just didn’t quite buy.

The biggest complaint I have with the book is how humungous of a world is invented and it only goes through one book. That could also be seen as the biggest compliment, however. Normally I don’t like standalone adventures with giant premises because I feel that makes the story have to rush through the societies and environments crafted by this premise without the promise of being able to explore it further. Then again, it also promises big things will happen in the end. And they did. I also appreciated its inspiration from the mystery of Anastasia Romanov. As someone who grew up with the 1997 animated movie I care about the history of the horrific Romanov massacre from 100 years ago.

The ending brought out a healthy political message I strongly advocate for, and delivered it well by unexpectedly comparing it to the whole meaning behind the story we just went through. Before that happened, the climax was unexpected and caused thoughts through my head of what the heck will take place now in the coming years. Both were delivered in ways teen novels don’t usually aim for. These two things make me feel extra bad giving it such a sub-par rating. The twist has a clever way of looking at what we will do when our easy gratification is threatened, even if we only think it is being threatened. Last of Her Name isn’t a bad book, and I may have to revisit a few pages to see if my opinion will have changed. I just felt I should’ve been enjoying reading it more.

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