Title: The Last Beginning
Author: Lauren James
Publisher: Walker Books
It is 2056 when 16-year-old Clove Sutcliffe discovers she is adopted. Her biological parents, Matt Galloway and Kate Finchley, were political activists. They have been missing since Clove was a baby after exposing the English government’s development of a biological weapon. Clove’s adoptive father, Tom, is Matt’s brother and now works with his wife, Clove’s adoptive mother Jen, at St Andrews University in Scotland. Together they have been working on time travel. While completing work experience with her parents Clove decides to search for her biological parents with the help of Spart, their Artificial Intelligence. Spart discovers several records of Matt and Kate throughout history with the earliest record from 1745. Clove cannot resist the temptation to travel through time to investigate, with Spart’s assistance. By doing so, however, is to potentially change history and the entire world.
It took me a little while to settle into the rhythm of this novel. Clove did become a likeable character and her emotional turmoil felt after discovering her abandonment and adoption is raw. She is also battling with her feelings for her best friend Meg. Meg is falling in love with a boy and Clove is confused as to how she really feels about her. When Clove meets Ella, the love of her life, her friendship with Meg settles. Yes, Clove is a lesbian and her sexuality is just another part of who she is. It does not help or hinder her ability to time travel and perform her scientific and heroic deeds. The portrayal of Clove’s sexuality was important to Lauren James, as can be seen in her post here.
I applaud James for this. She has successfully created a world all readers can identify with, adding to the growing wealth of diverse YA fiction.
The documentation of real historical events, and at times possible alternate histories, are interesting elements woven into the narrative. Readers will be encouraged to find more about the events discussed.
There are twists throughout that will keep readers’ attention. While you may predict what might happen next, there is always a little more to keep you on edge.
This book will appeal to a wide audience. I enjoyed both the science fiction and the historical fiction perspectives. Their collaboration made an intriguing cross over. A satisfying read.
Thank you to Walker Books for supplying this book for review.