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The Only Girl in Town

The Only Girl in Town by Ally Condie


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Book Review

July Fielding wakes up one summer day and realizes that everyone is gone: Her family has disappeared. Her usually buzzing phone has gone silent. She can’t find a single soul in her whole town. And she’s kind of afraid that she’s to blame.

Plot Summary

She can’t find anyone.

No one would say that she was prone to being emotionally overwrought. No one typically doubted her sanity. But one day in the midst of the summer before her senior year, she found herself wondering if maybe one of those things was true.

Because July Fielding was suddenly alone.

And I don’t mean metaphorically alone. I mean really alone. In the whole town.

Well, almost anyway.

July woke up one day and her mom, dad and brother were missing. Oh, and the stuff in her house was all cleaned and neatly put away. (That probably should have alerted her that something bonkers was afoot.)

July then headed over to see Alex, her loyal best friend who always has her back. But he and his family were gone, too.

Then she sought out Sydney, the gal pal who seems to know her better than she knows herself sometimes. But she was also AWOL.

It’s not just people who’ve vanished, either. Even the bugs have disappeared. In fact, the only other living thing in the whole town seems to be her cat, Yolo. Thank goodness for him. Unfortunately, Yolo can’t tell her what he thinks is going on. He’s not much for conversations. He can’t even muster up the will to produce a full meow. His reactions generally come out as a truncated meh.

Still, July goes to great lengths to keep her meh-ing kitty close as they search for an explanation. They’d like to search other nearby communities, but they soon learn that they can’t drive beyond the town limits to find out if everyone else is missing. July gets right to the town’s edge and can go no further. She can’t drive, can’t walk, can’t move beyond some invisible barrier.

It’s like the biggest practical joke in the history of mankind. No, it’s more like an episode from that old Twilight Zone show.

Here’s the thing, though. July is pretty sure that another person is still here in town with her. She notices little changes when she revisits places she’s just been to. And she uncovers mysterious messages saying: GET TH3M BACK.

That, however, sorta suggests that she has some kind of control. And she doesn’t. Does she? I mean, is this whole weird situation … somehow her fault?

Christian Beliefs

People place handmade crosses at a location where someone had died in the past.

Other Belief Systems

July remembers talking to her mother about death. Mom tells her: “I think we’re part of nature. We’re born, and we live then we die. And our bodies return to the earth.”

After 24 hours alone, July earnestly wishes her cat were there, and he suddenly shows up. She then begins to wonder if she has the power to wish people into existence. But she isn’t able to do so.

July remembers sneaking with her friends into a construction site with the crazy idea of holding a ceremony to “summon a spirit.” July begins to wonder if something supernatural is the reason for her current situation. (But it’s not.)

Authority Roles

July is completely alone. But she flashes back to moments with friends, and in a few cases, family. Her parents appear loving in the few scenes we see them in.

In isolation, July thinks about stealing whatever she wants from local stores. She doesn’t do that, but she does break into friends’ houses and dorm rooms. And she does take someone’s sweatshirt.

In July’s flashback memories we see instances of heavy peer pressure that becomes light bullying. One young girl feels compelled to do something dangerous. And someone seriously considers suicide before making a better choice.

Profanity & Violence

There are some uses of the words “h—,” “crap” and “oh, my god,” in the dialogue.

We hear of someone who died while drunk. July isn’t a drinker, but in her isolation, she thinks about breaking into a rich person’s home and “drinking their booze.” We hear of students getting “high” off the smell of Sharpie fumes.

July makes note of a specific rite of passage for her cross-country running team at school. Even though it’s dangerous and forbidden by adults and coaches, the girls run to the top of a cliff and leap into the lake below. Once they’ve made the leap, the jumper is considered “officially” part of the team. If they falter, however, there is the possibility of a life-threatening injury. One of the new members is fearful and then ostracized for not making the jump. (July tries to assure her that she doesn’t have to do anything she’s not fully prepared to do, though the peer pressure is a heavy weight.)

A mom angrily kicks a bedroom door, and a mirror falls off the door and onto a child’s head. (The mom apologizes profusely for her anger.) July falls off a ladder and hits the root of a large tree with her back, tearing her back open “down to the meat of me.” July bandages the bloody mess. July breaks a window to climb into a house. Someone has thoughts of suicide.

Sexual Content

July begins dating a college-age guy named Sam (who’s a good five years older than her). He is kind and respectful, but the two kiss on several occasions, sometimes with passion. July tells of her heated reactions when he hugs her from behind (fully dressed) and when his fingers touch the skin just beneath the edge of her shirt. The two jump together into the lake from the aforementioned cliff, then embrace and kiss in the water, caressing each other’s arms and back.

Teen girls are called “hot.” Girls talk about checking out a guy’s butt. July repeatedly wonders why Sam chose to be with her instead of Sydney, who everyone believes to be very attractive. Sam states that July is both hot and “dangerous.”

An older man makes a whispered, inappropriate sexual comment to July and Sydney. The two girls, feeling uncomfortable, quickly turn and walk away.

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Additional Comments

New York Times bestselling author Ally Condie has created a compelling and thought-fueling novel in The Only Girl in Town. Its short, staccato chapters sweep readers into July Fielding’s peculiar reality: one that’s mixed with flashback memories of all the events that got her there.

This book has some issues, but it broadly addresses the mental health challenges of dealing with sadness, guilt, and even thoughts of suicide. And it resolves, in an eloquent and almost lyrical fashion, by encouraging readers to release bad things of the past and learn to move forward in healthy ways.

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Review by Bob Hoose