Title: The Forsaken
Author: Lisa M. Stasse
Published: August 02 by Orchard Books
First Published: July 10 by Simon & Schuster
Buy: The Book Depository
I remember my initial response to The Hunger Games. The whole concept of the reaping and the games had been something completely new and exciting to me. It was entirely horrific, of course, the thought of children fighting to the death, but there was just something about that idea that made it an exhilarating read. In a way somewhat reminiscent of that, The Forsaken had me almost giddy with excitement. It’s been a while since I’ve been completely captivated by a dystopian system, but I couldn’t help but admire Lisa M. Stasse’s insanely vivid creation.
In the United Northern Allegiance, all citizens are required to take a compulsory Government Personality Profile Test – a test which is able to separate criminals from ordinary civilians. Anyone and everyone who fails the GPPT, is sent to Prison Island Alpha, a desolate place where the life-expectancy for each ‘unanchored soul’ is eighteen years. Our protagonist, Alenna Shawcross, wakes up on the island after her test and is quick to discover that Island Alpha has its own rules. Its inhabitants, the so-called ‘criminals’ rooted out by the test, refer to Island Alpha as the wheel – it is split into sectors and each sector is run by different tribes. The tribe that ‘owns’ Alenna (for she first appeared in their sector) runs the only sector that is opposing the Monk and his loyal drones. For Alenna, this means learning to quickly adapt to the brutality and uncertainty of life on the wheel... The only other option is death.
This was such a gritty story, and impressively so. As soon as we are on the wheel - and it doesn’t take long at all - the story becomes fast-paced and charged with adrenaline. The world that Lisa M. Stasse creates is a vivid one, with its jungle-like surroundings and feral teenagers. I loved the concept of the sectors, and the on-going animosity between the tribes, and such an idea provided for plenty of action. Admittedly, the middle ran at a slower pace and began to drag a little, but the last third or so of the book bought the story back into gear. There are so many unexpected twists and discoveries nearing and beyond the climax – most of it responsible for my overall enthusiasm for this book.
As much as I loved the complexity of the story, especially towards the end, I had a difficult time appreciating some of the characters. Alenna is… forgettable. There is nothing particularly frustrating about her, but nothing very striking or admirable either. Liam, the love interest, was not quite as riveting as I had hoped, but he was much easier to appreciate than Alenna. There was an eye-roll or two when Alenna described how very inexplicably drawn to him she was, but this, believe it or not, is not the cliché it appears to be. Still, I didn’t know this until I had reached the end, so it frustrated me to some extent. The romance itself felt a little rushed, and maybe even a little unbelievable at first, but it did improve greatly as the story progressed.
Despite the slight issues I had with the characters and their relationships, the story itself was too thrilling for me to really be bothered by it. This is very much a plot-driven book – but that’s not to say readers who prefer good characterisation over good world-building won’t be able to appreciate this too. It’s unpredictable and engaging with a strong element of mystery and I can very easily see this being adapted into a movie.
Rating: 4 stars