The Forsaken by Lisa M. Stasse
Publication Date: July 10, 2012
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers
Target audience: Young Adult
Keywords: dystopia, sci-fi, exile island, corrupt government, orphan
Format read: ARC from Simon & Schuster at ALA.
Summary: Alenna undergoes a government test to analyze her compliance and is sent to The Wheel, an island where other teenagers are sent upon receiving negative test results, where she must fight to survive.
From the first chapter, I like to be drawn into the world – I want to feel so connected that it seems impossible to put the book down. When a book makes my heart pound and my pulse race, that can only mean I’m feeling intensely invested.
The Forsaken immediately caught my attention and I was full of anticipation for what was to come.
Alenna lost her parents to a government invasion of her home when she was ten years old, leaving her orphaned. At sixteen, she undergoes a government mandated test to make sure she’s compliant and won’t cause any trouble. Anyone found troublesome is sent to The Wheel — an island where the average life span is 18 years old. Alenna is put under for the test, and the next thing she knows, she’s waking up on The Wheel.
She finds herself with one other person, David, and they’re quickly surrounded by the drones. The Wheel is divided into sectors ruled by the drones (scary teens who wear capes, paint their faces, and blindly follow a masked man called the Monk) and the villagers (a “normal-ish” group who tries to make the best of their bad situation). Alenna is rescued by a villager while David is overtaken by drones. This is as far as I’m going to get into the story because I don’t want to risk spoiling any of the surprises.
Alenna, as a character, was initially very weak. Pre-exile, she tried to fly under-the-radar, hoping to avoid standing out. She never quite felt like she belonged anywhere and was kind of a loner. The island is the first place where she connects with other people her age. Coincidentally, people who also felt the very same thing. As she learns to navigate the island, she forms friendships with a few characters that give her more reason than her survival to fight for a way off the island. And she maybe (just maybe…) falls in love for the first time.
One of the most fascinating aspects of The Forsaken was the comparison between the drones and the villagers. It was like a comparative study on the effects of what can happen when you’re thrown into a life or death situation. Do you seek survival and civilization or do you become corrupt and lose all sense or normalcy since you’re going to die anyway? The drones cling to the hope of the Monk and the villagers attempt to build an equal(ish) community where everyone has their role.
The Forsaken was a surprising mix of a lot of my favorite things — sci-fi, a dystopian setting, and elements that made me reminisce other favorite books (The Host by Stephanie Meyer and The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins). Please don’t misinterpret my comparison to insinuate that Stasse’s book is a replication of either of those books; it stands on its own and her ideas constantly caught me off guard. I do believe that if you are fans of The Host or The Hunger Games you should definitely pick up The Forsaken.
Stasse’s writing is gripping from the very beginning. There’s always, always a task or a next phase. Always something to learn. The story is constantly progressing, always moving forward. Stasse’s writing was strong and intelligent, and the dialogue always very intentional. Definitely, definitely check out The Forsaken as soon as you can. I shall patiently wait for the story to continue.