Friday, July 13, 2012
The Forsaken by Lisa M. Stasse
As an obedient orphan of the U.N.A. (the super-country that was once Mexico, the U.S., and Canada), Alenna learned at an early age to blend in and be quiet—having your parents taken by the police will do that to a girl. But Alenna can’t help but stand out when she fails a test that all sixteen-year-olds have to take: The test says she has a high capacity for brutal violence, and so she is sent to The Wheel, an island where all would-be criminals end up.
The life expectancy of prisoners on The Wheel is just two years, but with dirty, violent, and chaotic conditions, the time seems a lot longer as Alenna is forced to deal with civil wars for land ownership and machines that snatch kids out of their makeshift homes. Desperate, she and the other prisoners concoct a potentially fatal plan to flee the island. Survival may seem impossible, but Alenna is determined to achieve it anyway.
The Forsaken will probably get more The Hunger Games comparisons than some of its dystopian contemporaries because of the whole "kids killing kids" thing, but from my perspective, the two are primarily similar in that while I like them both, I'm not over-the-moon with either.
My issue with many other dystopian books I've read is that the setting doesn't make a whole lot of sense, but I actually really like this premise. There's a nice blend of technology and wilderness; the combination results in a occasionally bizarre feel just because The Wheel and everywhere else are so different, but it's cool to see the contrast nonetheless. I only wish there was a bit more about Alenna's life before The Wheel since, while I appreciate that she goes there early and the action begins more quickly, I think establishing a more solid introduction to the "evil" part of the world would have helped. Still, I understand why it wasn't, since The Wheel has enough politics and issues on its own, all of which are compelling. I enjoyed reading about all the inhabitants' constant paranoia and mistrust, as well as their bloodthirsty sides, since it made The Forsaken have constant tension and action even though the larger threat didn't appear until far too late.
I'm a bit less enthused about the characters, though. I like Alenna well enough, mostly because it takes a reasonable amount of time for her to transition from "I just want someone to pick me up off this island" to "I will fight my way off the island." It's a nice change, one that shows her faults and strengths in equal measure, and thus makes her rather sympathetic. Some of her peers, though, man. She and her love interest have no chemistry whatsoever, and her fixation on him honestly just made me mad because he's so boring and their relationship moves far too quickly. I liked the guy who should have been more of a love interest far more, since he has some ambiguity that makes his actions more intriguing than everyone else's. The rest of the cast just didn't sit well with me; some of their actions seem unfounded and for some reason their dialogue just seemed off. Maybe it's their penchant for exclamation points, but whatever it was, I just wasn't a fan.
The characters, besides Alenna, leave much to be desired, but the premise and action, plus the promise of excitement in future installments, made The Forsaken at least enjoyable for me.
Book details: Simon and Schuster/Hardcover/$16.99
Source: sent by publisher for review