The Forsaken (The Forsaken #1)-Lisa M. Stasse
Rating: 3.5/5 stars
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. (Description from Goodreads)
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Dystopian novels have had a lot of press lately – there are a lot more YA books popping up on the market and each one tires to be fiercer than the next, to gain the upper hand. ‘The Forsaken’ is no different, mixing action and near-death escapes to bring about an interesting start to a new series.
Alenna Shawcross has had a tough life – she grew up in a state orphanage all because her parents were deemed criminals and taken into custody – not the best way to end your childhood. But when she finally reaches the age of 16 and must take the nation-wide criminal test and fails; her life takes another dive. I had mixed feelings about Alenna, mostly because of cover expectations. The Australian cover is so powerful; you imagine Alenna is a super fierce and active young woman; that she's pretty skilled with a bow - that nothing can stand in her way, but in actual fact she took quite a while to get to that stage. After failing the criminal test and being sent to Alpha Island One (where all teens are sent for failing), Alenna struggles to adapt to the “survivor” lifestyle; she can’t fight, but doesn’t want to be a pacifist like some of the other islanders. I didn’t like that Alenna took so long to find her feet. For a book that’s all about surviving and fighting, I really wanted her to harden-up faster. But she did get there, and it was fun to see her stand up for what she wanted and believed in by the end.
I really liked the way the island was broken up into three sections; although not equal sections. The blue – Alenna’s section – which is full of villagers who are trying to survive as best they can; the orange sections, where the “drones” live - mindless teens who blindly follow the orders of “The Monk” as though he is their god; and the grey section, a cold and uncharted section that seems to hold answers to the teens’ escape. I really liked this dynamic – the way, despite being randomly sent to the island for not following the same order back home, those exiled still attempted to form their own type of civilisation – it was all very ‘Lord of the Flies’: stranded teens running amuck on an island!
I thought the world itself was pretty interesting. The countries we know had been restructured, but names were still similar and old living situations were still known; so it wasn’t set too far into the future. Government control is strong in the US-equivalent state, with all members of society trained to think the same; any deviation was a sign of free thinkers and often led to criminal test failure. I would have liked to see and experience more of this world, but since we were following Alenna’s path and she was unaware of the government’s internal structure, we missed out on that insight. But maybe we’ll see more in future books.
The end of the book picked up the action and movement that was missing from the start. The search for an escape takes over everyone’s thoughts and Alenna is given the chance to show off her fierce side. I’ll be interested to see where the story goes next.
(Originally posted on Goodreads)