Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Review: The Forsaken by Lisa M Stasse

The Forsaken by Lisa M Stasse
Series: The Forsaken, #1
Published: July 10th, 2012
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
375 pages (paperback)
Genre: Young adult dystopian
Acquired this book: Bought
Warning: May contain spoilers
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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.
While dystopian isn’t my favourite genre, I do enjoy reading it occasionally, especially when I come across a story like The Forsaken, which has an interesting, different concept. In a not-too-distant future, governments have fallen, and Canada, the USA, and Mexico have come together to create the United Northern Alliance (UNA), under the leadership of a tyrannical, power-hungry man. At the age of 16, each citizen of the UNA is forced to take a test that will determine if they have violent tendencies; the ones who do get sent to Prison Island Alpha, aka “the wheel”, where kids either become ‘villagers’ - kids who live mostly normal lives (or as normal as you can get stuck on a desolate prison island) - or ‘drones’ - kids who are under the leadership of The Monk, a madman who brainwashes kids into violent, mindless killing machines. When Alenna fails the test and gets sent to the wheel, she’s rescued by the villagers, and immediately becomes part of a plan to defeat the Monk and get everyone off the island.

I suppose the reason dystopian isn’t among my top genres of choice is because I prefer character-driven stories, while dystopian seems to be centred on action. I like to see character growth, development, and self-discovery, and for the characters to learn things, not only about themselves, but also the people/world around them. While the characters in The Forsaken were fairly well developed, I missed that growth and self-discovery along the way.

That being said, I tried to keep in mind that the regular rules don’t necessarily apply in dystopian novels, because they are centred on action. And that’s something The Forsaken had plenty of. The action in this book was exciting, scary, and sometimes even gruesome. I thought it was all really well done, I just wish there’d been more of it because the parts in between were often kind of slow. I liked that there were twists and turns and that you were never really sure who to trust. As soon I thought I had things figured out, I learned I was wrong, and I love when that happens in a book.

Something else I feel tends to go wrong in dystopian books is the romance. Unfortunately, that was the case with The Forsaken. The romance bordered on insta-love, and even if you can overlook that, when you realize the story takes place over the course of two weeks, you see just how fast things move and how unrealistic it seems. I didn’t even really get why Alenna and the love interest liked each other, but they did right from the first minute, and things progressed from there as they kept getting thrown together. I mostly liked them as a couple, but the romance as a whole was pretty lackluster for me.

Overall, I enjoyed The Forsaken. I thought Masse did a good job executing an original concept and building a world that was both frightening and realistic.

Favourite Quote:
“I don’t need time to think about his idea. It’s crazy, ill thought-out, and probably doomed to fail. ‘Let’s do it!’ I yell.” ~ page 334

Have you read The Forsaken? What did you think? Do you like dystopian novels? What are some of your favourites?


  1. I've read quite a few dystopian novels, though probably not as many recently as I did when I started my blog.

    For me, the big draw of a dystopian is in what unique way an author has decided to use their society to highlight things that are messed up in ours, and then how they choose to use their lead characters to show some type of hope that the human spirit can prevail, and that the cracks can, with time, be mended.

    I agree with you regarding characterization vs. action. But then, with any form of speculative fiction this is more likely to happen, since at least part of the point is having an external and internal plot.

    It can be hard to balance when things go boom, bump in the night, or whatever--and then relate it to the characters without beating the reader over the head with what the story is trying to get at. I think that sometimes the externals are a crutch, sometimes there just isn't enough room within the story's pacing for things to fit right, and then sometimes we get lucky and it works.

    I also think that every reader brings certain expectations and quirks to the books they read. For instance, the timeline of a romance--whether it developed over weeks, months, or years--is something I never considered in fiction until I started blogging about books. Whereas in real life, with how unstable things are, I think most of us are kinda moving one day at a time. (That's kinda why I'm *into* romance in fiction--I like the idea of something turbulent and scary becoming solid for the characters; I feel like they earn it and through witnessing that it reminds us that love is worth the struggle, effort, etc.)

    Anyway, this is becoming a novel and I've got one of those to write so I'm gonna end it here. :) Very interesting hearing your thoughts. This book seems to have quite a premise. :)

  2. I have never read a dystopian novel before, but I might read this one.

  3. I have grown to have a love/hate relationship with dystopian novels. I used to LOVE them, but now I don't know if I can take it. I have a couple series I already started to finish but I doubt I'm going to start too many new ones. The insta-love and the love triangles and the insanity with the governments and poor choices that often get made... I'm growing more fond of contemporary. I do love that quote though. ;)

  4. I'm actually a plot girl but, yes, I need at least some character development. I'm getting so sick of the insta-love too. It takes time to love someone. Sheesh!

  5. Insta-love, and no character growth? NOOOOOOOO. *sob* Dystopians are SO hit or miss with me.

    PSST you should really, really really give Erin Bowman's TAKEN a try. Is that the one I said I'd give up brain twin status if you didn't like? I don't know if you'd love it like I did, but the romance is NOT intsa-love, the world-building is creepy good, and there IS loads of character growth, I think. Gray is one of THE most fascinating anti-heroes I've ever read. Ever. Ever.

    Anyway, lovely review. The Forsaken is somewhere in the back of my mind as a book I want to try, and I'm glad you did enjoy it!

    Molli | Once Upon a Prologue


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