Title: The Forsaken (Forsaken #1)
Author: Lisa M Stasse
On the Shelves: Young Adult/Dystopian
“Alenna Shawcross is a sixteen-year-old orphan growing up in a police state formed from the ashes of Canada, the US and Mexico after a global economic meltdown.
But when she unexpectedly fails ‘the test’ – a government initiative which supposedly identifies teens destined to be criminals – she wakes up alone on a remote island reserved for the criminally insane.
Terrified and confused, she soon encounters a group of other teen survivors battling to stay alive, including Liam, a boy who will become her love… and her lifeline.
Soon Alenna makes the terrifying discovery that there’s more to the island (and her past) than she could ever have guessed… But who can she trust? And can she ever escape ?” (Goodreads 2013)
The Young Adult genre of fiction has found it’s best niche so far. If you go into any YA section of a bookstore , you will undoubtedly see three main things on the covers of books. Firstly: A girl on the cover is highly likely. She will probably be standing in some sort of war stance, looking alert, with knives or guns or weapons visible, somewhere on her person. Because you can’t have “strong female characters” without weapons (hear my sarcasm, but that is another discussion for another day….maybe.) Secondly, there will probably be a stamp, not so subtly on the cover exclaiming the ever popular “IF YOU LIKED THE HUNGER GAMES, YOU WILL LOVE THIS”, and finally, if you read the back, you can’t seem to have a “dystopian” novel without dramatic drum roll A LOVE INTEREST OR TRIANGLE! DING DING DING, WE HAVE A WINNER.
If you haven’t guessed from my sarcasm….I’m very tired at the thought of this book. I’m very bitter over this book, or rather what this book should have been and wasn’t. I’ve given it 2/5 stars, and I at least finished it, which is a shock to itself if I’m honest. (If I don’t like a book, I do not force myself to carry on with it. I have so many books I want to read and so little time due to Real Life commitments that I don’t have the time nor energy to waste on books I am not enjoying.) I went into this book with relatively high hopes, having adored The Hunger Games and various other YA “dystopian” novels (I will recommend a couple of the best ones at the end of this review for you), and Stasse’s Forsaken started off quite strong….not the best of writing but enjoyable and concrete enough. The world building, while not great, was solid and although it could’ve been expanded upon more, the author was clearly in a rush to get the plot going- which is not entirely a bad thing since many books are criticised for being a slow starter. This book is not a slow starter, you are immediately thrown head first into a world where the Government run a test on you at the age of 16 and if you prove to have “Dangerous genes” in you which are apparently known to lead to criminality (The criminology student in me says “very Lombroso, Stasse, well done for that”) then you are shipped off to some mysterious Island in the middle of nowhere. Nothing much is known about the Island or “The Wheel” since those who get shipped there never come back.
My first annoyance at this story, and indeed biggest problem of the whole novel, was the Insta-love. Oh god, the Insta-love. There is no need for it, no reasoning for it, and no explanation for it. And I don’t mean that in a “love defies all logic” argument, I mean “why the hell did she become obsessed with some guy she happened to see on a screen once and is now fawning over him like a carnivore spotting it’s meal when she has bigger problems to worry about! LIKE SURVIVAL. I mean for god’s sake, Alenna needs to get her head screwed on straight and get her priorities right.
My second annoyance was her friend, Gadya (I’d actually forgotten her name, that’s how unmemorable this character was despite the author’s efforts), was automatically written to be a badass female character- or an attempt at one at least. Identified immediately as the only “tomboy” amongst the girls on the island, all tough with weapons and shiznit (there we go again, you aren’t a strong female unless you can wield an axe) she seemed to have a big of a personality problem. Here we have, the unnecessary ~*~love triangle~*~ aspect, or rather an attempt at a love triangle which just flops and flails in the dirt miserably. When the initial love interest fails on it’s own accord then you can’t really build a steady triangle on top of it. So one minute Gadya is being all friendly and chummy with Alenna, and the minute Liam, the unnecssary love interest with no real personality or objective, glances at Alenna (god forbid) Gadya was instantly shouting at Alenna, calling her every name under the sun for stealing “her man” away from her. It just came across at a bad attempt at a love triangle which really had no grounds at all.
Throughout the book, Alenna is annoyingly, constantly obsessing over how “non-special” she is, how “plain” she is, and how no boy ever pays her attention back home. Of course, this means the second the lands on the island, every male (literally every male) shows her attention, and the second they show her attention she is in love with them, Yup, she is one of those characters, oy vey. Not so much a Katniss Everdeen but more of a Bella Swan. I can’t help but feel that if authors are going to write gritty dystopian novels for young adults, allowing them to concern themselves with the bigger issues in the world such as propaganda, government, politics and war crimes, repressed societies overcoming corrupt leaderships, then they need to stick to their guns and not get distracted by the trivial (and non-existant) “love interest” in the story. I’m sorry but if I suddenly got shipped off to some forsaken island where it’s literally survival of the fittest, my biggest worry would certainly not be how to look pretty for the guys.
I managed to fight my way through the second half of this book if only to understand what the hell was going on, and what was going on had the potential to be a strong dystopian novel. I could see what Stasse had originally intended to do and how I wish she had stayed focussed on that aspect instead of the love interest angle because wow, that could have been some great stuff right there- hence the 2 stars and it not ending up on my “abandoned” shelf.
But really…I can’t say I’d recommend this book, sadly. It was such a disappointment for what it was supposed to be.
YA Dystopian recommendations:
The Hunger Games- Suzanne Collins
Noughts and Crosses (#1)- Malorie Blackman
The Knife of Never Letting Go (Chaos Walking #1)- Patrick Ness
The 5th Wave – Rick Yancey
And because it is inevitable in this genre: YA Dystopian with Romance:
Divergent- Veronica Roth
Under the Never Sky- Veronica Rossi
Blood Red Road (Dust Lands #1)- Moira Young
Matched- Ally Condie
Delirium- Lauren Oliver