Saturday, November 24, 2012

The Forsaken - Lisa M. Stasse

Title: The Forsaken
Author: Lisa M. Stasse
Publisher: Simon & Schuster, 2012 (Hardcover)
Length: 375 pages
Genre: Young Adult; Dystopian Fiction
Started: November 20, 2012
Finished: November 24, 2012

From the inside cover:

When the rest of the world has given up on you, who will you become?

Alenna Shawcross hasn't seen her parents since they were dragged out of her house by government soldiers of the UNA, a new nation formed from the remnants of Canada, the USA, and Mexico. And now, as a sixteen-year-old orphan; she has failed a government personality test designed to diagnose subversive tendencies.

As punishment, Alenna is banished to the wheel, a mysterious island where all the kids who fail get sent. A place where the conditions are brutal, and a civil war rages between two very different tribes of teenagers.

So when Alenna meets Liam, a charismatic warrior who is planning to escape, she must find the strength to make a difficult decision: to either accept her new life on the wheel, or to embark on a journey that will uncover shocking secrets about the UNA-and her own identity as well.

This received some hype earlier in the year, plus I love dystopian fiction, so of course I picked it up. Do I regret it? Sadly, yes. The Forsaken is unfortunately a victim of genre hype, where a specific type of story (in this case dystopian such as Hunger Games) is insanely popular and a slew of books come out in the same vein but never quite measure up, not just in terms of the type of story but as a story in general.

Right from the beginning there isn't enough world building to satisfy my suspension of disbelief. We're told through Alenna that the UNA formed in the aftermath of economic crisis and famine, but nothing more than that. How did they come to that decision? What exactly did the UNA do to anger the people and incite rebellion? I need a certain level of background information going into a story to make me say "okay, this could potentially happen, let's do this", and I didn't get that here.

There isn't enough character development either. Alenna seems so flat and vanilla, no quirks, nothing that stands out in terms of personality, she's a good girl who follows government protocol and defends it despite the fact that that same government took away her own parents. Gadya is your typical tough girl who flies off the handle, and Liam is a blank slate good guy and warrior who Alenna falls in love with instantly (I absolutely hate that, it's so unrealistic).

I think the thing that most stood out for me was that the book seemed to try to combine elements of the Hunger Games, The Maze Runner, and Lord of the Flies in a way that just didn't work. I admit there are books that combine elements originally used in previous works and it melds into its own unique story even with those borrowed elements...but the way it's done in The Forsaken is just sloppy.

I do have some hope with the sequel though, so I'm willing to withhold complete judgement on the work as a whole in the hopes that this was just a slow start.

Not really worth reading, there are so many better examples of dystopian fiction out there with a better plot, writing, characters, and world building.

Thoughts on the cover:
This is probably the only part of the book I do like. The black silhouette on the white background (reversed on the back), the images in the silhouette, the coloured dots that form the shape of Alenna's face, it's quite impressive.

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