Review Blog

Sep 27 2012

The Forsaken by Lisa M Stasse

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Orchard Books, 2012. ISBN: 9781408318805.
(Age: 14+) With an embedded sticker proclaiming, 'If you love The Hunger Games read this!', The Forsaken is very clear about its target audience.
We are in a future world where North America has joined with Canada and Mexico to form a United Northern Alliance (UNA) ruled by a benevolent dictator, Minister Harka. The action soon kicks in; we are given a brief glimpse of a controlling society before being told that once a year, young people of 16 are given a test. If they fail they are relocated to an island, ostensibly a gaol, called Prison Island Alpha. In only a couple more pages our seemingly placid and cooperative protagonist is whisked off to the prison and must survive by her wits alone.
Alenna is a thoughtful narrator. We have access to her every doubt, suspicion, and triumph. It sometimes seemed too much was being explained, analysed, and explored. The plot could have been tighter, although I appreciate some teenagers enjoy extra details and more explanation .
Mysteries are set in place, enemies and friends abound, and the reckless but undeniably attractive Liam seems to have a connection with Alenna she finds hard to resist. Many of the secondary characters struggle to develop authentically. Gadya, the girl who saves and befriends Alenna, is a moody thing - often in turns angry, snarky, then friendly, and of course jealous of the growing friendship between Alenna and Liam. Stasse has no qualms about killing off characters we've come to know, which is meant to make Alenna's situation more dangerous and tense, but ends up seeming unnecessarily violent. Kids appear and disappear, motives are muddled and unresolved, and the big reveal is less than impressive.
The Forsaken sets itself up for a sequel, maybe even more. I'm not sure who will read it. It's a little too cerebral for action fans, and a little too action packed for romance fans. I'm not sure it knows what it wants to be. Themes include resistance movements, dystopian governments, and orphans.
Trisha Buckley

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