Monday, February 25, 2013

The Forsaken by Lisa M. Stasse

Release date: July 10, 2012
Author info: Website | Twitter | Facebook
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Pages: 375
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library
Buy the book: Barnes & Noble | Amazon | The Book Depository
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.
This is a review that I really don't know how to start. I was so excited to finally read The Forsaken since I was convinced it sounded amazing, it had gotten a slew of good reviews, and the cover is just plain awesome. Sometimes I think we have to dampen our enthusiasm, because it sets a high bar, and The Forsaken just didn't live up to the bar I'd set for it. There was boundless potential, but the book was just unable to capitalize on it.

Everyone keeps describing this as Lord of the Flies meets Lost. Now, I've never seen Lost in my life, but I am all over the Lord of the Flies idea. I crazy love that book. I think it's fascinating and revelatory. This book could have easily gone on that vein, and oooooooh I would've died. Instead, The Forsaken takes the predictable, done-a-thousand-times dystopian approach. The government is trying to control its citizens "for their own good" and it has devised a way to rid itself of the people wont to rebel: Prison Island Alpha, or the wheel. This is serviceable, but there's no good exploitation of the consequences of leaving hundreds of sheltered teenagers on an island to fend for themselves. Most of them are just too well-adjusted! I thought the drones were going to be my salvation, but their behavior gets explained away, so we're left to believe that all of those hormonal kids would've totally been able to survive if it weren't for some interference. Okay. Besides, I wanted pig's heads on sticks! (Seriously, if you haven't, read Lord of the Flies. It's fantastic.)

For the first half of the book, I was bored out of my mind. I had to force myself to read, knowing I'd never revisit this book if I put it down. In the end, I was glad I made myself suffer through. The second half picked up a lot and I was treated to twists and turns and blood and all the fun things that make my heart go pitty-pat.  There are a couple of seriously good plot twists that I didn't suspect in the least and that I gasped audibly at. And when I finished the book, I did find myself curious to read more. I want to see the fate of the island and its inhabitants. So mission accomplished there.

I could go on and talk about Alenna and her personality (or lack thereof) and the case of the super-instalove, but I won't. You've probably read it before if you've read other reviews of this book. But I'm left wondering how to recommend this one. I can't say, "Yes, absolutely read it," but I also can't completely warn you off. I guess I'm left with the lame middle ground. If it sounds, like, REALLY good to you, try it out? If not, or if you just really can't stand instalove, skip it? That's really all I've got. I think I've failed... :)

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