The Forsaken – by Lisa M Stasse
YA fiction has seen a surge of dystopian novels in recent years, some before and many after the success of The Hunger Games. The Forsaken proudly tells a reader “If you love Hunger Games read this!” So, I did. Here’s what I thought:
By 2032 the world has changed. Government as we know it has failed, and Minister Harka has stepped in to lead the United Northern Alliance, or UNA, out of chaos. Crucially, this means removing from society individuals with genetic patterns that suggest a predisposition for violence or discord. At sixteen, each member of the UNA is tested. If you pass, nothing changes. But if you fail, then for the good of society you are taken away and put on an island halfway between Hawaii and Australia designated Prison Island Alpha. Or, as the Island’s unfortunate inhabitants have dubbed it, The Wheel.
Even though her parents were taken from her as rebels years ago, Alenna Shawcross knew she was a loyal, non-violent member of society, so it never occurred to her that the test might not agree, until she wakes up on the Wheel. She must adapt quickly and navigate the Island’s fragile social structures delicately if she has any hope of surviving. Before long, Alenna and her new allies on the Wheel begin to think of escape – but is that a real option? And if so, how high a cost are they willing to pay?
This novel had good elements – an interesting premise, if a tad repetitive in today’s dystopian-heavy environment, a mystery surrounding the UNA’s motives as well as an unlikely backstory for Alenna and what really happened to her parents when they were taken ten years ago. The adventure moves along nicely, and the characters have all got complicated agendas; no-one is who they seem to be. The conflict is real and the consequences just as devastating as you would hope for in a situation with almost no way out.
I thought the comparison with the Hunger Games was more about marketing than anything else: while both stories are set in the future and both have female main chatacters, there aren’t many other significant comparisons to be made.
I was disappointed with Alenna as a main character: for someone who sees herself and is meant to be seen by readers as a strong female protagonist who can look after herself, she spent a lot of time following other characters around, confused or in shock. I appreciate that a sixteen-year-old thrown into this situation would take some time to adjust, but it was much more Bella than Katniss.
The Forsaken is a perfectly standard-issue dystopian YA adventure, with all the expected ingredients, but given the glut of these stories around at the moment, The Forsaken needed to deliver exceptionally well in order to stand out from the many better examples around, such as, yes, The Hunger Games, as well as Uglies by Scott Westerfield, Matched by Ally Condie and The Bridge by Jane Higgins – and it couldn’t quite get there.
Read any YA dystopia lately? How do you like your post-apocalyptic fiction? Medium or well done?