Book Review: The Forsaken by Lisa M. Stasse

Lisa M. Stasse’s The Forsaken is not a book I’d anticipated reading any time soon; in fact, I didn’t know anything about it when it arrived as an awesome surprise in my mailbox. The cover didn’t necessarily grab my attention, but once I started reading it, I found it very hard to put down. Let’s put it this way: it’s just a little after 3 p.m. and all I have eaten today is a granola bar and a glass of non-fat milk–all because I was too busy reading the last half of The Forsaken to even consider getting up for a drink of water.

The Forsaken is set in the near future where the United States, Canada, and Mexico have come together as one nation called the UNA (United Northern Alliance). 16-year-old Alenna Shawcross is one of the obedient members of this new society, which follows the leadership of Minister Harka. The Forsaken‘s first chapter lays the foundation for this debut author’s YA dystopian that is a little bit The Hunger Games sprinkled with some LOST. Pay very close attention to that first chapter–all of the details that Alenna gives you about her society will be pivotal to understanding what happens to her later in the book.

Alenna and her classmates must undergo a test called the GPPT, which will determine whether or not they may engage in criminal activities in their future. Having always been a law abiding citizen, Alenna never expects that she could fail this test that you cannot study for and be sent to live on Prison Island Alpha. But after she wakes up from the GPPT, she finds herself on this island and must quickly learn how to adapt to a new way of life. She is quickly taken in by a village of teenagers who do not trust her presence or that of David, the boy with whom she arrived. Alenna and David learn that there is someone on the island–called the Monk–who has a group of followers that often fight against Alenna’s newfound friends. With Alenna’s arrival on the wheel (what the inhabitants have nicknamed the island), they devise a plan to get themselves off the island.

The Forsaken shares a lot of similar themes to some of the most well-known dystopian novels; The Hunger Games and especially Lord of the Flies come to mind. I kept thinking about the technology of this society; could it one day be possible to detect criminals in our midsts before they even know they are themselves a risk to others? If we had this technology, could it also be put to very poor use? I had no idea what to expect when Alenna landed on this island. I wanted to know what sort of crime the test determined that she would commit, but of course nothing is really as it seems on the wheel.

Like The Hunger Games, there is also a bit of romance. However, it isn’t very central to the plot, which keeps its focus on the dynamics between the groups on the island. Stasse kept me guessing about the motives of the inhabitants (is David really a spy from the Monk’s drones?) and about the mysterious message that Alenna finds “written” for her in the rocks (were her parents sent to this island when she was left an orphan all those years ago? Could they still be alive? Are they criminals????). The suspense of it all kept me entertained and on the edge of my seat until the very end.

I thoroughly enjoyed Lisa M. Stasse’s debut novel, and I will be eagerly counting down the days until the next one is released. Meanwhile, I’ll be recommending The Forsaken to anyone looking for something in the same vein as The Hunger Games or who is suffering from LOST withdrawal.


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