Title: The Forsaken
Author: Lisa M. Strasse
Publisher: Simon & Schuster BFYR
This book has an absolutely stunning cover. It’s because of this cover that I picked up this book and purchased it in the first place. The story itself was very reminiscent of the Divergent series for me. The world is controlled by a Big Brother-type government led by Minister Harka, that imposes peace and passivity on its citizens through thought pills. Testing is completed on each person in their teenage years. Those who are resistant to the governments testing are publicly known as “Unanchored souls” and are thought to be citizens who possess the potential to develop into violent criminals later in life. Those who are resistant to the government drugs are sent to “The Wheel” or Island Alpha, a violent and seemingly lawless place wracked by death, illness, and desperation. The protagonist, Alenna, reminded a lot of the “divergent.”
The Forsaken sets itself up nicely to be a thrilling dystopian YA. All the ingredients are there: imposing and controlling government, tough female protagonist who is wronged by the society that bred her, potential love interest who supports his female companion as an equal partner. This story isn’t all that new. However, Strasse still establishes and excellent and compelling concept with the potential to be an interesting series. I still felt as though I’d read this story many times before with only a few slight details altered.
Alenna Shawcross, our main character, is everything you’d want in a YA female protagonist. She is strong, motivated, dedicated, and loyal. This story is a coming-of-age tale for Alenna. Orphaned at a young age, she finds herself and her strength on the wheel. She shows herself to be a determined girl who is willing to fight for her survival and the survival of those who are also wronged by the government. I admit i did really like Alenna as a character, until the end of the story. Throughout the rising action and the climax of the story, I found her to be a tough and persevering young woman. It is only when she gives in to the cliches of teen romance, that she falls into the confines of the overdone teen protagonist archetype.
There were a few aspects of Strasse’s novel that were a bit unbelievable and farfetched, the first being Alenna’s rushed training. Yes, she is trust unexpectedly into an unforgiving and threatening scenario with no training and no known survival skills. And yes, she is a dedicated and determined student, but in nine days, Alenna gains the skills necessary to become a vital part of a scouting party that is training to fight and kill in order to protect themselves and their settlement. Her determination is admirable, but I cannot believe that she becomes proficient in personal attack and defence skills. To become decently skilled in armed and hand-to-hand combat in such a short amount of time seems thoroughly unlikely, especially for a sixteen-year-old girl.
The second aspect that left me feeling doubtful is the romance between Liam and Alenna. She works to keep her distance from Liam for a short little bit, but she soon gives in to her undeniable attraction. These two fall “in love” so quickly, it’s hard to believe that there is anything real between them. Alenna feels closely connected with Liam before even speaking with him. We learn that as children they played together, and their parents were allies in rebellion. This to me seems a little too convenient. I could have accepted them falling in love. The fact that they are reunited after so long, and their romance falls into place so perfectly, seems so falsely orchestrated to me. This story would have been a lot stronger leaving these two as friends, or at least delay the romance until book two.
The cliffhanger ending promises rebellion and uprising among dissidents. I am curious to see how the story will unfold. I hope I am not disappointed. The Forsaken was definitely an enjoyable and easy read, but it’s definitely not the greatest novel I’ve ever read.