Sunday, February 3, 2013

The Forsaken Book Review

Author: Lisa M. Stasse. Release date: 2012. Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers. ISBN: 9781442432659.

Annotation: After sixteen-year-old Alenna Shawcross fails the GPPT, a personality test instituted by the harsh, all-controlling government that now controls North America, she is sent to Island Alpha: a brutal, tropical prison where other teenagers who fail the test struggle to survive. The island’s population is in the midst of a civil war between two rival groups of teens, and Alenna finds herself in the middle of the conflict, determined to stay alive and find a way off the island. 

Personal thoughts: Having read and completely loved The Forsaken, I am shocked that I haven’t heard more buzz about it. I have said many times that I am a huge fan of the dystopian genre, but too often dystopian books aren’t super satisfying. That is not the case with The Forsaken, however, which I loved from the first page to the last. I can’t wait for the sequel, and am looking forward to recommending this new series to Hunger Games fans. What an accomplishment for debut author (and librarian!) Lisa M. Stasse! 

Plot summary: After years of war, poverty and violence, North America is now the UNA: an alliance between Canada, the United States and Mexico controlled by a harsh and incredibly strict military government. When she was little girl, Alenna Shawcross’ parents, like anyone else who opposed the UNA, were taken by the government, and Alenna became one of countless orphans raised to respect and obey. At the age of sixteen, all citizens of the UNA are required to take the GPPT: a chemical personality test that can identify individuals with violent or criminal tendencies. After Alenna inexplicably fails the test, she is sent to Alpha Island, a brutal tropical prison where other teens who didn’t pass the GPPT must struggle to survive. The island is in the midst of a civil war between two rival factions of teens: those who follow the Monk, a charismatic dictator whose devotees revere him as a path to salvation, and those who oppose the Monk. Alenna finds herself in the middle of the conflict living with the teens who fight against the Monk and his drones. Amongst the rebels, Alenna meets Liam, a strong and handsome warrior who is convinced that there is a way off Island Alpha. As Alenna learns about the island, she begins to realize that it is much more than a prison, and becomes determined to help Liam, and the rest of her new friends, escape before it is too late.

Review: In her debut novel, digital librarian turned author Lisa M. Stasse delivers a healthy dose of action, adventure, romance and overall dystopian excitement in The Forsaken. The dystopian genre seems to be slowly taking over young adult literature, but Stasse’s novel truly shines as a thoroughly entertaining and well-written book. Fans of The Hunger Games will easily enjoy the fast pace, likable characters, and non-stop action in The Forsaken, which reads much like a futuristic Lord of the Flies. From start to finish, the reader is entrenched in the world of Island Alpha, where teens battle eachother for scarce resources, territory and power. Throw in a protagonist that many teens will identify with, a strong supporting cast of characters, and a romance that refrains from being overly gushy and melodramatic and you have a story with loads of appeal to both male and female teens. The novel has received some mixed reviews from those who consider it to be too much like The Hunger Games, but the author’s ability to have the same tone as the uber-successful series while creating a unique storyline is perfect for teachers or librarians who want to provide teen readers an enjoyable read-a-like. Overall, a successful and entertaining debut novel that will leave fans eagerly anticipating the release of the sequel, The Uprising, in August 2013.

Genre:  Science-Fiction

Reading level: Grade 7+

Similar titles: Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins, Article 5 by Kristen Simmons, Awaken by Katie Kacvinsky, Divergent and Insurgent by Veronica Roth, Chemical Garden trilogy by Laruen DeStefano, Across the Universe trilogy by Beth Revis, The Pledge by Kimberly Derting, Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi, Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi.  

Themes:  Dystopian, post-apocalyptic, control, war, conflict, survival, conspiracy.

Awards/Reviews:  Positive reviews from School Library Journal and Booklist.  
Series Information: First installment in Forsaken trilogy. Sequel, The Uprising, set to be released August 6, 2013.

Discussion questions:

-          What do you think the GPPT is? Why do you think Alenna failed?
-          If you were sent to Island Alpha, which side would you be on? Why?
-         Why do you think Veidman was so distrustful of David?
-       Who was your favorite character? Why?
-         What do you think the feelers are?
-         If you were Alenna, would you have gone on Operation Tiger Strike or stayed at the village? Why?
-         Were you surprised to learn the identity of the Monk? Why or why not?

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