Friday, 7 September 2012

The Forsaken


The ForsakenThe Forsaken by Lisa M Stasse (Orchard/Hachette)
PB RRP $16.99
ISBN 9781408318805
Reviewed by Hilary Smillie

As soon as I read the blurb on The Forsaken, the books, Lord of the Flies and George Orwell's 1984 sprang to mind. This is the first book of a planned thriller trilogy, set in the future where Aleena Shawcross is a victim of a police state after a global economic meltdown. Canada, the US and Mexico have been formed into the United Northern Alliance (UNA), and freedom is a thing of the past.

Aleena's parents were taken away when she was ten years old and she lives in Orphanage Forty-One. Minister Roland Harka controls this new nation and every high school student in their junior year takes the Government Personality Profile Test. Failing the test means banishment to Prison Island Alpha. The test predicts a propensity for criminal activity in advance. The orphans have been told psychopaths, murderers and other teenage ill-doers roam the island where there are no rules and no escape.

Now, in 2032, Alenna has turned sixteen and is about to take the test. She is confident she won't fail, but after being subject to the serum injections, she wakes up to find she is on the Island. Feeling ill and disoriented, Alenna is somewhat comforted to find another new arrival, although she is prepared to run in case he is a psychopath. David seems normal enough and he suggests they stick together for protection.

Almost immediately they are captured by a gang of masked teenage boys, or "drones". They belong to the Orange Sector headed by a person they called the Monk. But a girl from the Blue Sector, manages to free Alenna and take her to her village. David, who is hampered by an injured foot, can't outrun his captors and is taken away.

Life on Prison Island Alpha is dirty and dangerous. The average life span is 18 years. There are threats not only from the drones but from mechanical sky-born weapons and mysterious illness.
David reappears with information about Alenna's parents who have inscribed their names and hers on a rock at the entrance to the dangerous Grey Sector. It is somewhere in this Sector the teenager villagers believe their escape route lies to get off the Island. Alenna is determined to survive and discover what happened to her parents. When a plan is formed to go into the Gray Sector, she volunteers. Terrifying adventures lie ahead as more sci-fi elements kick in.

While much of the storyline is dark and depressing, the thriller aspects keep the reader turning the pages. To the author's credit she completes this first book in a very satisfying way and opens up a wider scenario for the second. With its mix of bleakness, endurance, death and hope, mid-range teenagers should find this book a powerful read.

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