The book centers around Alenna Shawcross, an ophan. Her parents were taken by the government for traitorous activity when Alenna was young. Now she’s sixteen and on the verge of taking the GPPT- Governement Personality Profile Test- which assesses teens for dormant rebellious or criminal motives. The test searches through the population with a fine-tooth comb, picking out teens with rebellious intentions that haven’t blossomed yet, and shipping them off to a primitive prison island. There’s no escape- countless failed attempts prove this to be true. Even worse is the fact that two tribes of teens war with each other, waging bloody and lethal battles constantly. Even if you manage to survive through these fights, there’s still the chance of getting taken by what the kids call “feelers.” Giant robotic tentacles that come out of nowhere pluck random kids from the villages, never to be seen again. Island Alpha spells certain death, and most kids don’t live past eighteen. Unless you can manage to be the exception. Unless you can survive.
I felt like this book was a brilliant mish-mash of a bunch of other dystopian novels, while also holding true to its own distinctive twist. If The Hunger Games and Gone had a baby, this book would be the result. I read bits and pieces that reminded me of Matched, Divergent, The Maze Runner, and that oh-so popular TV show, “Survivor.” The aspect of the feelers reminded me of that unstoppable machine that the superheroes fight in the movie “The Incredibles.” The Forsaken is like a collage that is bound to please anyone and everyone, especially those who like the previous books I’ve mentioned.
I loved the overall feel of the book. It’s hard to describe, but the theme of the warring tribes gave the book a cannibalistic feel. Not like the eating human flesh kind of cannibalism (ew) but more like living on a primitive island in the Pacific and getting attacked by kids from a deranged cult and just trying to survive. Mentioning kids from a deranged cult, that’s the other tribe. The one Alenna doesn’t pick when she arrives, shocked and stunned, on “the wheel” (the kids’ name for Island Alpha). The kids of this tribe, called “drones” after male worker bees, worship an old, mysterious Monk whose supposed power and miracles draw in numerous kids searching for hope and a way of escape. These drones attack Alenna’s tribe without fear or mercy, slaughtering ruthlessly in the name of their leader. They’ve lost all sense of free-will or thought; while the Monk doesn’t give them physical freedom from the wheel, he does give them freedom from abiding by rules, freedom from decision, freedom from being human. When this sunk in, it really intrigued me and even made me love the book even more.
There was a bit of romance, too, between Alenna and a character named Liam. Liam is the one who devises a plan of escape, Operation Tiger Strike. While I could have gone for a little more romance between the two, I admit that it might have been distracting if there was more. I appreciate that Lisa didn’t focus as much on the romance as much as the adventure, because this is what a lot of dystopian authors do today, and it does get annoying and distracting. Now, there were a couple things I didn’t like, of course, but none of them were big deals. Most of them were just ridiculous aspects like the Jell-O wall that surrounds the island and the way they described the feelers. I’ll admit I kind of laughed at those parts, because they just sounded ridiculous (A wall made of jelly like material? Long tentacles that came from some unseen place in the sky?). But like I said, it wasn’t a big deal and those parts definitely didn’t degrade my opinion of the book in the least.
To conclude this rather lengthy review (this book deserved one of my long rants), I’ll say that The Forsaken is a book you don’t want to miss. It has a great ending; not one of those happily-ever-after endings, but one that possesses enough closure to satisfy readers, has just the right amount of resolution and suspense, and lead into the next book. The plot twist and action had me on the edge of my seat the whole time, and I never wanted to put it down. This surprisingly excellent debut is one you’ll want to have on your shelf.
Quick Content Review: *may contain spoilers*
Language: Mild- Moderate (several h-words, one of two other cuss words)
Violence: Moderate- Heavy (Two tribes of teens war with each other. Violent attacks ensue- there are brief descriptions of several of them. Mentions of teens getting shot with arrows, pierced with knives, and other bloody encounters. Mention of humans being frozen and dissected in experiments. There’s a lot of gritty content- I don’t recommend this book to the squeamish.)
Sexual: Mild (a couple kisses; mention of deranged teens hooking up)