Monday, July 30, 2012
Don't Forsake the Dystopia
Do you believe in nature or nurture? I ask my students this all the time. Fate vs. Free Will. Nature vs. Nurture. Can our choices determine who we become? Or are we destined for a specific future? In The Forsaken by Lisa M. Stasse, kids are all subjected to a test to determine whether they will become future criminals. And you don't want to fail this test.
Alenna watched her parents taken from their home by force. She was put in foster care, but even as an orphan, you don't escape the test that determines your possible criminal future. She can't imagine she would fail, but when she is put under for the test, she wakes up on the island, known as The Wheel to the residents of the penal colony. She knows the life expectancy on the wheel is only a few years, but she has no idea how to protect herself. She wakes up next to a boy she hopes she can trust, but when he gets injured, she has no choice but to abandon him and run away with the girl who saved them from the lunatic drones (other kids who follow the Monk). The Monk owns most of the island, but the other kids are struggling to hold on to their last piece of the wheel.
They know their days are numbered, so they plan to find a way into the Gray area of the wheel- the only inaccessible piece that is protected by a strange bubble. But their plan to escape is delayed by attacks from the Monk's drones, sickness, and the feelers- creepy unmanned flying crafts that suck kids up into them. Those kids are never seen again once the feeler takes them. And the Gray area is the only place the feelers could be kept, so the kids know this mission would most likely mean a swifter death for anyone who goes. But that doesn't stop Alenna. She wants to find a way off the island... and she doesn't want to be left behind by Liam. Liam, the strong, fearless hunter, is leading the trip to the Gray area and nothing will stop them from getting there... but what about the Monk, the drones, the illness, and the feelers? How could they possibly make it?
This was a really interesting dystopia. The idea of screening kids for criminal futures and dumping them to survive on their own at a penal colony is terrifying and would be a real eye opener to any young adult. It also brings about the big question of Fate vs. Free Will. I love having this conversation with my students because they can never pick one side and stick with it. It is one of the ultimate unanswerable questions, and I enjoy the discussions it creates. Alenna wasn't my favorite character, though. I found her a little *meh*, and preferred Gadya, the girl who saved her in the beginning. She was feisty and angry, and I appreciated that. I was also confused by David, who just floated in and out of the story with no real purpose, explanation, or conclusion. Even by the end, I had no idea what his real purpose was.
But the rest of the story was really exciting and interesting. It was a dystopia that will appeal both to dystopia junkies like myself and the general population. There is even a little "Love of My Life" action in case you couldn't imagine a dystopia without an insta-love (rolling my eyes). I will definitely read the next book, but I wish there was a little more explanation by the end of this first book. Instead it opens up a whole new can of worms... and then just ENDS. So, if you can't handle the year+ wait, I suggest holding off for the next book, because you are gonna be ticked off by the ending!