The Forsaken

The Forsaken by Lisa Stasse

Fabulous cover. Love it.

As an obedient orphan of the U.N.A. (the super-country that was once Mexico, the U.S., and Canada), Alenna learned at an early age to blend in and be quiet—having your parents taken by the police will do that to a girl. But Alenna can’t help but stand out when she fails a test that all sixteen-year-olds have to take: The test says she has a high capacity for brutal violence, and so she is sent to The Wheel, an island where all would-be criminals end up.The life expectancy of prisoners on The Wheel is just two years, but with dirty, violent, and chaotic conditions, the time seems a lot longer as Alenna is forced to deal with civil wars for land ownership and machines that snatch kids out of their makeshift homes. Desperate, she and the other prisoners concoct a potentially fatal plan to flee the island. Survival may seem impossible, but Alenna is determined to achieve it anyway.(Goodreads)

The Story:

When she was just ten years old her parents were carted off by UNA soldiers and Alenna was sent to live in a government-run orphanage.  Now, at sixteen, Alenna attempts to go through a personality test deemed mandatory for all citizens, but awakes to find she’s failed the test and been exiled to live on an island referred to as The Wheel.

Life on the island is a nightmare.  It’s a place designated for would be criminals and the like and Alenna is frightened, shocked, and immediately concerned for her safety. The Wheel is sectioned off, almost all factions controlled by the Monk, a man with strangely devoted followers who are brutal and savage in their blind, religious admiration for him.  Alenna, thankfully, is quickly pulled into another sector, a smaller group of villages being led by a young man and his girlfriend. They’ve survived the island for three years (apparently no small feat) and are constantly worried about spies and the constant barrage of attacks by the Monk’s drones.

It is here Alenna learns to be a warrior.  She teams up with a fierce girl named Gadya. Gadya notices right away that Alenna is attracted to Liam, her ex-boyfriend and guuuuuurrl, that does not go over well.  She issues the patented Don’t go there, bish, and Alenna vows to steer clear of Liam (guaranteeing him to now be the absolute hottest guy on her radar, right?). Except that she and Liam can’t stay away from each other; they have an undeniable something.  And when the time comes to pull together a team to go on an expedition to explore the mysterious “gray area”of the island in the hopes of finding an escape, Alenna jumps at the chance, first because Liam is going and she wants to get closer to that shirtless wonder, and second, because she’s heard that her name is written on the rocks there, perhaps a message left by her parents years earlier when they were taken from her.

My Take:

Man, this premise rocks.  I was really, really psyched to read this book. For the most part, it was enjoyable, but I had some issues.

To begin, I couldn’t get into Alenna as a character.  She wasn’t bad, she just wasn’t super-interesting.  I liked that she wanted to find the message from her parents, and I liked that she was brave, but she just didn’t do it for me otherwise.  She’s not unlikable, but there really in nothing notable about her.  Characters like Liam and Gadya instantly outshined her, which is weird since Alenna is the main character and the voice of the story.

On Liam, this is where I struggled.  He is the guy I want to crush on. His first appearance, all tan in his blue-eyed shirtless glory, and later, as I found out what a strong warrior he is, and how sweet is he is Alenna- well, it was a good start. I thought he’d be golden, but somehow, somewhere, Liam and Alenna go from attraction and skirting around the sexiness to I WILL RISK MY LIFE FOR YOU MY LOVE (and not just cuz you’re my teammmate, but because we have a strange form of instalove). I can’t explain it. I rooted for them and I really wanted them to be together, but there should have been more development and different pacing.

There were some things in the end that felt predictable as well, but overall it wasn’t a bad book. More than anything, it felt like a missed opportunity, something that could have been amazing but just missed the mark.

Crush Intensity: 2.0-3.0 I really don’t know what to say here.  I’ve laid out what I liked and disliked. At the same time, I might read the sequel to see if the story gets better.

Thank you to Simon & Schuster for sending me a copy of The Forsaken!

The Knife of Never Letting Go

The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness

Prentisstown isn’t like other towns. Everyone can hear everyone else’s thoughts in an overwhelming, never-ending stream of Noise. Just a month away from the birthday that will make him a man, Todd and his dog, Manchee — whose thoughts Todd can hear too, whether he wants to or not — stumble upon an area of complete silence. They find that in a town where privacy is impossible, something terrible has been hidden — a secret so awful that Todd and Manchee must run for their lives.
But how do you escape when your pursuers can hear your every thought? (Goodreads)

The Story:

In thirty days Todd, the last boy in Prentisstown, will turn thirteen, officially making him a man.  For reasons unclear at the time, Todd’s guardians, Ben and Cillian, tell him to flee the town.  They send him away with a backpack and a book from his long-dead mother. They don’t explain why he has to leave, but they tell him that it’s urgent.  In fact, it’s a matter of life and death.

They can’t tell him more because of the Noise.  The Noise has stripped men of their privacy and left every man’s thoughts open for all to hear. It’s a disease viciously spread by the Spackle who once inhabited the planet.  And worse, not only did it shed light on the secret thoughts of men, it killed every woman in existence. But Ben suggests that perhaps there are places other than Prentisstown—towns where there is no Noise.  Places where life is different from home; where Todd can finally be safe.

Frightened and uncertain, Todd leaves with his dog, Manchee, and embarks on a journey that he doesn’t totally believe in.  He just wants to be home.  By the outskirts of town he discovers something amazing—Viola, a young girl (something he’s never before seen).  Viola’s family is dead and she reluctantly joins Todd as they are both eagerly pursued by Mayor Prentiss, Aaron (the young, evil preacher from town) and an army of men set on capturing them.  They have no idea why they’re being chased, but they push forward, moving from town to town—never quite safe and never entirely sure who to trust.  They are in search of a place called Haven, a place where there may be safety and there may be a cure for the Noise.   They aren’t even sure that such a place exists, but they trudge on together in the hopes of finding something other than the evil that is always only a few steps behind.

My Take:

You guys, this book tore me up.  The start was a tad slow, mostly because I was as confused as Todd, trying to make sense of the folks in Prentisstown, their backward ways and all the damn Noise.  But soon, very soon, I was engrossed.  I wanted to protect Todd and Viola, two poor kids who don’t know where they’ll find a friendly face.  They barely know if they can trust each other.  And still, they got to me, as did sweet little Manchee (whose thoughts you can hear as well).  And the end.  Oh the end ripped my heart out and left me wanting more.

This story is more than just one of survival.  It’s about the actual journey these two take emotionally.  It’s about how they are driven by the tiniest shred of hope and how, as they learn to trust each other, they push on for one another.  This is not a kissing book. There isn’t a hint of romance or swoon, but it grabbed my heart all the same.

Crush Intensity– 5/5 It was fantastic.  Totally different, but excellent just the same.

The Way I See It:

Asa Butterfield (from Nanny McPhee Returns, among other films) as Todd.

Chloe Moretz as Voila.  And, if you can’t already tell, I just saw a preview of Hugo, the film Asa Butterfield and Chloe Moretz are doing together.  I couldn’t erase these kids from my head as I thought about Todd and Viola.