In a genre that seems to be all the rage right now (thank you, Suzanne Collins), it’s always nice to find a new YA dystopian series that you just can’t seem to put down. Such is the case with Lisa Stasse’s debut, The Forsaken, which hit shelves last month. The first in a planned trilogy, The Forsaken, is a fast-paced novel that’s unsurprisingly drawing comparisons to The Hunger Games and Veronica Roth’s Divergent series. But you’ll quickly get sucked into the story and soon forget the aforementioned comparisons are why you decided to give it a chance in the first place.
Set in the near future, The Forsaken follows Alenna, a 16-year-old orphan living in the U.N.A., a super-country that was once the United States, Mexico, and Canada. But when she fails a government-mandated test, she’s sent to Island Alpha (a.k.a. The Wheel) where all would-be criminals end up. Life expectancy for prisoners on the island is only two years, so Alenna and the other inhabitants struggle to survive in the less-than-ideal conditions.
Here, Stasse talks about her inspiration for the book, answers some burning questions about book one, and reveals for the first time the title of the next book in the trilogy. Warning: Mild spoilers ahead!
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Where did you come up with the idea for The Forsaken?
LISA STASSE: It actually all started with a nightmare that I woke up from. In the nightmare I was on this totally wild island, and I was being chased by people in dark robes. I knew that it was some sort of prison that I was trying to escape from that I had been wrongly sent to. The dream lingered with me, and I thought, “Oh, that’s kind of a cool gem of an idea.” I just stowed it away. A few days later, I was talking to a friend who has a much younger sister. The sister was getting ready for the SAT, and was totally wigged out about it. It just made me think, “What if I put those two things together?” The terror of a mandatory test that you have to take that you think is going to determine your whole life…. If you failed, you lost everything and got banished to a prison island.
How does it feel to have your book compared to other popular YA series like The Hunger Games and Divergent?
I think that’s fabulous. I’m flattered, and I definitely want to be seen as part of that movement…. I want to bring things that I think The Hunger Games brings to the table which is just to question your environment, the decisions, and the authority that’s around you. Make your own decisions about what you want out of life and what is meaningful. Form your own identity. Don’t let others define you for you. I think that The Hunger Games does a great job of that, and I think that was something I emphasized with Alenna.
In what way?
I didn’t want her to be already formed at the beginning. I didn’t want her to be a super-power girl. I wanted her to be somebody like my readers who has this opportunity to discover who they are. They’re not Batman originally. They don’t have all these massive sets of skills. I wanted her to be sort of a normal, smart girl who learns that perseverance is what can guide her through this experience. She finds that she has strength, and she can make great alliances and can really become a leader.
Without spoiling too much, nothing is what is seems with some of the peripheral characters. Will you come back to Gadya, Rika, and David as the story continues?
Gadya, Rika, and David are pivotal characters in the whole series. Gadya and David both bring some of the attributes that Alenna picks up from both of them. With David, there’s a lot of mystery. Who is David? And somehow he knows more than other people know. So we want to really explore that in book two.
Will there be repercussions for the revelation about the Monk?
Oh definitely. I would say my goal with each book is to raise the stakes…. With book two it goes up one whole level, then in book three I’m going to take it to its maximum intensity. It’s going to take on an even larger scale. So I don’t want to get totally into that, but I have a very definite idea for book three, and only the publisher and my agent know about it right now. But I just really want to take it all the way. I want to shock everyone, and I want to build on everything that I’ve put out there. And that’s enough spoiling. [Laughs]
I’ve seen a lot of positive feedback on the cover of the book. Did you play a role in that?
I wish I had a hand in the cover art. The only thing I can say for my credit is that as soon as I saw it, I said, “Yes! It’s awesome!” The designer is Lizzy Bromley. One of her other cover designs is Wither, the Lauren DeStefano book. One of the reasons I love the cover so much is I feel like it captures a myriad of things at one time. The cover is Alenna. It captures the fact that she’s in a combination of a wilderness and technology center, but her face and identity are not yet fully formed. The cover really captures the spirit of the book. And to be totally specific, the colored lines actually mean something. People who finish the book will understand that it’s about the zones in The Wheel, so they represent the island.
So what about the future of the trilogy? When is book two coming out? And does it have a name?
I just finished the second one, which is due summer of 2013. The title is The Uprising. I haven’t told anyone that yet, so I guess this is the title reveal! [Laughs] The final book, which doesn’t have a name yet, will be out in summer 2014.
Anything else you want to add?
There are some indications that The Forsaken might come to TV, which is something I’m super excited about. So fingers crossed. Nothing’s definite right now. We’re still working on some stuff, and I’m really excited about that.