So I was all set to write a really intricate guest blog post about worldbuilding and my debut dystopian YA novel The Forsaken. Then I started writing the post, and realized that if I finished it, I would probably end up accidentally giving away some huge spoilers about the world of The Forsaken! My novel has some pretty big surprises (part of it is set on a mysterious prison island called "the wheel")—and hopefully a lot of the fun of reading the book is encountering all the twists and turns along the way as the characters try to escape from the island.
So I've decided to keep this piece totally spoiler free and focus on themes and ideas, which are of course related to worldbuilding. With The Forsaken, I was trying to figure out what the globe might look like thirty years from now if things went really wrong (and I mean, REALLY wrong!) with society. In The Forsaken, against the wishes of the people, The United States, Canada and Mexico have become one giant monolithic nation after an economic and government collapse. I wanted The Forsaken to feel gritty and real. Like it could actually happen to us thirty years from now. That's one of the things I love about my favorite dystopians, from 1984 to The Hunger Games. There is something terrifyingly possible about them.
In The Forsaken, I also wanted to explore some dystopian themes that are already lapping at the edges of our society—government controlled drugs, the silencing of different voices, the possible collapse of the economy, and the cruel treatment of people who don't fit in. So from all of this came the basic concept of The Forsaken: That a "good girl" named Alenna Shawcross inexplicably fails a mandatory government personality test that claims she has subconscious rebellious tendencies and a high capacity for violence. Her punishment is that she gets banished to a prison island where the government sends any kids who fail the test. Alenna has to forge alliances among the wild tribes controlling the island, learn to fight back, and also try to outwit the government machines that control the island. Along the way, she falls in love, but also learns some disturbing truths about her society, as well as her own identity. There's definitely romance in there, but in a realistic way. How Alenna ends the book is very different from how she starts it. In fact, I'm hoping that the end of The Forsaken really surprises people! Write to me and let me know your thoughts.
Lisa M. Stasse is the author of The Forsaken trilogy. Book 1 is available July 10 from Simon & Schuster.