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.
Alenna Shawcross’ parents were taken and presumed to have been killed by the government in the middle of the night when she was ten years old. Ever since then, she has been a ward of the UNA, a super country made up of what was once the United States, Canada, and Mexico. Alenna keeps her head down and believes the government. After all, where does defying the government get you other than in trouble? At the age of sixteen, she is ready to take her Government Personality Profile Test (GPPT), a test used to determine potential for sociopathic or criminal tendencies, and she doesn’t think there’s any way she can fail. Teens that fail the test are sent to Island Alpha, the UNA’s prison island full of violent would-be criminals where the maximum life expectancy is eighteen.
However, after getting injected with her test serum and falling into what she thinks is a trance induced by the test, she wakes up on Island Alpha. She finds that there is a lot more to the island than the government is telling.
First off, I thought this was a great plot idea. The concept of dumping those who can’t be controlled on an island to essentially die was very creative, but it was somewhat poorly executed because the writing quality was stale in some parts (particularly the sappy/romantically charged bits between Alenna and Liam).
The plot was also fairly predictable. For example, it was pretty obvious upon finding out about Island Alpha and that Alenna didn’t think there was any way she could possibly end up there that of course she was going to end up there. It was also pretty easy to guess that Alenna’s parents were not killed when she was ten as she previously thought. This definitely turned into one of those typical rebel-against-the-government trilogies (not that I mind a good government conspiracy story). Stasse did do a great job with her plot twists–I still can’t figure out who the spy is and I guess I’ll have to read the rest of the series to find out!
Overall, I found this book to be absorbing, albeit a little formulaic. I’d give it 3 (and a half) stars, and I’d recommend it to anyone looking for a new dystopian read.