Sunday, August 26, 2012

"Open your eyes and greet the world, Huntress. From this day forward, you will be called Deuce."

5 out of 5 stars

If I could, I would kneel at Ann's feet and worship her as a god. I would sit there for hours, or for as long as she would let me, and absorb all the knowledge and wisdom I'm sure she exudes. Because that's the only way I could ever find the talent and capability to write as well as she, if I ever could, that is.

Enclave is Ann's first YA offering and it kicks serious ass. Frankly, and as much as I loved The Hunger Games, if the two were matched in a head-to-head smackdown, Enclave would win hands down and leave The Hunger Games limping, bruised, with a couple of black eyes and perhaps a torn-off ear. It's that good. Then again, Deuce, the protagonist of Enclave, is the natural heir to the bad-assery shown by the star of Aguirre's other series, Sirantha Jax.

Deuce lives in the enclave, an underground dwelling built into the remains of the New York subway system after the second holocaust, in the near (or far) future. It's a hard life: only if you survive the first fifteen years do you get a name; until then, you're only identified as a 'Boy' or 'Girl' brat and a number. During those years, you train as either a Breeder, a Builder, or a Hunter. When you get your name, you also get your arms scarred, the number of which identifies you for life: two for breeder, four for builder, six for hunter. Hunters have the most dangerous life, having to go outside into the tunnels in order to find food, all the while braving the marauding monsters called Freaks. Almost-human, but yet not, with razor-sharp teeth and claws for fingernails, they eat the dead, even their own, and attack anything that moved. They've always been a threat to the enclave, but lately the Freaks are becoming more bold, more intelligent, which makes them even more terrifying.

Deuce is proud of becoming a Huntress, proud that she can now justify her place in the enclave. But she's not so proud to become the partner of Fade, an outsider who joined the enclave after surviving for years in the tunnels on his own. Of course, Fade's not too happy either, especially when the two of them discover some unsettling truths about the Freaks' behavior and it seems as though all Deuce wants to do is carry on the enclave's party line, one of defiant ignorance. That all changes when Deuce slowly begins to question all that she's been told growing up in the enclave, especially when she's put into a situation not of her making which results in her and Fade being exiled. As the two make their way Topside, Deuce finds herself facing new vistas, new truths, and new feelings unlike any she's ever known before.

Deuce is one of those rare YA characters who actually grows and changes as the story progresses. Not always for the good, perhaps, but she doesn't remain the same character she was at the beginning of the novel. Because she's so young when the story begins (even though, in her society, Deuce is seen as grown up), the novel is a coming-of-age tale, albeit one that happens to mix in some knife fighting, ass-kicking, and Freaks. As with her other novels, Aguirre infuses even the most minor of characters with a depth and nuance, peopling the plot with a variety of likable and not-so-likable people who also manage to morph as circumstances change. Then there's the story, which isn't at all straightforward or predictable. It starts at one point, you think you see where it's going, and then it takes a turn. It's full of drama, heart-pounding action, and pathos; there's not a moment where the reader's attention drags or feels overwhelmed by exposition. There's nothing extraneous; it's a lean, tight, engaging book that moves even when the characters aren't.

My final words? I can't recommend Enclave highly enough. If you are a fan of the ever-expanding YA post-apocalyptic genre, you would do well to read Enclave. Once you do, you'll be hooked. Ooh, and then you can join me and we can create the cult of Ann Aguirre! There'll be t-shirts and everything! C'mon!

Creepy guru not included.

Read August 11-13, 2012
Reviewed August 26, 2012

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