Deuce, just turned 15, has undergone her naming ceremony and joined the ranks of the hunters, the most prestigious group in her enclave, College. She has always thought that she would spend her days providing food and protection from Freaks (tunnel dwelling, flesh-eating humanoids) for those who live in her community in the tunnels beneath post-apocalyptic Earth. However, all of her expectations are dashed when she is partnered with the mysterious Fade (rumored to originally be from the surface). As they get to know each other, she is unwillingly exposed to the flaws in the enclave’s leadership, and then the dangers of an unfamiliar world.
Enclave is Ann Aguirre’s first young adult novel (as I understand from Aguirre’s website, she is a best-selling author in the science fiction and fantasy genre), and it is a fantastic read, not only if you like dystopian tales, but also quality fiction, well written and thoughtful of the many issues and themes that it touches upon. I would suggest not reading all of the back cover copy because it spoils quite a few things that would have thrown me for a real loop had I not seen it coming.
Aguirre has the talent to draw the reader into the story so completely that I could see and feel the enclosed spaces of the enclaves in which they lived, the dank conditions that hindered growth into old age, and the strict control of education and knowledge to keep the citizenry under control. It was both spooky and claustrophobic, with its share of grossness – courtesy of the Freaks. It was also interesting to see the way Aguirre delved into gender and sexual politics with androgynous communal roles and carefully limited and monitored sexual reproduction within the enclave. It was evident to me that she had put a lot of thoughtful research into the way a community would operate after being ravaged by disease and with known civilization completely destroyed.
Not to be overlooked by any means is the human element in this dynamic and fast-moving tale of adventure. Fans of romance will enjoy the way Deuce and her partner Fade slowly learn to negotiate their growing friendship within the limits of their society. Both characters are well-defined, which adds depth and complexity to their feelings for each other. Deuce is representative of all the characters in the book, a worthy heroine, strong, a survivor, and far from perfect. She has her crosses to bear and decisions to make about circumstance she had never anticipated. I really liked her, and I am curious to see how she finds her way as the series progresses (yes, there will be other books).
While the end of the world is certainly not a joyous occasion, Enclave, was a joy to read. I picked it up and put it down the same day, after I had finished! Excellent writing, complex characters and satisfying suspense kept me turning pages. Highly Recommended.