Author: Ann Aguirre
Rating: DNF/2 Stars
In Deuce’s world, people earn the right to a name only if they survive their first fifteen years. By that point, each unnamed ‘brat’ has trained into one of three groups–Breeders, Builders, or Hunters, identifiable by the number of scars they bear on their arms. Deuce has wanted to be a Huntress for as long as she can remember. As a Huntress, her purpose is clear—to brave the dangerous tunnels outside the enclave and bring back meat to feed the group while evading ferocious monsters known as Freaks. She’s worked toward this goal her whole life, and nothing’s going to stop her, not even a beautiful, brooding Hunter named Fade. When the mysterious boy becomes her partner, Deuce’s troubles are just beginning. Down below, deviation from the rules is punished swiftly and harshly, and Fade doesn’t like following orders. At first Deuce thinks he’s crazy, but as death stalks their sanctuary, and it becomes clear the elders don’t always know best, Deuce wonders if Fade might be telling the truth. Her partner confuses her; she’s never known a boy like him before, as prone to touching her gently as using his knives with feral grace. As Deuce’s perception shifts, so does the balance in the constant battle for survival. The mindless Freaks, once considered a threat only due to their sheer numbers, show signs of cunning and strategy… but the elders refuse to heed any warnings. Despite imminent disaster, the enclave puts their faith in strictures and sacrifice instead. No matter how she tries, Deuce cannot stem the dark tide that carries her far from the only world she’s ever known.
Enclave is amongst the few dystopian novels that has actually received a level amount of praise from practically everyone. As far as I know, there are no “haters” of Enclave, although there are those that feel simply ambivalent towards the novel, and as such, I went into it fully expecting to love it. Much to my disappointment, however, not only did I not fall in love with this novel, I couldn’t even bring myself to finish it. I was less than hundred pages from the end when I came to sudden realization that I simply did not care. Thus, this book is sadly joining my pile of DNF novels.
In theory, Enclave is a book I should have loved. We have a kick-ass heroine, an enigmatic young hero/romantic interest, and a unique dystopian world. Yet, everything was simply lacking in some manner or the other. What struck me first about the story was its lack of world-building. I’ve already mentioned that Aguirre has imagined a fantastic new realm, only we don’t know all that much about it. Of course, we are given details of the inner workings of this utopian society and are introduced to the “Freaks,” or zombies, but we are left completely in the dark as to the origins of this world. It isn’t a huge qualm as far as world-building qualms go and while our protagonist herself didn’t know the answer, a few theories as to how the Freaks came to exist or the manner in which the utopian society was formed would have been enriching to say the least.
Nevertheless, my true qualm took place in the shape of our protagonist, Deuce. Deuce is kick-ass, sweet when it comes to young love, fierce when it comes to fighting, and loyal when it comes to her job, but that’s all she is. Either than a couple of adjectives – strong, brave, kind – Deuce isn’t made up of much. In my eyes, she never had any real substance and I was unable to understand or connect with her as there wasn’t a person there to understand in the first place. It’s difficult to put into words, but more than just a lack of connection with Deuce, I couldn’t care for her or see her perspective on certain issues. Furthermore, this extended into her romance as well, making it all just fall flat for me.
Yet, the last straw in this novel was the love triangle. I thankfully didn’t make it to the point where this issue became an obvious forefront, but from skimming through other reviews, I can tell that it’s distasteful at best. Not only does it continue on in the sequel (turn-off much?), but it also centers on a former rapist. (I have no right to judge in this instance, however, since I haven’t seen how Aguirre deals with this issue and it CAN be dealt with very effectively, as can be seen with Melina Marchetta’s Lumatere Chronicles.)
Nevertheless, with any mention of a love triangle, I am usually running in the opposite direction and that, combined with the lackluster romance already present and my lack of feeling for the characters or their world simply resulted in a novel I couldn’t bring myself to continue. Yet, I haven’t quite given up on Ann Aguirre. I hope to read (and love!) her adult Sirantha Jax Series soon for as an author, Aguirre’s writing leaves little to be desired. Unfortunately, I simply seem to be the black sheep when it comes to this novel and, considering I’ve read too many dystopians, utopians, and zombie-related novels lately, I’m just hard to impress.