Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Review: Enclave by Ann Aguirre

Finished: November 10, 2011

Synopsis: 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… 

Quote: “There were different kinds of strength. I knew that now. It didn’t always come from a knife or a willingness to fight. Sometimes it came from endurance. Where the well ran deep and quiet. Sometimes it came from compassion and forgiveness.” 

Thoughts: Zombies! Enclave is just one offering of many in the YA Dystopia genre these days, but the difference between Enclave and a lot of these books, is that Enclave actually has something that feels original to offer. On the surface Enclave is much like a lot of the other Dystopia offerings out there. It’s the end of the world as we know it and we’ve got a heroine who intends to fight the system, the oppressive one put in place by those left behind, who only feels beautiful when she’s fighting.

“I never felt beautiful unless I was fighting, and even then it was something that went beyond skin and bone into the kinetic joy of successive movements.”

One difference here is that Deuce does not start out as a rebel. This is a large part of her struggle throughout the novel, and adds a nice depth to her character. Despite the kindness in her heart, Deuce agrees with the leaders and believes in the necessity of making hard decisions for the better of the people, even if it may mean hurting one person.

Another thing worth mentioning is the writing itself. I found myself writing down various sentences because they were just so lovely. Aguirre succeeds here, not only with her characters and story, but also with her distinctive writing style.

An enthralling thriller that kept me in its grip until the very end, the only issue found within Enclave for me was it’s use of the dreaded Love Triangle™. Second only to Instalove™ in the “Biggest Romance Cliche An Author Can Ruin Their Novel With” list (a list I just made up perhaps) the Love Triangle™ has ruined many an original novel with its ability to ruin characters in an instant and detract from any originality found within the rest of the story. While I will concede that the Love Triangle™ made a little more sense here than in other books, given the fact that it represented Deuce’s inner struggle of Kindness vs. Survival Instinct, it still pulled me away from characters I was otherwise coming to care about.

I hope that the sequel to Enclave packs the same punch and can deliver to us more depth to the story that Aguirre has started here. I would recommend this to anyone who devours Dystopia novels with the same fervor as I do. 

Edit: A few different reviews now have made me consider this book in a new light. One review belonging specifically to one of my favorite reviewers: Ms. Library. Toward the end of the book there is use of the Bad Boy Trope that I tend to find so abhorrent, but at the time it didn't bother me, because from my perspective the author didn't seem to be romanticizing this character. In fact, I thought he was just being used to further Deuce's development as she struggled with choosing between her survivalist side, and the side of her that needed to realize every person counted, and she needed to think of more than herself. I thought, and still think, that he was being used to show that the attitude Deuce was raised with was wrong. So as unnerved as I was by Deuce not exactly rejecting his affections, that didn't bother me.

One thing that does bother me though, that others have mentioned, is the detached way that the author handles a character who was raped. While I understand that the author was trying to show us a horrific world in which characters had to make these hard choices to survive, I do think in retrospect that she could have dealt with the subject of rape in a more compassionate manner. In fact, Ceilidh's Review points out that at one point Deuce thinks to herself that if the character were stronger, the rape wouldn't have happened. I must have missed that part, because I find that absolutely appalling. Rape is never the victim's fault. EVER. So despite really enjoying this book when I read it and feeling like it was one of the better dystopian offerings out there, I will be bumping this down from four stars to two.


Two out of Five Coffees


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