Review: Enclave by Ann Aguirre

Ann Aguirre website here // $9.99 from {amazon}
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends (April 12, 2011)
Hardcover: 272 pages
Source: Publisher
WELCOME TO THE APOCALYPSE. 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 she 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.

Rating: View my rating system.


My Thoughts:
Dear Enclave, I thank you. Your grittier, bloodier reality is a breath of fresh air in a genre quickly focusing more on the romance and less on the harsher, dystopian aspects. Not to say both sides of the spectrum don’t each have their merit, but I needed a balance, a change – and Enclave was it. On face-level, Enclave is essentially a post-apocalyptic zombie read, with the zombies replaced by eerie, flesh-eating Freaks and the killer, a literally kick-Freak-ass protagonist Deuce. But factor in scarred bad boy Fade, impending cannibalistic doom, and generous bloodshed, and Enclave proves to be a one-way ticket to an intriguing, suspenseful ride packed with action and hardships galore.

The first thing I noticed when starting Enclave was, of course, the enclaves. Granted, Ann Aguirre isn’t the first, and most certainly won’t be the last, to make use of an underground dystopia, but she adds her own twists: the interconnected societies, the name-picking process, the assigned jobs based on natural capabilities, and much, much more. Everything’s lined with a subtle undercurrent of militant order, and Enclave certainly doesn’t shy away from the cutting edge of pragmatism. The strongest survive, the weak... are eaten.

One of my favorite aspects is, without a doubt, the action. The fighting is spot-on, with enough detail for me to envision the characters’ astounding, Matrix-reminiscent moves, yet not so much as to be completely revolted by the amount of blood spilt – and for someone who becomes nauseous at a finger cut, that’s saying something. Don’t be mistaken, there’s definitely blood and very much of it, but the violence is done in a tasteful way that while thrilling, shouldn’t be a trial on anyone’s stomach. Though I can honestly say those Freaks are freaky.

But if asked what I liked the most about Enclave, it would definitely be Ann Aguirre’s development of Deuce. I can see where readers may feel apathetic towards her character, given her early, unquestioning submission and seeming lack of feeling, and even I’ll admit that I couldn’t exactly empathize with her most of the time. But Deuce was Deuce, and she was real. She was brought up in a society with an overarching survival-of-the-fittest mentality, and this background is perfectly reflected in her short, punctuated thoughts and realistic, yet kind, attitude. If that makes Deuce hard to relate to, so be it. For me, it wasn’t as much of a relatable issue as my admiration of, again, Deuce's development. Ann Aguirre masterfully shaped a character that has history yet is dynamic and able, albeit reluctant, to change.   

And of course, I can’t end this review without mentioning the love triangle. The focus isn’t really on romance, but the formula is there: one wavering girl, two different, devoted guys. Deuce’s ignorance made me want to scream at her a couple times, but I’m sure it’s mostly because I am TEAM FADE, all the way. I'm definitely intrigued to see where this will go!

Romance: Two or three kissing scenes, if I remember correctly. Not much in this department.
Cover: 4.0 -- It's definitely not a beautiful cover, but it actually fits Enclave. Originally, I was going to give the cover a lower score, but then I asked myself what would I want the cover to be? I couldn't come up with any answer except what wouldn't suit the story at all: the overused blown-up face, pretty fonts, bright or soothing colors. So I suppose I'm pretty content with it. I also had to give some extra points because I saw the real book in person today (courtesy of my book buying friend) and it's shiny. Mad props there.

Liked: Characters, Plot, Writing, Originality, Setting
Disliked: A bit more detail on the setting would have been useful, Deuce's occasional passivity and ignorance

Bottom Line: Enclave presents a gritty and bloody peek into the darker side of dystopian fiction. (Think The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan on a lighter scale.) It's solid on all fronts, but don't go in expecting a deep, emotional character connections or a danger-filled romance -- because I highly doubt that's what you'll take from it. Terror, perhaps. Thrill, most likely. Intrigue, definitely. All-in-all, Ann Aguirre is a welcome addition to the dystopian and YA community with her fabulous debut, and I'm eagerly anticipating who-knows-what in the second book of this series, Outpost.