Reading Level: Young Adult
Paperback: 272 pages
Release Date: April 12, 2011
Source: purchased copy
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.
Christ on a bike, this book was so damn difficult for me to rate & review. After a month-long on-and-off-again reading relationship with Enclave, I was left with such muddled feelings that I was kicking myself for not jotting down some notes to later help me decipher my tangled opinions. And then I had a light bulb moment and came up with a way to organize & summarize my thoughts: an emoticon flowchart. BAM!
I will say upfront that I found myself disappointed with Enclave. While reading, I kept waiting for the book to rock my world & blow my socks off, but my world remained perfectly grounded & my socks stayed firmly on my feet. That's not to say that I thought everything about the book was bad, but there were definitely quite a lot of shortcomings.
Let's start with a rundown of Enclave's positive attributes.
Firstly, I liked how descriptive the writing was. It helped get me more engaged in the story and allowed me to better understand & appreciate the differences between our world and the one Deuce was born into. Secondly, there was lots of action—gory, violent action—which totally appealed to my inner action junkie.
Plus, Deuce was a fairly kickass heroine. Girl had some serious lady balls. Furthermore, I enjoyed how she gradually started to open up to new ideas and different ways of thinking & feeling, and I liked that this didn't come easily to her or happen overnight.
I also liked Fade (at least for the first half of the book). Fade, like Deuce, was a hardcore badass, but he had a soft, gentle, caring side. He had a quiet but strong presence about him (initially). And I was wholeheartedly rooting for his budding romance with Deuce, which started off hesitantly, turned sweet, took a brief detour into sexy town and then...hit the breaks so damn hard I got whiplash.
This segues me into my problems with the book.
At times, Enclave was a total tease. Not in the neener-neener sort of way, but the kind in which it got me all excited and then left me unsatisfied & frustrated. Fade, for example, was shaping up to be a contender for Swoon-Worthy Fictional Boyfriend of the Year, and then he basically faded into the background and morphed into a wet blanket. Same goes for his romance with Deuce. Just as their bond began to skirt love territory, a completely contrived, nonsensical and VERY disturbing/disgusting love triangle was forcibly injected into the story (Note to authors: a sociopath/abuser/rapist should NEVER EVER under any circumstances be used as a contender for the heroine's heart. Not cool. And if you can't handle serious subjects like abuse & rape in a responsible manner, then don't write about them at all.)
Anyways, another tease moment came in the first half of the book when it was revealed that there's a rebel group within the enclave as well as a conspiracy involving innocent citizens being framed & punished for crimes they didn't commit. Right away I got excited thinking that Deuce & Fade would join the rebels and play some kind of role in fighting & exposing the corrupt officials, but nothing of the sort even came close to happening. Both intriguing concepts were discarded almost immediately after being introduced. This occurred again & again with other ideas & plot points (murder in the enclave, smarter freaks, topside gangs, etc.)
I found the last third of the book to be rather boring. It felt like filler with not much substance. To spice things up, a bit of melodrama & angst was thrown in towards the end, but it had absolutely no emotional impact on me whatsoever...zero, zilch.
As for the ending, well, my reaction to it can be summed up thusly: WTF? #$%^@#*!! For a second there, I seriously thought my copy of the book was missing pages. I can't remember the last time I came across such a haphazard cliffhanger. Describing it as anticlimactic would be a gross understatement.