Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Enclave - Ann Aguirre

I found Enclave on a Goodread's YA dystopian fiction list a few weeks ago, and finally got around to reading it today. I'm definitely going to be paying attention to these book lists, whoever puts them together is pretty awesome.

Enclave is the story of Deuce, a girl who lives in the underground community of the College enclave. In Deuce's community, you are given a gender and a number at birth, and don't earn a name until you reach 15. At 15 you're granted a position as one of the three classes, a breeder, builder, or hunter, and are marked to show your position in the community at the same time as you are given your name. Deuce has trained her entire life to be a huntress, one of the men and women who leave the community to find meat to feed the children, called brats, and the other members of the community. Being a huntress is dangerous, not because of the hunting, but because of the other beings who haunt the underground tunnels. Called Freaks by Deuce's community, these beings are humanoid beasts with claws and fangs who are single minded in hunting for meat. Although they usually eat carrion, Freaks are more than happy to hunt fresh meat, given the chance, and humans are just that.
But when Deuce is given the position of Huntress, she's also a assigned a partner. The partner she's given, Fade, was adopted into her community, but originally came from the tunnels outside the settlement. He isn't trusted by the other hunters, and because she's his partner, Deuce quickly finds that neither is she. But working with Fade, Deuce is quickly finding that that things she's been taught aren't as solidly true as she used to believe, and when one of her best friends is framed for a crime in order to keep her quiet, Deuce takes the blame and is forced to try and survive in exile, in a world where Freaks aren't the only danger.

I liked the idea behind this book, and while I'm glad I read it, it wasn't without its flaws. Overall, it's definitely a book worth reading, especially if you like dystopia, which we all know I do. The plot is interesting and relatively engaging, the setting seems well thought out, and I'm a pretty big fan of the way the dystopia aspect is presented, particularly Deuce's community. I see a lot of potential in the ideas behind the book, and if there's a sequel I'll definitely pick it up when it comes out to see if that potential is realized.

But this book is far from perfect. Like I said, the ideas behind everything have a lot of potential, but so far, that potential is far from having been realized. A lot of the characters are very vague and dull, because character development doesn't seem to have been prioritized. I can think of at least five characters who were just overall boring and undeveloped. That's not to say that they all are, but for the most part, Aguirre's characters aren't amazing.

Part of the reason Aguirre's characters aren't so great is the fact that many of the themes that could have been explored in the story simply weren't. In fact, there are a lot of potential themes that should have been at least mentioned, but seemed to have been brushed over and ignored. Death seems common in the story, and both Deuce and Fade, as huntress and hunter respectively, cause much of this death. At the emotional maturity of a 15 year old, you'd think this aspect would be at least mentioned, but it's as if it doesn't happen at all, except with a single occasion early in the story. Even that occasion, however, didn't involve Deuce's direct involvement, and one would think that killing with your bare hands would affect you somehow, at least at first.

Besides the characters, the story is a little rushed, and there isn't a lot of development in general. Enclave is one of those books that has so much going on that it could easily be the size of, say, Clan of the Cave Bears by Jean Auel, or maybe the fourth Harry Potter. Because it's not, it seems condensed. The story jumps a lot, and a lot of explanation just isn't given, so it seems like the pace moves too fast for the amount given. I think, had Enclave been separated into more than one book, it would have been better. In fact, there is a very definite part of Enclave that could easily have been the separation between two different books, and by cutting this one book into two, and fleshing the two parts out better, Enclave could have been amazing. But, sadly, it wasn't.

I'm not saying that Enclave is a bad book, don't get me wrong. I liked it, and I'll probably end up reading it again some day, as well as reading any potential sequels, since the book definitely ended on a cliffhanger. But it's not the next Harry Potter or Twilight or Hunger Games or whathaveyou. It's a good book, and it's a book worth reading, but it's not anything more than that. As long as you go into Enclave without expecting something phenomenally fantastic and view changing, you'll probably like it. But if you read the summary and get your hopes up that you're going to find your next favorite book, you might be disappointed.

I would recommend Enclave to fans of the dystopia YA subgenre that's become so popular lately. If you liked Wither by Lauren Destefano, you might like Enclave, and I'd suggest it if you're on the fence about whether or not to get it. But Wither is also a good indicator otherwise, and if you didn't like it, or particularly if the underaged breeding system just rubbed you the wrong way, I'm going to say that you're not going to want to even touch Enclave. Keep in mind that, at 15, there are people in Deuce's community who become Breeders for the community, after all. Fans of Inside Out by Maria Snyder will probably like this book, and fans of Hunger Games looking for something new to try should definitely pick up Enclave next time they get the chance, no questions asked.

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