Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Enclave by Ann Aguirre

I was really expecting to love this one. I have only heard great things about this book. I have even owned it almost since it came out. Plus, it’s a dystopia with zombies in it, which for me is a recipe for amazing.
But, the truth is I only started liking it in the second half.  The first half had absolutely nothing new for me. It really was a mixture of Matched, Divergent, City of Ember, and The Forrest of Hands and Teeth.  And I really loved all those books, so it was hard to not like Enclave. It’s just I predicted everything in the first half, when what I was really hoping for was to be surprised. After three times of the main characters falling asleep and awaking to danger, I got a little tired of this plot device…We get it; sleeping can be dangerous. I think one of the best elements to any dystopia is that sort of initial shock/surprise that leads to an underlying idea that all this is not actually all that unbelievable.
Also, I was expecting to feel about the whole book, the way I did in the first half because every summary I’ve ever read for this book, only mentioned the first half. Not only does the publisher cut half the story out in it’s summary, but also it cuts out what makes this book unique and what finally gave it that little bit of shock value for me. I just wish I got this shock earlier.
Any way, it’s about Deuce, who grows up in an enclave underground. In her world, people are only given names if they live past fifteen (which most don’t seem to do). People in her world have one of three jobs: breeders (those in charge of keeping up the population), builders (people who help make new things and fix old things into something new), and hunters (people who go out of the enclave and fight past zombies in order to catch food to bring back). The book starts with Deuce becoming a huntress.
Her first day as a huntress, gets her paired with Fade (a kind of outcast in her society). Fade is the only person in the enclave to have grown up and lived outside of it. Soon, Deuce and Fade discover secrets about the tunnels surrounding the enclave, and that the zombies are getting smarter. Unfortunately, their enclave does not listen to them. Deuce discovers that the enclave is not all it’s cracked up to be and finds herself siding with Fade in regards to many moral/ethical issues. This way of thinking leads to their banishment.
And then the book really takes off when Fade brings Deuce topside, to the world above the underground subway tunnels. There, NYC is ravaged, destroyed, and relatively vacant. The only people who seem to occupy it are those in deadly gangs. And Deuce soon realizes that there’s bad everywhere, just in different ways. In escaping a rather brutal gang (the wolves), Deuce and Fade pick up two more allies: Stalker and Tegan. And together the four journey north in effort to find a land Fade’s father used to talk about, a safe place.
I know it sounds weird that all the underworld dystopia stuff did not pull me in…I think it’s just that I have read a lot of other under ground stories that I think worked better. I never really got a good description of the enclave and could never truly picture it. And I kept trying to understand things that I just felt weren’t described really well (like the three groups of people, how the hunters were hunting, and what exactly was involved in breeding –like was it consensual or was it rape?, etc.)
I was fascinated by the world above, and what NYC became. I really was as interested as Deuce was in discovering answers. I loved the gang politics. I found the contrasts between the gangs and the enclave insanely interesting. I loved meeting Stalker and getting to know Tegan, who brought in very different elements to the story.
I loved how the characters learned to survive together and to fight together. And I loved how tough Deuce was. One thing that irked me though was that I never really heard them mention practicing (till toward the end with Stalker and Deuce). And I know Deuce and Fade had a lot of training in the enclave (though it was never really mentioned…so maybe they didn’t?), but to keep being able to kill all these zombies and gangers, I feel like they would need to at least stretch a little bit somewhere. They didn’t have a ton of time between all the fights and wounds and chases, but still. There was just this kind of fake, super hero toughness that wasn’t working for me. I needed to see them working at that toughness more. And I didn’t (besides one fight for show) see that work ever in the enclave. I think showing me a little how Deuce and Fade got be the way they were would not only have let me believe them more, but have gotten me to like them more too, and turned them into more interesting, surviving characters that the typical girl who comes to realize her world is not all it’s cracked up to be.
I also kept wondering why the zombies were only underground. But apparently, they weren’t. I just don’t understand how so many days went past above ground without their being any. And Stalker mentioned not seeing them before at all, but how is that possible? Maybe this will be addressed in the sequel?
I’m not meaning to sound so harsh. Deuce becomes way more than the typical girl, half way through the book. She goes from the girl who realizes her world was bad, to a girl who keys in on surviving, and she becomes a much better YA heroine when this happens. I wanted more romance between Deuce and Fade, though I kind of was enjoying the triangle that was forming, and I’m sensing this will be dealt with in more detail in the sequel that is supposed to come out in September 2012.
I also liked that the author did not go overboard with the descriptions of thing that used to be, like Jeff Hirsch did in The Eleventh Plague with all his talk of McDonalds and stores. And I loved seeing the public library, and watching Deuce react to new things and old artifacts; it kind of reminded me of Ariel in the Little Mermaid loving all things human. I’m excited to read what’s in store for these characters and to see how Deuce adapts to yet another way of living and surviving. I look forward to book 2. And I give this an 8/10.


  1. Nori, the reason summaries don't mention the second half is to keep it a surprise.

  2. You make a good point, Christina, but I don't think it needs to be a surprise. Especially, when it's not that surprising. And they could mention life above ground, without giving important things away. I think talking about the gangs in the summary would make people more interested in the book. Or at least it would have kept me more motivated to continue.