Aug 28, 2011

Enclave, by Ann Aguirre

Disclaimer: All reviews are the result of my personal opinion from a Christian stand-point. These reviews are provided for those who share my beliefs and morals, to help guide what fiction a reader may wish to pick up. For those who do not share these beliefs, please refrain from hateful comments. It is due to rude commenting that I must now include this note prior to all reviews. For more information, visit my purpose behind this blog. Thank you for your understanding.
Intended Age-Group: Intended for 13+ (I recommend age 16+)
Issues of Violence:  graphic images (fighting, killing, war, mentions of rape)
Intimacy Level: kissing, intimate "sounds"
Swearing: None
Recommendation: 3.5 out of 5 stars

I’ve been waiting for weeks to get my hand on Ann Aguirre’s Enclave. I’m a sucker for good first-person, young adult, dystopian speculative fiction, but aren’t we all? (Sarcasm)

Main character, Deuce (I would have read the book just because of her cool name), is part of College Enclave—an underground city of people who eat rats, follow rules to the T, and die at (or before) the age of 25. Since Deuce survived to age 15, she’s given a name and a job—a Huntress. As long as she’s remembered, she’s wanted to be a Huntress, which means finding meat, setting traps, and killing Freaks (a feral race of humans with endless appetites for the dead or the living…raw). When she’s paired with Fade—a boy who came from the outside and frightens everyone else with his strange ways—her ideas of grandeur and honor are dashed thanks to his habits of rule breaking and knack for entering unusual situations.

Fade and Deuce are sent on a death-mission as punishment for a particularly unusual stretching of the enclave’s rules. What they discover on this mission is enough to cause Deuce to question the elders of her enclave, the purpose of her life, and the limited knowledge of her world. She and Fade fight starving, manic Freaks, discover hidden tribes, and ultimately face the mysteries and danger of Topside if they don’t keep their acts together in front of the elders.

Initial Reaction: *****
I found the book well written, enticing, and finished it in a single day. The futuristic America with underground tribes is fascinating and spellbinding.

Characters: *****
I enjoyed the interaction between Deuce and Fade. It was realistic and remained appropriate (even when a little love interest started to form). The characters were believable, though there were still a few cookie-cutter bad-guys (with no hearts and only want to show all those under them “who’s boss.”) The book really pulls you into Deuce’s mindset and why she is set on following rules and why honor as a Huntress is so important to her. You understand why she believes what she does, which makes it easier to understand her reactions when her world starts to crumble as Freaks grow more cunning and the naivety of the elders becomes more evident. 
Mature Content:
A few setbacks in this novel include violence and adult sexual issues. The violence is fairly graphic during fights with Freaks, there are injuries and several instances of bloodshed. The enclave consists of Breeders, Builders, and Hunters. The description of the Breeders certainly brings the human race down to an animal level with “breeding” and having “mates”. There’s no love (or mention of marriage) involved with breeding, it’s solely for the preservation of the dwindling population. There is some mention of the "sounds" of breeding one night as Deuce tries to sleep. Later, when Deuce is in a different environment where gangs are present, there is constant threat of rape and comments by the characters concerning the topic. No mention is explicit and, for the world that Deuce lives in, it's just a dangerous factor that she learns to be wary of; however, her reaction to this is distasteful.

First, she and Fade join up with a girl who was raped and the gang-member who raped her. Second, Deuce considers the girl as "weak" for letting herself be raped. I can understand this to an extent because of Deuce's upbringing--she thrives off of strength and rape isn't necessarily a horrible thing in her culture because the idea of "intimacy" is reduced to an animal level. Next, though, Deuce considers "falling for" the rapist! Like I said above, that's not as big a deal to her as it is to us because of her upbringing, but still...for a girl of her wit and sharpness, I would have hoped she'd recognize a an abusive jerk for what he is.

The violence in this book is fairly graphic during fights, entering detail and what and where Deuce stabs, the sounds of fighting, and other details. A character dies with slit wrists, alluding to suicide (though in the end, it was caused by an outside source).

Overall Recommendation:
Though the book is meant for 13 and up, I think it's more appropriate for 16 and up due to the violence and mature themes. There are no spiritual elements to these books and the benefit of the read would solely be a sense of adventure and entering the mindset of a different (albeit fictional) culture. I found it fascinating, but a little frightening and dark. I recommend it with caution and reservations. Just because I enjoyed it doesn't mean it's for everyone. I don't think it is. Everyone has a different tolerance level.

Nadine Brandes is an adventurer, fusing authentic faith with bold imagination. She writes stories about brave living, finding purpose, and other worlds soaked in imagination. Her debut dystopian novel, A Time to Die, releases 2014 from Marcher Lord Press, the premier publisher of Christian speculative fiction. When Nadine's not taste-testing a new chai or editing fantasy novels, she is out pursuing adventures. She currently lives in Idaho with her husband. You can find out more about Nadine and her books at

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