“There were different kinds of strength. I knew that now. It didn’t always come from a knife or a willingness to fight. Sometimes it came from endurance, where the well ran deep and quiet. Sometimes it came from compassion and forgiveness.” – Deuce, p. 244
I always find it exciting—and definitely challenging—to read works from writers I am not familiar with. It goes without saying that, to this day, I am wary of reading teen fiction. Interestingly, not too long after GatheringBooks’ feature on Sherrilyn Kenyon’s Invincible, Tara from Zeitghostmedia informed us of another free book for review from Macmillan Children’s Publishing—Enclave by Ann Aguirre.
Enclave strays away from the hyped vampire storyline in teen fiction, making it a more tolerable read for me. Publishers Weekly has noted that Enclave is a book “for fans of The Hunger Games.” While I have not yet read The Hunger Games series, I expected Enclave to be close to, if not as good as, The Hunger Games.
A World Beneath the Rubble. Enclave focuses on fifteen-year-old Deuce and her life as a Huntress deep underground with her “tribe.” Author Ann Aguirre does not offer an exact description of the setting but merely gives readers glimpses of what the Enclave is like through the eyes of Deuce. Told in Deuce’s perspective, the following lines introduce readers to her world:
“I was born during the second holocaust. People had told us legends of a time when human beings lived longer. I thought they were just stories. Nobody even lived to see forty in my world… I lived in an enclave in which our oldest had seen twenty-five years.” – Deuce, p. 3
Deuce continues to describe the enclave in the passage below:
“The tunnels were wide and laid with metal bars. We had found remnants of what might’ve been transportation, but they lay on their sides like great, dead beasts. We used them for emergency shelters sometimes. If a hunting party was attacked before it reached sanctuary, a heavy metal wall between them and hungry enemies made the difference between life and death… I had never been outside the enclave, of course. This space comprised the only world I’d ever known, cast in darkness and curling smoke. The walls were old, built of rectangular blocks. Once they had borne color but the years had worn them gray. Splashes of brightness came from items we scavenged from deeper in the warren.” – Deuce, pp. 3-4
The mere mention of a holocaust taking place in Deuce’s time suggests that the world has been “wiped,” a term I often hear in World of Warcraft (a massive multiplayer online role-playing game) when a player or a team gets overpowered by its adversaries. While the word ‘holocaust’ brings to mind the Nazi occupation, I was thinking more in the line of an apocalypse, leaving the world in the same condition as that in Will Smith’s I Am Legend. This ‘apocalypse’ brought about the existence of the Enclave and the Topside – the underground and “aboveground” regions in Deuce’s world. (Allow me to add that the enclave reminds me of The Village in M. Night Shyamalan’s movie with the same title.)
For Without Rules There Would Be Anarchy. Ann Aguirre successfully weaves a story that is satirical in nature, in spite of its “teen fic” attributes (teen protagonist and love triangle). In a world ravaged by a second holocaust, survivors were forced to start anew. As if living underground wasn’t easy enough, how much more difficult would it be to rebuild an entire community? Hence, the rules in the enclave were created (with a bit of micro-managing on the side, if you ask me).
“Sickness and fever devastated us and our medicine man did more harm than good, it seemed to me. But I’d learned not to question his treatments. Here in the enclave, one didn’t prosper by demonstrating too much independent thought… ‘These rules permit us to survive,’ Whitewall would say. ‘If you cannot abide by them, then you are free to see how you fare Topside.’” – Deuce, p. 5
Part of the rules of the enclave, aside from questioning orders, was to turn in any strange artifact to the enclave elder. The elders have devoted a storage full of artifacts, mostly coming from Topside, to learn about the world outside the enclave. Those who chose to defy this rule were punishable by the shunning.
“From this moment forth, you are banished, stripped of your titles, and will be offered no aid or shelter by any College citizen, on penalty of exile. Go Topside, lawbreakers.” –Whitewall, p. 114
The above passage was spoken to Deuce and her mysterious partner, Fade, when both of them decided to cover up for Deuce’s friend, Stone, who had been accused of stealing a book from the archive. This led to their own shunning, and they were driven away from the enclave, into the world yonder, inhabited by Freaks.
“A shiver ran through me. Freaks looked almost human – and weren’t. They had lesions on their skin, razor-sharp teeth, and claw instead of fingernails. I’d heard you could detect them by smell, though in the tunnels, that could be hard. It already smelled of a hundred things down here, only half of them good… Freaks stank like carrion meat. They feasted on the dead, but they would eat fresh meat if they could get it.” – Deuce, p. 18
A Coming-of-Age Story. Of course the enclave wasn’t all about rules. Division of labor was part of the deal. In the enclave, a Girl’s or a Boy’s fate was decided on their naming day. This ritual reminded me of the Sorting Hat ceremony in Hogwarts. The enclave ritual determined the role s/he would play.
“I wept when he put the hot metal to my skin. Six scars to prove I was tough enough to call myself Huntress. Other citizens received less; Builders got three scars. Breeders took only one. For as long as anyone could remember, the number of marks on the arms identified what role a citizen played.” – Deuce, p. 6
I liked how the book lightly touched on stereotypes, especially when it comes to the naming day. Deuce had two friends in the enclave – Thimble and Stone. Thimble was a Builder and Stone was a Breeder. The following excerpt illustrates what I meant by stereotyping:
“Because he was strong and handsome, but not especially bright, Stone landed as a Breeder. Whitewall figured he had good material in him, and if matched with a clever female, he should sire good, solid offspring. Only citizens with traits worth passing on were allowed to contribute to the next generation, and the elders monitored births carefully. We couldn’t allow more brats than we could provide for.” – Deuce, pp. 7-8
Deuce was a Huntress, but even then she had to struggle to fend for herself in the enclave. Six scars did not alter the fact that she was a female in a male-dominated society. The same goes through for Silk, female commander-in-charge of the hunters who, ironically, was being addressed as “sir.”
More than anything, Enclave tells Deuce’s story. Here is a girl whose only desire was to become a Huntress and serve to protect the enclave. With the help of Fade, however, she learned more about herself and the world she lived in more than she could ever imagine or hoped for. From Deuce’s naming day until the day of “salvation,” Enclave traces her journey into the unknown and comes back in full circle as she comes to terms with her past and embraces her future.
Afterthoughts. Despite the good storyline, Enclave left me a few unanswered questions. It failed to narrate what had happened to the rest of the enclave when Deuce and Fade traveled Topside. It did not illuminate the mystery surrounding the Freaks, how they were slowly evolving into more intelligent creatures. It did not offer any backdrop story on the vicious gang that lurked around Topside and preyed on innocent victims. Looking back, however, these unanswered questions made it more convincing that this was more about Deuce than anything else.
Like most YA fiction I’ve read, I enjoyed reading Enclave. Even though the story was slow in the beginning, and dragged in some parts, I always find pleasure reading about stories of survival – both literally and figuratively – and redemption. Moreover, Enclave was not loaded with “mushiness.” So, if you want stories similar to Twilight, then readingEnclave might leave you a bit disappointed.
About the Author
Ann Aguirre is a national bestselling author with a degree in English Literature. Before she began writing full-time, she was a clown, a voice actress, and a savior of stray kittens, though not necessarily in that order. She grew up in a yellow house across from a cornfield, but now she lives in sunny Mexico with her husband, two children, two cats, and one very lazy dog. She likes all kinds of books, emo music, action movies, and Dr. Who. Enclave is her first novel for young adults. (Taken from the jacketflap)