By Ann Aguirre
Genre: Young Adult
Published April 2011, Feiwel & Friends
Hardback, 259 pages
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.This book is less dystopia and more post-apocalypse, with zombies thrown in - though they are never given that name. Though the plot focused solely on Deuce's life inside and outside the enclave, I was much more curious about the details of the world that Deuce lived in. The answers to these questions were sadly few and far between. It quickly became apparent that it was not in Deuce's nature to be inquisitive, and I was often distracted from Deuce's single-mindedness to be a Huntress. Deuce's two closest friends come from the other two groups, but little is told about these groups or the members that populated them. I was especially curious about Deuce's Breeder friend, who fathered a baby boy, but he is unfortunately removed from the plot before much development could occur.
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 Deuce 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.
Many loose threads are pushed aside to make way for the character of Fade, and Deuce's relationship with him. I saw much potential in Fade's character because of the potential of his backstory, but the possibilities of what he could accomplish in the enclave are wasted. In the end, despite the title of the book, the plot seems to be more about what happens Topside than saving or reforming the enclave. Plus, I know little more about the Freaks (zombies) than I did when I started the book. While the book brimmed with potential, much of the characters' potential was unrealized, and the book ended with too many loose ends and unanswered questions. While I typically love YA literature, I think this book was too juvenile for me.
The Cover: The cover is both mysterious and creepy, especially with that hand coming out of the corner, which hints at the rabid creatures hidden within the pages of the book. While creepy is not always my thing, this works.
First Line: "I was born during the second holocaust."
What a shocking way to open a book - and immediately I have all kinds of questions regarding this second holocaust.
Favorite Quote: "Instead I'm here, where day by day, I don't know if I'll have food to eat or a place to sleep, if I'll wake up with something trying to kill me. It's hard. And it will get harder, the farther we get from known territory. We have no idea what's out there. None. And either you're ready to start over... or you're not. No more of this. If I didn't let go of what I've lost, I'd go crazy. I suggest you do the same."
Read For: Young Adult Reading Challenge, Read Your Own Name Reading Challenge, Dystopia Reading Challenge