- Ann Aguirre
Publisher: Feiwel & FriendsIn 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. 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.
For a page count less than 300, Ann Aguirre manages to fit a lot of ideas, action and even heartbreak into those few pages. From the harsh introduction to Deuces’s world with her initiation into the Hunters, you know that this isn’t an easy world. The Enclave is huddled underground, protected and hidden from the Freaks – zombie like creatures that just live to eat and ravish all they can. It’s all Deuce and her enclave can do to survive on rats and other creatures caught in the tunnels and it’s not long before the home they have created for themselves no longer seems as secure as Deuce has always believed – with enemies without and within.
Ann Aguirre has managed to paint a vivid world that is dark, tense and short-lived. Yet it all makes sense, you can understand why elders barely make it to twenty-four years of age when their life is as harsh as it is. When Deuce starts to question the way her world works, there are some interesting questions asked about freedom verses safety. What is more important and when you have to share everything to survive is there a point when the individual means more than the community? Maybe I was just reading too much into it! J However, there are also plenty of action scenes with Deuce and her partner, Fade fighting the Freaks and on the run. These scenes are fast, frantic and exciting and I held my breath on multiply occasions. Watching them learn to trust each other and later on to trust others is really the core of this story. There are plenty of other characters who are vividly portrayed despite limited time – Tegan, Stone and others all make an impact on Deuce and as such on us as well.
There are some missed opportunities – as there are in real life. At one point I thought the story was going to focus on a conspiracy within the enclave and then suddenly the plot took a complete left-turn and changed. Overall though, this is a great read with a mix of emotional growth, scary moments and discovery of a new world. I really can’t wait to get my hands on Outpost now!
Recommended for fans of Veronica Roth and Jonathan Maberry. 9 out of 10