*THIS REVIEW IS SPOILER FREE*
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.
9/10 Unicorn Horns!
This is, for many reasons, one of my favorite young adult book series. I happened to get it as a gift back when it was first published in 2011 and was pretty apprehensive about checking it out mainly because I wasn’t too into post-apocalyptic books at the time, but also because the person who gave it to me had a knack for picking out books I had no interest in reading (fellow book lovers may be able to relate). It sat on my shelf, sadly unloved, for almost a year before I finally got around to checking it out, and LOVED it.
Enclave is about a young girl newly named Deuce, formerly referred to as “Brat” like all those under 15 years old, who has just become a Hunter (one of three life choices- Breeders, Builders, and Hunters) in a dark community within the sewers of New York where no one has seen sunlight, and people rarely make it past the ‘old and wrinkled’ age of 25. Stories of “Topside” and how large groups of people once freely roamed under the currently lethally hot sun are like fanciful fairy tales to Deuce and the people in her Enclave. As a Hunter Deuce’s main responsibility is hunting for fresh meat in the dark tunnels while protecting the Enclave from monsters known as ‘Freaks’. Everything goes according to Deuce’s plans for herself and her unwavering sense of purpose as a Huntress. That is until Fade, her new mysterious partner, and her come across signs that the Freaks- generally manageable and not too harmless- might be much more dangerous than anyone thought.
Despite the premise being really popular and overused (post-apocalyptic zombie survival times) Aguirre manages to keep things interesting, revealing her own somewhat unique take within this genre along the way. None of the books in this trilogy felt rushed, poorly done, or like a stretched out filler to needlessly lengthen the story. I’m honestly surprised this series isn’t more popular. The story was VERY well paced, with action at every corner, and a generous amount of exciting zombie fight battles. Even the parts of the book where the action drops off were filled with drama of some sort, or scenes with depth that naturally fleshed out a character’s personality and explored some complex human emotions like forgiveness, strength, hate, fear, weakness, etc.
Sometimes it felt as if all happiness came at a price. You could never, ever, have perfection. Life gave you beauty so you could bear the pain.
Deuce, endearingly ignorant of popular and acceptable social norms, is a pretty rational thinking strong female with clear goals and a direct personality that was so, so, SOOOO refreshing at the time among all the other Y.A. series riddled with eye raking, hair pulling teenage angst. So when the eventual romance came about I was a bit worried she’d turn into a love struck idiot, or this would turn into yet-another-angst-filled-lust-triangle. But THANKFULLY that never really happens. While Deuce, and other main characters go through their trials and complications, they are all quite mature (or eventually grow to be). I couldn’t thank Aguirre enough for creating really engaging, charismatic and surprisingly complex characters that didn’t possess the usual, almost condescending, level of intelligence found in many popular Y.A. series. They are each very notable on their own and never came off as a ‘filler’ character or followed common stereotypes (or if they did they eventually branched off into a different direction). Character development (by leaps and unimaginable bounds for some) is also a pretty big and noticeably well planned thing throughout the entire series. One other notable thing I noticed, and really, REALLY appreciated was that Aguirre’s characters were actually a lot more realistic. There wasn’t an insta-fix for the horrors these characters’ experience and see. Psychological/emotional damage isn’t glossed up to look attractive, and wasn’t glossed over as easily defeatable obstacles either. The romance wasn’t all starry-eyed-insta-love-gush-fest, but more like a genuine attraction the grew into a relationship both had to actually work at. They have problems, and with time work them out rather than glossing over them. This was a truly well written teen story, and a gem among a lot of the more popular stuff at the time.