Enclave by Ann Aguirre – Advance Review

Book Jacket:

New York City has been decimated by war and plague, and most of civilization has migrated to underground enclaves, where life expectancy is no more than the early 20’s. When Deuce turns 15, she takes on her role as a Huntress, and is paired with Fade, a teenage Hunter who lived Topside as a young boy. When she and Fade discover that the neighboring enclave has been decimated by the tunnel monsters—or Freaks—who seem to be growing more organized, the elders refuse to listen to warnings. And when Deuce and Fade are exiled from the enclave, the girl born in darkness must survive in daylight, in the ruins of a city whose population has dwindled to a few dangerous gangs. As the two are guided by Fade’s long-ago memories, they face dangers, and feelings, unlike any they’ve ever known.

You can read an excerpt here.


Enclave is a solid dystopian YA – but it just didn’t entirely carry me away.

The first half of this book I very much enjoyed. Deuce’s cult-like society lives in the tunnels and sewers beneath New York City, and her world revolves around one tenet: survival. And while this certainly won’t be the first story you’ve ever read about a world underground, Aguirre does a wonderful job playing off our primal fear of the dark unknown.

Deuce herself was my favorite part of this book. Aguirre fully takes us into Deuce’s worldview, showing us her ferocious loyalty and absolute understanding of her role to play in her world, her warrior’s ethos of protect and serve. And then Aguirre starts cracking each of Deuce’s certainties, challenging her paradigms one by one, until the very things that made Deuce such a loyal soldier are slowly turned back on the system that created them. This story absolutely excels in how it takes us into Deuce’s head, how it shapes her growing doubts such that she can’t do anything else than what she does, even if it means betraying everything she thought she knew – and I loved it.

Fade is very much the catalyst of this story, and I liked how his relationship with Deuce was based on a partnership, on loyalty and trust, before Aguirre started easing it towards a romance. Given the world, given the dangerous circumstances Fade and Deuce face on patrol, it was absolutely understandable how and why that trust and loyalty was necessary to survive, and it led to a wonderful crises for Deuce, as her loyalty to Fade collides with her loyalty to her society. It’s a wonderful dilemma and potent emotional arc, yet it’s an arc that is essentially resolved when Deuce and Fade are exiled topside – and for me, the story felt flat from that point on. Honestly I wish this book had ended with Deuce seeing the sun for the very first time, because from there on out Deuce’s story is stuck in neutral. Yes, Deuce and Fade are entering a new world, and Deuce’s confusion, her emotional naivety and lack of any kind of understanding of what a relationship is, beyond having each other’s back, is wonderful, but in terms of character development, Deuce and Fade pretty much tread water for the rest of the book – and it gets a little repetitive. Plot-wise, the story wanders with Deuce and Fade as they explore the abandoned cityscape (ye old wandering across a desolate dystopian landscape paradigm) and encounter other vestiges of human society. It’s not that nothing happens – some new characters appear (the requisite bad boy/other love interest and a waif) and they all run into trouble together – but it just didn’t seem to coalesce with the first half of this story.

Overall I also couldn’t help but feel a nagging sense of familiarity with this story – and I don’t mean the little touches Aguirre added throughout the book to tie her world to our modern one, which I very much enjoyed. There was just something about this story that made me feel I’d seen it before – from the world beneath the tunnels and the girl fighter, to the crumbling New York City landscape, from the Freaks to the gangs, this story was a dystopian stew of familiar ingredients. It was well executed – Aguirre clearly spent a lot of time developing the societies of her world, and Deuce and Fade are characters it’s easy to root for – but the elements were just maybe a little too familiar.

So while I loved Deuce as a character, and was fully vested in her crises of faith, I found myself getting restless with the back end of this book. Still, the ending of this story certainly sets the stage for the next one, and I am definitely looking forward to reading the rest of this series – from Deuce’s emotional evolution and developing relationship with Fade, to her growing understanding of the world, not to mention the mystery of what exactly the Freaks are, there is plenty more to this world that I very much want to see.

In the end, Enclave may not have entirely come together for me, but there is plenty here to enjoy, and plenty more to look forward to. This is definitely a dystopian YA worth reading.

Byrt Grade: B+/A-

As Levar Burton used to say – you don’t have to take my word for it…

YA Highway says:

The best thing about Enclave, by far, is the setting. The author clearly put lots of thought into the setup of her post-apocalyptic world. There are communities living underground in tunnels, protecting themselves from the almost but not quite human-like Freaks who live outside their enclaves. Above ground, it’s a mess of feral gangs and crumbling buildings. I always had a very vivid mental picture of the environment, and it was realistically grim.

Squeaky Books says:

I felt that this book was… unremarkable. I finished it, and then when I sat down to write this review a few days later I couldn’t remember anything specific about it. Nothing left an impression. It’s not that it was bad. The story is fine. The characters were believable, the world was interesting, the battles were intense. But I didn’t find it very original. It’s your standard dystopia/post-apocalyptic book.

Book Faery says:

The characters were solid, the world was intriguing, the romance had me sitting on the edge of my seat, and the descriptions were beautifully done. I think the only thing I was unhappy about was the book’s ending. There was no cliffhanger, and it actually ended in a great spot, but because I was so invested, I never wanted the story to end!