In the future, the world has moved underground since the destruction of cities, the widespread plague, and the extreme weather. Now humans survive in small enclaves where they are given strict rules about living. Jobs include builders, breeders and hunters, and no one steps out of line. To rise up against authority would mean certain death as the rules are meant to keep people safe from their greatest threat --- Freaks. Half-human and half-monster, Freaks roam the underground, and their deadly claws and teeth mean instant death.
Deuce has survived 15 years in her enclave, and the annual naming ritual marks her as a huntress. Now Deuce will brave the winding passageways and impenetrable darkness to hunt for food for her people. Deuce has eagerly awaited the chance to prove her fighting skills against the Freaks, but she didn't expect to be paired up with the mysterious Fade. Unlike the others, Fade wandered into the Enclave as a small child, claiming to be from the topside. And most unlike the others, he doesn't like adhering to all the rules. He is somewhat of a loner, and the rebellious streak in him has proved unpopular among the other hunters. Deuce is warned from the start to keep her distance.
Deuce has a lot to learn, however, and she is soon swept up in Fade's world. His fighting skills are unmatched in the enclave and prove valuable more than once as they regularly fight Freaks while hunting for food. Fade also starts convincing Deuce that those in authority in the enclave are lying --- about a lot of things. This becomes most apparent when they are sent on a special mission to another enclave to discover whether or not the Freaks are organizing and wiping out enclave after enclave.
Upon returning, a strange turn of events further convinces Deuce that perhaps it's time for him and Fade to leave the enclave behind. Mysterious deaths, false accusations, secret alliances and the truth finally revealed force them to depart on their own. There is only one place to go --- topside. As they draw closer, Deuce has an overwhelming feeling of being surrounded by death. Is it better to return to the enclave and await certain attack from the Freaks, or confront the unknown of the topside where even greater horrors await? Deuce has only Fade to cling to, and she still isn't sure if she knows who he really is.
The book's greatest strengths stem from the mysterious Freaks. These include the all-too-short and heart-stopping battles underground, and author Ann Aguirre's creepy descriptions and their mysterious origins that are just briefly examined. If anything, ENCLAVE provides more questions than answers as the reader is expected to fill in the missing gaps of the storyline. The fight scenes, however, are somewhat spectacular, and the jumbled plot of what has happened to the world in the future should appease anyone who enjoys dystopian novels. It's an exhilarating read, which will be perfect for the beach.
Reviewed by Benjamin Boche on April 12, 2011