Deuce lives a grim, yet sheltered, life underground. Born into an enclave where no one survives past the age of 40, she must follow the enclave’s strict laws for her own protection. While her friends have been trained to build or breed, Deuce has learned to skillfully wield knives as a Huntress. She is partnered with Fade, a shunned Hunter and outsider. Together they have the gruesome task of hunting for meat in the dark tunnels surrounding the enclave while also combating Freaks—vampiric creatures who eat the living and the dead.
When Deuce and Fade are sent on a dangerous mission, they discover that the Freaks have wiped out a neighboring enclave. But the enclave’s elders dismiss Deuce’s report in an effort to maintain order, and she begins to question their leadership. When her friend is falsely accused of a crime, she and Fade lie to protect him and are immediately banished from the enclave. Now they have no choice but to attempt survival above ground, where Deuce has never been, and where unknown dangers lurk.
Aguirre skillfully juxtaposes Deuce’s gritty and incredibly violent life underground with the beauty of first love. By enclave law, Deuce cannot show affection for another person; only breeders can be intimate. But as she and Fade protect each other against the Freaks and gang members, Deuce cannot help but have romantic feelings for him. Also amidst the violence is the innocence of discovery. Deuce’s training has prepared her for violent combat, but not for understanding the world above the sewers. Whether she is seeing a toilet for the first time (“I pulled a handle down and was shocked that the stool responded with a gurgle of water. I squeaked in surprise. How was that possible?”) or a blanket of snow, she responds to her new environment with wonder and excitement. As Deuce embraces these new emotions and new experiences, so will readers.
Enclave is an impressive addition to the growing collection of dystopian young adult novels.