Basic info:

Author: Ann Aguirre

Genre: post-apocalyptic, young adult

Length: 288 pages

Available: Amazon

Publisher: Square Fish (reprint, August 7, 2012)

MY RATING: 4.5 stars

The world as we know it ended, but humanity lives on in the subway tunnels below what was New York City. Life expectancy has fallen dramatically, so anyone in their mid-20s is considered middle-aged. Hunters prowl the dark tunnels for anything that bleeds, except for the mutants that hunt them and ravage the few remaining enclaves. Builders create what the colony needs to survive, while Breeders alone have the babies and care for the young. Bad things happen when people step outside their assigned roles or challenge the colony’s leadership more directly.

Deuce was born into this world, and now that she has turned 15 she is ready to become a Hunter. Following a naming ceremony, she is paired up with Fade, a boy somewhat older than she is who is the most skilled–and ostracized–Hunter in her enclave. Fade has a past, and through a series of events Deuce finds herself only able to rely on her partner, even if that means banishment from the enclave and life on the surface.

Aguirre does some interesting things in this novel, aimed at young adults. Deuce is the only point of view character we get, which of course skews the story. For the most part this is a good thing. She spent her entire life in a world where there was no room for beauty, and what was not immediately useful tended to get discarded. Death haunts the tunnels, and the leadership of the enclave rule by enforced conformity and fear.

She tends to find little pleasure in rediscovering what was lost in the apocalypse (at odds with Fade) and has little patience for characters who are defined by what has happened to them. She is a person of action and the here and now. So she doesn’t show sympathy, for example, to a character who was sexually abused by the gangs she and Fade encounter on the surface–and that caused me to pause and consider what the author was doing. It fits with her character and the world as she knows it. She changes as the story goes on, at a reasonable pace as she discovers that there is more to life than what she knew down below.

I really enjoyed this novel. I recommend it if you enjoy young adult dystopian stories, female protagonists with a strong voice, some zombie fighting, and pondering the different (and sometimes disturbing) future possibilities for our species.