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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—guided by Fade's long-ago memories—in the ruins of a city whose population has dwindled to a few dangerous gangs.
Ann Aguirre's thrilling young adult novel is the story of two young people in an apocalyptic world—facing dangers, and feelings, unlike any they've ever known.
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I was born during the second holocaust. People had told us legends of a time when human beings lived longer. I thought they were just stories. Nobody even lived to see forty in my world.
Today was my birthday. Each one added a layer of fear, and this year, it was worse. I lived in an enclave in which our oldest had seen twenty-five years. His face was withered, and his fingers shook when he attempted the smallest tasks. Some whispered it would be a kindness to kill him, but they meant they didn’t want to see their futures written in his skin.
“Are you ready?” Twist stood waiting for me in the darkness.
He already wore his marks; he was two years older than me, and if he’d survived the ritual, I could. Twist was small and frail by any standards; privation had cut runnels into his cheeks, aging him. I studied the pallor of my forearms and then nodded. It was time for me to become a woman.
The tunnels were wide and laid with metal bars. We had found remnants of what might’ve been transportation, but they lay on their sides like great, dead beasts. We used them for emergency shelters sometimes. If a hunting party was attacked before it reached sanctuary, a heavy metal wall between them and hungry enemies made the difference between life and death.
I had never been outside the enclave, of course. This space comprised the only world I’d ever known, cast in darkness and curling smoke. The walls were old, built of rectangular blocks. Once they had borne color but the years had worn them gray. Splashes of brightness came from items we scavenged from deeper in the warren.
I followed Twist through the maze, my gaze touching on familiar objects. My favorite item was a picture of a girl on a white cloud. I couldn’t make out what she was holding; that part had worn away. But the words in bright red, HEAVENLY HAM, looked wonderful to me. I wasn’t sure what that was, but by her expression, it must have been very good.
The enclave assembled on naming day, everyone who had survived to be named. We lost so many when they were young that we just called all the brats Boy or Girl, along with a number. Since our enclave was small—and dwindling—I recognized each face shadowed by the half-light. It was hard not to let the expectation of pain knot my stomach, along with the fear I would wind up with a terrible name that would cling to me until I died.
Please let it be something good.
The oldest, who carried the burden of the name Whitewall, walked to the center of the circle. He stopped before the fire, and its licking flame painted his skin in terrifying shades. With one hand, he beckoned me forward.
Once I joined him, he spoke. “Let each Hunter bring forth his gift.”
The others carried their tokens and piled them at my feet. A mound of interesting items grew—and a few of them, I had no idea what purpose they might’ve served. Decoration, perhaps? People in the world before seemed obsessed with objects that existed simply to look pretty. I couldn’t imagine such a thing.
After they finished, Whitewall turned to me. “It’s time.”
Silence fell. Cries echoed through the tunnels. Somewhere close by, somebody was suffering, but he wasn’t old enough to attend my naming. We might lose another citizen before we finished here. Sickness and fever devastated us and our medicine man did more harm than...
EnclaveBy: Ann Aguirre