( spoilers begin in second paragraph!) This was another must read straight through finish it in a day or two book! I enjoyed this very much and felt like it combined elements of various books I already like. In the beginning, when we meet Deuce, who lives entirely underground in what you assume are the ancient New York City subway tunnels, I kept thinking about Neal Shusterman’s terrific book, Downsiders. Deuce’s life in the enclave is a difficult one. You are either a brat (a young child), a Hunter, a Builder, or a Breeder. The Elders keep strict control over everyone. As a new proud fierce Hunter Deuce’s job is to go out and hunt meat for the enclave, as well as protect the enclave by fighting the Freaks. These are sort of zombie like creatures. Deuce is as good a fighter as Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and in every graphic fight she has I pretty much pictured her fighting like Buffy. It’s a pretty dreadful life, but what else is there? That’s just the way it is. There are other underground enclaves, but they are several days away.
After being paired with Fade, a mysterious Hunter, Deuce, for the very first time, begins to realize that maybe the Elders don’t know best. In the second part of the novel she and Fade are aboveground (topside!). Can you even imagine that, much like City of Ember, she is emerging into a world with the sun,which she didn’t even know about? And, unfortunately, the Freaks live aboveground as well, and instead of enclaves there are violent gangs. The world Deuce sees is one that is clearly post-apocalyptic, though what happened? Was it plague or nuclear or environmental disaster? We don’t really know. This section of the book was my favorite (and a relief to be aboveground because it was freaking me out to have my head completely underground in the dark smelly sewers). It was following the comfortingly reliable formula of refugees trying to find a “better place”, which due to my reading of other novels, I assumed would be a settlement of people who lived neither underground nor were zombies.
I thought the author did a great job of seeing this world through Deuce’s eyes. Her wonder at everyday objects, which at this future point are no longer everyday things but the reader can figure out what they are from clues, is great. The changing dynamics between her and Fade and their two other companions was compelling and believable. This is clearly set up to be the first in a trilogy (or maybe even just a sequel?) and I can’t wait to read #2!