Great initial pace and action but disappointing second half
Ann Aguirre's young adult debut, Enclave, takes place in a post-apocalyptic world where people have been relegated to underground tunnels in order to survive. Deuce's survival to age 15 grants her the right to choose her place in society. When she takes on the scars that mark her as a Huntress, she also takes on a dangerous life catching food and battling the zombie-like Freaks. Paired with a rough and withdrawn boy named Fade, Deuce starts to learn that things may not be as the leaders have told them and that greater threats, like thinking Freaks and possible punishment, may lie ahead.
ENCLAVE's strengths lie in its fast pace and streamlined length that kept me reading, so much that I finished it easily in one day. The creative rendering of post-apocalyptic New York provided a solid backdrop for the story and, like other writers in this genre, the author didn't shy away from depicting the grotesque or cruel situations or people that would exist in that world. Deuce was also a strong, physically-able heroine that will appeal to fans of The Hunger Games. Even though a romance occurs, it wasn't the focus of the story and it didn't replace what was happening with the characters otherwise, which I appreciated.
Even with this set-up for a potentially good tale, ENCLAVE didn't wow me, though. Unclear or insufficient world building ran throughout the novel, including contradictions regarding characters' abilities to do certain things, the qualifications for the different classes, and how or why the apocalypse happened and led to their current societal structure. Problems with the story became most noticeable in the second half of the book when the pace slowed down significantly, and some major plot problems appeared there due to a change in setting and circumstances for the characters. Character development stagnated or reversed at this point, and one character's apparent redemption and personality shift seemed too easily obtained and unbelievable. The obligatory hinted-at love triangle also appeared. As the story ended, the deus ex machina "fix" felt out of place and the story ended at an unfinished point that was an obvious set-up for the sequel, which made the book feel almost like an extended prologue.
While the Razorland trilogy has the potential to be a rollicking post-apocalyptic read for some, it didn't catch me in the way I hoped it would. With its strong female lead and her likable male counterpart, I hope that Aguirre uses the next book to explore her characters further and to create a more solid and believable world in which to base their stories.