star cat rating should not be a mark against this book; i am just giving it a three because i liked it slightly less than enclave, which i gave four stars cats, and that is the way i do math…
and of course the first book in a series is usually the best: new characters, new setting, exciting world-building; everything is designed to reel you in and make you want more.
this second book is more concerned with character development. and probably, upon a re-read, i will like this one just as much as i liked enclave, once i can see the bigger picture.
because this story is important. it is no longer about deuce’s struggle to survive, but her struggle to adapt.
deuce has come out from the underground, from her rigidly structured social system where survival from the freaks was ensured by designating certain highly-specialized roles to its members, because this is dystopian YA and we have to have our factions, right? and her role was a huntress, and she is oh so very good at the fighting. but now she is aboveground, in a protected township, with people who have formed a society that is more recognizable to the reader. these people have managed to form a true community, despite the threat of the monsters at their door.
and deuce is learning that her old way of thinking just doesn’t apply here.
this is a more reflective book than enclave, one where deuce is given the space to consider her past actions, and develop emotional attachments that just weren’t possible in her underground life.
don’t worry, there are still plenty of action scenes, and they are great, but they are not the front-and-center focus they were in the first book.
it is more about adaptive morality, and the ways in which people respond to threats, and the lengths they will go to survive, but also about forgiveness, empathy, and understanding how where people have come from defines their behavior. once distanced from her enclave, and after meeting fade, stalker, tegan, and now these people in salvation, deuce spends much of this book dealing with the messy intrusion of emotions that go against her training as an impassive huntress, but which will, ultimately, make her better-equipped not just to survive, but to live.
Until tonight, I had thought of her only as someone giving me a place to stay out of obligation, out of charity. I hadn’t known she cared. Why would she? I wasn’t a proper girl, nobody she’d have chosen for her kin.And yet her regard was unmistakable; she had been worried about me. I didn’t think anybody ever had been before. I was a Huntress, so if I went out and died, then I had done my job.
she is learning how to become more receptive to emotional concerns that were not part of her training, and it is difficult to shake her past.
The enclave had its rules and didn’t permit bonds to form between offspring and parents. For the first time, I almost understood what a loss Fade had suffered, because he could remember both of his.
it is that “almost” that kills me. oofa.
some quick notes about stalker: i know a lot of people are enraged that he is a leg on this love triangle, because of his past, and what he and his gang did to girls. and i am not one to give a thumbs-up to a rapist, but context is everything, isn’t it? we love deuce because she is fierce and independent, but it’s not like her past doesn’t have some black marks. and she acknowledges this, as she makes stalker’s case for him:
…it was hard for me to blame him when he hadn’t been taught otherwise. The things I’d done on the elder’s orders filled me with hot shame now. I had killed an innocent man as a test of loyalty, and I’d let them murder a brat in cold blood. My own hands weren’t clean. Maybe Tegan’s were; and she’d never hurt anyone who didn’t deserve it. I couldn’t help what I’d done before I learned it was wrong. I could only do better in the future. And the same held true for Stalker, whether anybody else believed it or not. Whether he could rise above the person he’d been in the gangs, well, that rested squarely in his own hands.
i can’t help but think that this is an authorial response to the stalker-hatred. deuce does this a lot in this book; she never justifies what stalker did, or makes apologies for him, but in her new home, she is able to understand more, and become more sympathetic and understanding to different situational necessities: the things we do to survive, when we don’t know the whole story, and the only reality is the day-to-day struggle to stay alive and ensure the future of humanity, which is a pretty big battle for a buncha teenagers, yeah? her people cast out the sick and injured to die, and bred the useless attractive people simply because they seemed to have no other purpose…that’s not much better thank what stalker and the wolves did. and she realizes it, even if tegan doesn’t.
this is a rather long passage, so i am putting it in a spoiler, but i don’t think it is technically a spoiler for anything, if you have read the first book.View Spoiler »She went on, “Anyway, I just didn’t want you to think I’d forgotten what we talked about. Or the fact that I wouldn’t even be here, if it wasn’t for you.”
“Fade, too.” If he hadn’t carried her most of the way through the wilderness, Tegan wouldn’t have survived. Stalker had taken a turn, too, but I doubted she cared to be reminded that she owed him even a small portion of her gratitude. On the scales between them, it was inadequate for what she’d endured with the Wolves. Disquiet shivered through me.
In Tegan’s place, I would’ve fought until I died. Nobody would’ve touched me while I still drew breath, so there wouldn’t have been any unborn brats to lose…yet I would’ve died. Her path of quieter resistance led to survival through suffering. Tegan wasn’t a Huntress, so according to enclave rules, she would’ve likely been a Breeder if we’d found her, because as Stalker had judged, she had no skills and no visible defects. Yet in the enclave, Breeders didn’t fight their roles.
Tegan had. That meant her mother had taught her that she didn’t have to bear young for the benefit of the group. Such freedom seemed foreign…and irresponsible. Down below, no one ever hinted that my own desires could be more important than the good of the whole. But that didn’t make Tegan mistaken; it meant the Wolves punished her. And that, I did believe, was wrong. So far as I could tell, nobody had invented the perfect system, and it was awful to hurt people who disagreed with you. The enclave had done it too.
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so, you see. it’s a lot to think about, for our deuce.
but enough about all that—i totally get why people are skeeved out by stalker, but honestly, the teen-relationship stuff in this book is a little strained, anyway. it is the weakest part of the book. it is great that deuce is learning and growing, becoming more socialized and able to expand her worldview and overcome her training to allow emotions to factor in—to see that there is joy to be had in other people—in family, in romance, but all the running away from her feelings and not understanding them and denying them and blahdiblah. i think it is just that i have read three books in a row now where that was happening to the female lead, and it is just so maddening to me.
but it was good, and it is a veryhigh three
stars cats for me, and oh yeah:
cliffhanger ending! cliffhanger ending!!