|Feiwel & Friends|
By Ann Aguirre
With all of the dystopian novels flooding the market, it must be challenging to come up with truly unique outcomes for a post-apocalyptic world. Yet, in this novel, distinctive and separate social structures develop in the ruins depending on whether one is born above or below ground. Cleary, this is exactly what would be highly likely to happen in a country whose infrastructure and population has been decimated, yet Aguirre, to my knowledge, is the first author to tap into this unique dystopian approach of factions who are unaware of one another and who evolve separately. This means that for Deuce and Fade, the main characters in the novel, survival in their own “Enclave” where hunting is strength, starvation is a real possibility, and the life-expectancy has dropped to the low-twenties, is easy compared to the world they face outside the Enclave. In fact, one of the strengths of the novel is the constantly changing environment fraught with dangers from sunburns to “Freaks,” zombie- like creatures starved for flesh. There are bloody fight-scenes in nearly every chapter, and not just with the Freaks, because in this future, chaos reigns! Thus, the story moves quickly, teasing the reader with action throughout. Notably, characters die and are injured, something that would really happen in such a future, and sometimes decisions death are made without regard for the value of human life. Make no mistake, in this novel, the rules of humanity have changed. In fact, that change is best represented by Deuce, the narrator, whose cold view of murder and disdain for “breeders” is crystal. It’s an unusual tactic for a protagonist to be so difficult to identify with. Yet, slowly, the reader may begin to see the huntress coldness in Deuce diminish and want to watch her grow morally. What is not so crystal about the novel is the cavalier attitude that is developed towards rape. Without revealing too much, suffice it to say that I doubt that any girl who knew a boy was a rapist, or who had been a potential victim of his would later cuddle up to said rapist when such a solid, empathetic guy like Fade is available. In fact, the inclusion of a rapist in the latter half of the book diminishes not only Deuce’s character development, but the novel’s overall value as an addition to YA literature. Perhaps the author was trying to show how value systems in society degrade without structure and easy access to basic needs—but since this novel is a YA work, that message may be lost in the cavalier view that a rapist makes for a good love interest. It is for this point that I have to give this novel 4 out of 5, not the full 5 scribbles.