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, in the ruins of a city whose population has dwindled to a few dangerous gangs. As the two are guided by Fade’s long-ago memories, they face dangers, and feelings, unlike any they’ve ever known.
In this skilled though violent postapocalyptic thriller, Deuce has newly earned the rank of Huntress, after years of training have taught her to "wield a knife or a club with equal proficiency." It's her duty to provide meat for her loveless, draconian enclave, deep beneath the streets of a ruined city, as well as to defend it against cannibalistic Freaks, who are gradually eliminating the scattered human survivors of a vaguely remembered plague. Deuce's is a world of terrifying encounters in near-complete darkness, but she's very good at what she does. Then Deuce stands up for a friend unfairly accused of hoarding and, accompanied only by her talented but unpopular partner, Fade, is soon exiled with little chance of survival either in the lightless and dangerous sewers or Topside. In her first young adult novel, Aguirre (the Sirantha Jax series) has created a gritty and highly competent heroine, an equally deadly sidekick/love interest, and a fascinating if unpleasant civilization. This series is likely to hold considerable appeal for fans of The Hunger Games. Ages 12 up. (Apr.)