Sunday, January 29, 2012
What if You Were Hunted?
Imagine a world where humans are extinct and only vampires survive. Of course they don't exactly enjoy life without human blood, but they don't have much of a choice. Then imagine being a human who hides in plain sight, a warm blooded person living amongst the very monsters that hunt him. Andrew Fukuda describes that terror so keenly in The Hunt, you won't sleep at night!
Gene is a survivor. His world is surrounded by vampires. He shaves meticulously, is careful about his mannerisms, and is careful to make sure he doesn't sweat or smell like body odor. All these things are what keep him hidden in plain sight- a human (known to the vampires as a heper) amongst ravenous vampires. These vampires aren't the kind who twinkle in the sunlight or lure you in with their beautiful faces and honey-dripped words. These vampires smell one drop of blood miles away and they will rip you apart before you have time to scream. The vampires assume humans are extinct, but when the leader announces a Heper Hunt, all the vampires are drooling at the chance to be in on the hunt (literally- these things drool a lot... nasty).
Gene assumes his chances to be picked are next to nothing, so he doesn't worry much. he just puts on a good show, lots of drooling, some growling, etc. But when his random lottery number is chosen, he can't really believe he has been picked to hunt and kill other humans. Worse yet, he is whisked off to the Heper Institute to prepare for the hunt without getting a chance to get his necessary tools for hiding his identity- soap, razor, etc. Now he finds himself at the Institute, surrounded by the very vampires that will most likely kill him when they realize who he is without his masking tools. He sees the hepers who are housed in a sunlight triggered dome, their only protection against the vampires who want to rip them apart. When he gets to know them, he finds they aren't the cattle the vampires always made them out to be... they are just like him. So how can he hunt the last of his kind?
Oh boy. This was one serious, heavy, violent, intense story! I was dragged right in from the first page and couldn't stop reading. The world Fukuda described is so terrifying, it gave me nightmares. The idea of this boy out there, all alone, one human amongst all those monsters, is worse than anything I can imagine! The author does an amazing job of describing everything meticulously without getting too dull and drab with too much description. The characterization is very interesting, in particular the way years of living amongst vampires gives Gene a bias against the other humans he meets. But most unique was the description of these particular vampires. The way they laugh (scratching their wrists), the way they are intimate (I won't even describe that one because you have to read it to believe it!), even the way sleep and eat- everything was so innovative. Especially in a genre with so. many. vampires.
I wouldn't give this to any student who has delicate sensibilities, because it is seriously violent, bloody, and gory. I think it would be a great story to get those older boys, who hate to read and think everything out there is "so uncool", reading (I won't use the word my students use, but you get the picture). In fact, I bet they will scoff at first and then devour the book. There is nothing childish in this story. In fact, I commend Fukuda for not being patronizing to young adults. This is a grown up story, so be aware of that when you give it to someone. That being said, I love the adult feel of the story. I think it is the key to getting an older, reluctant student reading. You need something that is going to make them feel like they are reading something mature while still being accessible in terms of reading level. I definitely plan to keep this book around for my older students. So don't give up on vampire books just yet, because Fukuda has given you a book full of vampires you haven't seen yet... and you will see them again (in your nightmares!).