Hunted is about a fifteen-year-old girl named Caitlyn who is in a tough situation and trying to do the right thing. Caitlyn is a Para, a person who has paranormal talents living in a country where such inborn talents are illegal. Paras are supposed to register with the government. Once registered, Paras live under government surveillance and can be ripped away from their family at any moment and used as Para-slaves. Paras who are enslaved are controlled by torture and used to capture other Paras. Unregistered Paras, on the other hand, live under the constant threat of being found out and turned in by the Normals in their communities or by Troopers and their Para-slaves.
Caitlyn and her mom have been on the run for about seven years. Her dad was a strong Para who was murdered by a mob of Normals while promoting peace and compassion between the two groups. Her brother, Daniel, disappeared the same day their father was murdered. The town they're now hiding in has the highest Para capture rate in the country, but there are also a lot of Para supporters. On Caitlyn's first day at her new high school she plans on not sticking out, but you know what they say about the best laid plans. Caitlyn finds herself keeping vital information from her mother and as the danger that Caitlyn finds herself in builds she realizes that there's more than just her own life or even her mother's life at stake.
The library and the librarian are central supports. At one point Caitlyn realizes that "Reading strengthens your mind, makes you less susceptible to Paras. To any influence." Do you remember that scene in Star Wars, "These aren't the droids you're looking for"? Well, I hope I'm not giving anything away when I say that one of my favorite lines from Hunted is, "There is no one here. No one but the librarian."
Hunted has an original plot, strong characters, steady pacing, and a consistent narrative voice. This is a strong girl novel that will appeal to both young adult and adult readers, as well as more mature tweens. There are a couple scenes with kissing, but nothing risque. And although there is a budding romance (or two) it in no way overwhelms the story or steals the show. The main theme is about the struggle to be who you are in spite of societal oppression. In Hunted the primary fight for equality is between the Paras and the Normals, but Rainfield is also concerned with sexism, homophobia, and racism.
I've been following Cheryl Rainfield on Twitter since reading Scars, her first novel. I jumped at the chance to receive a review copy of Hunted. There are no signs of a sophomore slump in Hunted. It's a very different book from Scars, which is refreshing since sometimes authors find a formula that works for them and they don't stretch much beyond that. Another refreshing thing about Hunted is that it doesn't scream sequel next year! Although I can imagine seeing Caitlyn in a sequel, Hunted is a solid, self-contained story that kept me reading past my bedtime.
Check out Cheryl Rainfield's website for info about a chance to win a signed copy of Hunted. You can also download a free short story tie-in and watch the book trailer.
WestSide Books, Dec 15, 2011
(Note: I read a PDF copy supplied by the author)