If I could picture the mash-up between Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games and Stephen King's Carrie, it would be Cheryl Rainfield's Hunted, which was released today. Teenage Caitlyn and her mother are on the run from the government because Caitlyn is a Para (as in, paranormal). As a telepath, she is among many other Paras with a list of extraordinary talents, all of whom are shunned as societal menaces. While on the run, Caitlyn tries to lay low in a major city, but instead finds herself deep in an underground plot. She needs to decide whether or not to join the ranks, oppose the cause, or just keep running.
Structure: 4 out of 5 stars
Rainfield fluctuates between short and epic chapters, which creates a great environment for readers. The almost 400 page novel takes place over a matter of several action-filled weeks, with frequent flashbacks to the past. Caitlyn's story is jammed with layers of memories (both her own and the experiences of those around her), which are tackled chapter by chapter. At times, it is slightly difficult to distinguish between characters in memory sequences because Caitlyn hears so many different thoughts, but overall, a great set-up. The action keeps the reader engaged and the chapters create the ideal amount of anticipation.
Character: 4.5 out 5 stars
Caitlyn is fierce, brave, and witty - everything I love in a female protagonist. The reader sees the main character not only fend for the rights of her fellow Paras, but also for other minorities at school, the less represented ethnic groups, the queers, and even the quiet kids. As a leader, Caitlyn's biggest flaw is her desire to help too many people at once. But readers love her from the first moment. The feminist in me was only slightly perturbed by the way the protagonist falls so quickly in love with the captain of the swim team, Alex, and the way Caitlyn, at first, turns to him to make everything better. But the two swiftly become an equal pair and seek the support of each other during difficult struggles.
In the same way, the feminist in me was delighted to see the secondary story of Rachel, an out and proud lesbian who stands up for Para rights. I would have liked to see more of Rachel as a character, but I look forward to her story in a possible sequel(?). As for the cast of characters, Rainfield offers an outstanding set of powerful female roles: Caitlyn, her mother, Rachel, Mrs. Vespa (the badass librarian), and even Irene, the manipulating enemy from the other side.
Voice: 5 out of 5 stars
Rainfield has mastered character voices in this novel. Though Caitlyn is the sole narrator, the main character also reads minds and hears thoughts. So, in an incredibly unique way, the author presents an indefinite number of character voices, histories, memories, and experiences, all told through Caitlyn, who can see and feel it all. The reader learns about Caitlyn's brother, Rachel's parents, Alex's mother, the girl in Social Studies, the two boys walking down the hall, and the motel owner, all within the confines of Caitlyn's thoughts. A refreshing take on multiple character voices, and one Rainfield writes very well.
As a whole, Hunted is powerful, surprising, adventurous, and heartfelt. I recommend it to those interested in the supernatural, and anyone who can relate to a really complicated high school experience.
Hunted was published by WestSide Books. It released today in the U.S. and is scheduled for a Canadian release in January.