CM . . . . Volume XVIII Number 31 . . . . April 13, 2012
Markham, ON: Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 2012.
316 pp., trade pbk., $12.95.
Grades 8-12 / Ages 13-17.
Review by Ann Ketcheson.
Mom’s gaze flicks to the rearview mirror for the thousandth time. Like she’s afraid someone’s tailing us. I don’t know how she thinks she can tell in the dark – or with her abilities shut off, leaving her as blind and dull as a Normal.
“There’s no one there,” I say, sharp like broken glass, as if I haven’t been checking every few minutes myself. As if I haven’t been reaching out around us for anything different. Anything off.
The truth is, I think she’s right to be nervous. I can’t feel anyone watching, can’t even sense another Para close by – but they’ve been shadowing us too quickly lately, like they’ve found a way to zero in on my talent. But only another Para could do that, and I haven’t sensed the metallic bitterness that comes from the Government Paras – the Para-slaves.
Just before we ran, I got the sense that I knew one of the trackers – or that they knew me. That’s never happened before. It’s too big to think about – one of our own, hunting us. Betraying us, without being forced to.
I glace at Mom. She’s clenching the steering wheel so tightly it looks like she might wrench it off its hinges.
Caitlyn and her mom are on the run – again – because they are Paranormals in a society which thinks such telepathic gifts are illegal and which sends out government troopers and trackers to follow and hopefully arrest any Paranormals they find. Caitlyn’s father was killed in an anti-Para riot, and her brother disappeared at about the same time so she can only rely on her mom. Every time they feel the need, they move to a different city and both try to find a new routine and become as ordinary as possible. But in this new situation, Caitlyn has been pursued by other Paranormals who have formed something like a cult which is determined to take over everything and everyone and restore Paranormals’ rights. Caitlyn is faced with three choices: join the rebel group, do her best to stay hidden, or stand up and fight the rebels in order to follow her own convictions as to what is right and just.
Cheryl Rainfield has provided young adults with an outstanding science fiction novel. There are familiar teenage themes such as romance and relationships as well as fitting in when you’re the new kid in a high school. But Hunted goes far beyond this. It is a novel full of tension and suspense as the action begins on the first page and keeps pressing right until the end. It isn’t always clear just who is a Normal and who is a Para, who is good and who is bad. Caitlyn is a strong female protagonist who never loses sight of what she must do to not only save her fellow Paras from destruction but also to save all of the Normals who are sympathizers for her cause. Although certainly the centre of the book, Caitlyn’s character is supported by strong secondary characters in her friend Rachel and boyfriend Alex as well as other teens and teachers at her school.
Hunted is not the science fiction of spaceships and aliens but something much more subtle and so close to realistic that it is frightening. Perhaps there are no Paras in society as we know it, but we still struggle with people who are seen to be somehow different from societal norms. Rather than celebrate our diversity, we often find it difficult to accept others without imposing our own prejudices. The struggle may take the form of fear or perhaps the form of aggression. While Rainfield’s primary focus is on the divide between Paras and Normals, she introduces characters who also face bigotry because of their sexual orientation or their race. The story takes place in an urban dystopia which hardly seems fictional at all if one has recently read the news or seen a televised newscast. Rainfield asks many tough questions, but deciding what you truly believe in and then being willing to stand up and fight for it is the real centrepiece of this novel.
Rainfield has had her share of traumatic experience which she says have helped her deal with topics such as cults and oppression. The final pages of Hunted provide a resource guide for teens on such subjects as ritual abuse, homosexuality, racism and sexism. Hunted is a novel of difficult themes and frightening scenarios but it undoubtedly goes on my ‘must-read’ list!
Ann Ketcheson, who lives in Ottawa, ON, is a retired secondary school teacher librarian and teacher of English and French.
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