June 25, 2012

Hunted

by Cheryl Rainfield
Fitzhenry & Whiteside
978-1-55455-226-9
316 pp.
Ages 13+
2012

Whoa.  Catch your breath after reading Hunted by Cheryl Rainfield because you'll have been holding it through the entire read.  Surprisingly and sadly, that which horrifies is analogous to our own reality, for some more than others.

It's not unusual for civilizations (and I use the word loosely here) to organize groups within their society into factions, castes, or classes that can be based on all manner of distinction, usually related to something one group has and another has not, such as wealth, a particular race or religion.  In Caitlyn's world, the distinction is based on paranormal activity, where being a Para is a derogatory term for those unlike the Normals.  Paranormals are considered dangerous and abnormal, and all of society and government revolves around debilitating Paras, if not enslaving them to do the government's bidding.  There are ParaTroopers, Para-hunters, ParaWatch groups, Government Paras (a.k.a. Para-slaves) manipulated by their handlers using ParaControllers, Para-sympathizers, Para-lovers, Para-haters and now there is a ParaReaper torturing and murdering Paras.

At 15, Caitlyn has already endured the murder of her father by Normals during the riots; the kidnapping of her older brother, Daniel, when he was just 8 years old; her mother having deadened all her paranormal gifts so Caitlyn can no longer mind-talk with her; and years of running from those determined to hunt down every Para.  It's not surprising that Caitlyn has learned to protect herself, generally by pretending to be a Normal.  She also listens with her mind to the thoughts of others and to locate the energy frequencies of other Paras.  She visualizes shields of energy around herself and her mom.   And she swims, which deadens the voices and allows her to relax.  She also blogs as Teen Para, in an effort to educate others about Paras and debunk the propaganda levelled against them.

But, now in yet another new location, a town highly vigilant about capturing Paras, Caitlyn is not expecting to have to protect herself from friendship, love and her brother.  Because they so rarely stay in one place very long, Caitlyn's Mom has always advised her to remain detached.  But, when she first hears Alex's laugh, she is enthralled by the peace and goodness that emanates from him, and Alex is just as attracted to her.  Their budding romance and her friendship with Rachel, a Para-supporter whose Para dad is confined by the government, are making Caitlyn feel almost Normal and even hopeful.  But, the reappearance of her brother impels her to want to help Daniel's group fight the oppression of Paras by honing her telepathy to influence Normals.  But, Daniel has grown into a hardened Government Para, having endured much torture, and his idea of fighting for equality is actually a revolution to oppress the Normals.  And he is willing to do anything to get his powerful sister on his side. 

The nature of all Caitlyn's relationships - with her mother, her brother, Alex, Rachel, the motel owner, her telekinetic classmate Paul, the school librarian Mrs. Vespa, her teachers, everyone - provides a solid basis for the plot of Hunted, courtesy of Cheryl Rainfield's gift of voice for all her characters. Even with the book's cover quoting Caitlyn who considers, You don't feel much like living when you can't be yourself, Cheryl Rainfield always provides her with a consistent and honest persona, though Caitlyn might not always see that in herself.  Caitlyn is never anything but a believable teen.  Even as she plays at being Normal, she is still herself, just the part of her that isn't her paranormality, and this is what we see in her friendships and her romance.  Caitlyn sees the goodness and peace in Alex but she has the same within her.  She draws support and affection because she extends the same, whether it be to a Para stopped by a ParaTrooper, the motel owner grieving her loss, or enabling Paul to mind-talk with his mother and grandpa.  These interrelationships are often spontaneous and honest and provide the softness needed to complement the brutality of Caitlyn's world. 

Cheryl Rainfield's terrifying story of a world persecuting those who are different (by virtue of their paranormal gifts) will not only engage the reader emotionally, it will demand attention be paid. The implausible concept of Hunted is hardly that of fantasy in our world of conflict. The book merely depicts a world gone wrong in a singularly grotesque manner, and Cheryl Rainfield chose well to have Caitlyn Ellis be the hero of Hunted;  Caitlyn is the Para to make everyone come together.  She of Hunted parallels Rodney King's indomitable plea during the 1992 Los Angeles riots, "Can we all get along?"



n.b. I've posted two related videos on my Book Trailers blog here.

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