By Andrew Fukuda
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
To Sum It Up:Most teenagers don’t have to worry about things like whitening their fake fangs or keeping their facial expressions perfectly neutral while out in public, but Gene isn’t the average teenager. He’s a human, or heper, living among vampires who would devour him in an instant if they knew what he really was. Until now, Gene has managed to pass for a vampire, dutifully attending school at night and pretending to be delighted at the sight of a plate of raw meat. But his cover is about to be threatened by the announcement of the Hunt, a momentous event in which the greatest prizes imaginable, hepers, await the strongest hunters. Gene believes his odds of being selected as a contestant are slim to none, but then the unthinkable happens. He’s chosen to compete in the Hunt, and if he isn’t careful, his fate will be the same as that of the other hepers.
Review:The Hunt was a mixed bag for me. Although I found the premise, in which human teenager Gene struggles to hide what he is in a world ruled by voracious vampires, interesting, I had a hard time getting into the book. I felt like there was an aloofness to it that prevented me from becoming invested in it until I was about halfway through the novel. Once the action got going, The Hunt was more enjoyable, but I wish that I hadn’t had to wait so long for something riveting to happen.
The protagonist, Gene, is one of the few humans, or hepers, as they’re called in the novel, left in existence. He’s been on his own since his father was bitten by a vampire. It was Gene’s father who instilled in his son rules for surviving among the vampires. Gene has to make sure that he never gives off body odor or has facial hair; he also has to wear fake fangs and keep absolute control over his facial expressions. This means no sneezing, laughing, coughing, etc. I had some trouble believing that this kid could remain undetected by the vampires for as long as he had. That’s not to say that he doesn’t have some close calls with revealing his true nature, but for being around these keenly observant predators for hours a night at school, I would have expected him to get found out a lot sooner. I know that I would have been a tasty vampire snack within a nanosecond of setting foot in that school.
I’m still not sure what to think of Gene, either. I was mostly indifferent to him until he came into contact with the humans who were going to be the targets of the Hunt. Not only does Gene stay mum about the details of the Hunt, but he actually looks down on these poor people. He’s surprised to discover that they can hold a conversation and are literate. His attitude irked me quite a lot, and even though he somewhat redeems himself later on in the book, I couldn’t shake his first impression of his fellow humans from my mind.
Where the story became the most engaging for me was when the focus shifted to the humans. They’ve spent their entire lives in captivity and have been raised at the Heper Institute just so they can be hunted down like animals. Reading about what their lives were like and the horrible purpose that they were intended to serve packed the most emotional punch in a book that otherwise felt clinical in tone to me. Sissy, the leader of the group and the only female, is an awesome character. Her courage makes it obvious why she’s in charge, not to mention the fact that she’s lethal with a dagger. I thought that the humans’ plight was much more compelling than Gene’s attempts to blend in as a vampire, and I kept hoping that they’d find a way to escape their situation.
Around the halfway point of The Hunt, I was pretty sure that I wasn’t going to read the sequel; I wasn’t a big fan of Gene and the world-building. Second thoughts began swirling, though, when pandemonium broke out in the book, and I started turning the pages with eagerness. The thrilling way in which the actual Hunt played out left me looking for more to read. I’m still undecided about reading The Prey. On the one hand, the ending of The Hunt made me curious to know what happens next; on the other, if the pacing in The Prey is anything like that of its predecessor, I don’t think I have the patience to read 150 pages or so before the real action commences. I might continue with the series, but it’s not a priority.