Author: Andrew Fukuda
Reading Level: Young Adult
Genre: Horror Paranormal YA
Theme: Vampire, Post-Apocalyptic, Dystopian
Binding: (hardback; my copy was a paperback ARC)
Length: 304 pages
Published: 8 May 2012; St. Martin's Griffin
Synopsis: Don’t Sweat. Don’t Laugh. Don’t draw attention to yourself. And most of all, whatever you do, do not fall in love with one of them.
Gene is different from everyone else around him. He can’t run with lightning speed, sunlight doesn’t hurt him and he doesn’t have an unquenchable lust for blood. Gene is a human, and he knows the rules. Keep the truth a secret. It’s the only way to stay alive in a world of night—a world where humans are considered a delicacy and hunted for their blood.
When he’s chosen for a once in a lifetime opportunity to hunt the last remaining humans, Gene’s carefully constructed life begins to crumble around him. He’s thrust into the path of a girl who makes him feel things he never thought possible—and into a ruthless pack of hunters whose suspicions about his true nature are growing. Now that Gene has finally found something worth fighting for, his need to survive is stronger than ever—but is it worth the cost of his humanity?
My Review: I was super excited when I won an ARC copy of The Hunt from LibraryThing.com. There had been a lot of buzz before its release, some calling it the male version of The Hunger Games, only with fangs. With so many YA vampire books out there, finding something that stands out in this genre is like searching for a needle in a haystack. I really wanted to love The Hunt, and while it does delivery some chills and some nail biting suspense, the story somehow falls short and is riddled with plot holes.
The Hunt does have an interesting premise. Vampires are now at the top of the food chain and humans, now called "hepers", are obsolete...until the dictator comes on television and announces that there will be a lottery. The lucky winners of this lottery will have the honor to participate in the last "Heper Hunt", and it is revealed that several humans have been raised and groomed specifically for this event. Gene, one of the winners, should be ecstatic that he will get the chance to hunt down the last "hepers", to taste fresh blood and tear through human flesh. But no one realizes that he is actually a human and has spent his whole life pretending he is a vampire. Talk about living in a pit of snakes, right?I do like that the story was told in a male's point-of-view. There are so many books out, especially in the vampire genre, that are targeted for girls. While the book is girl friendly (there is a romance that develops), I think The Hunt will definitely appeal to boys. The vampires in this book are not romantic nor are they particularly attractive. They have long fingernails, eat raw meat along with the blood drinking, and go into some sort of drooling trance when they either think, see, or smell "hepers". Yeah, they definitely aren't your Twilight or Vampire Diaries bloodsuckers. In fact, they sort of remind me of zombie-vampires since they will devour a whole human, not just drink their blood. I'll come back to that in a minute.
I have to give Fukuda credit where credit is due. The man can build suspense. Gene is a human, living as a vampire. Ever since he could remember, his father taught him that he had to suppress his natural human reactions and urges-- no sweating, no laughing, no shivering, no goosebumps, no squinting, etc. There were quite a few scenes where I felt my heart pounding in fear for Gene. One that comes to mind is when he is in class (at night) and the teacher calls on him to read something off the board. Because they are vampires and have sharper eyesight, they don't need a lot of light. Gene can barely see and he knows if he were to squint his eyes to try to make out what's on the board, his cover would be blown, especially when all his vampire classmates turn to look at him when he doesn't speak up right away. Then he starts to sweat which is another no-no. There are quite a few tension building, nail biting scenes like this, so I can't take that away from the author.
There is a lot of controversy over how Gene acts towards the other humans once he comes face to face with them. Some readers were outraged at his behavior, that he had a superiority complex and was more worried about his own survival than warning or helping his own kind formulate a plan. I actually liked this twist and whether others want to admit it or not, this course of action is quite realistic. Gene has been literally raised with vampires. Other then his father drilling the do's and don'ts of survival in his head, Gene knows no other life. He doesn't even understand what his father meant when he would say, "Never forget who you are." Those words would haunt him even years after the death of his father. He knows more about vampires then he does about humans, and everything that has been taught to him about humans seems distorted. But even he doesn't realize what's true and false about his own kind. After all, books, videos, photographs have all been destroyed. So in my opinion, Gene thinking he is smarter then the humans that were raised in the Dome is not a farfetched idea. And maybe in a way he is in the sense that his survival skills are unmatched since he literally has been living with the enemy without them knowing. But that doesn't mean the humans in the Dome are stupid or without skill. I think one thing they teach Gene is loyalty. I won't say any more for fear of too many spoilers, but hopefully it will help you keep an open-mind while reading.
Here are my issues with The Hunt. The one that drives me crazy the most is their means for transportation. HORSES. Really??!!! Are we living back in the 1800's??? I am not a horse hater; in fact I love horses. But this doesn't make sense. Vampires have taken over the world (well, at least in Gene's world). They have the technology to build the Institute and create the Dome, which has the ability to close once the sun goes down to keep the humans inside and the vampires out (because vampires can't control themselves around humans, which I will get to in a minute). So, they have all this technology and the only reason they don't use cars (as far as I could tell) is because they think it is safer to ride in a carriage being pulled by a bunch of horses than in a car. God forbid if a car should run out of gas or blow a tire and they get stranded as the sun comes up. Umm...ever hear of tinted windows for vampires??! You're telling me with all the technology out there, the best they could come up with is horses??? Oh, I guess they never thought about all the things that could go wrong with a carriage, or the fact that the horses throughout the book seem skittish because they can sense the vampires aren't quite normal. Maybe because they are predators??? Okay, I need to get off this topic before I start throwing something >=(.
My next issue...why is there no backstory in The Hunt? I get it is going to be a series. I don't need everything spelled out for me. A little bit of mystery is good. But freakin' come on! Throw a dog a bone! And this is going to lead me right into my next issue that I sort of alluded to above. We have vampires that are sort of like zombies in that they not only drink blood, but will completely devour a human. When I say devour, I mean they will eat skin, internal organs, bones, EVERYTHING. Remember me saying that they go into this weird, creepy drooling trance when humans are mentioned or seen on television? They are worse if one is in close proximity. They literally lose control, go mad, all thinking ceases to exist. The humans don't have to have a fresh cut in order to set them off; vampires CANNOT control themselves AT ALL if one were to walk in a room. That is why the Dome was created by the vampires, so that if by some chance they lost control, they wouldn't be able to get to them. So...here is my problem with that. If these vampires can't control themselves at all, how did so many people "turn" into vampires without being eaten??? This is why backstory is so vital to a new series with new mythology. I mean, how did these vampires come into existence? Did it start out with a virus? The only thing Gene does mention is his fear of getting scratched or bitten. But considering how vicious and strong these vamps are, I can't see too many humans being able to get away without getting devoured.
Here is my last big issue (I have quite a few more, but those would only cause spoilers). While I loved the premise of the story, and started to realize that Gene might not be the only human pretending he is a vampire in order to survive, I find it a bit unrealistic. The vampires have no inventory of families? So if a whole family is thought to be vampires and say 2 family members disappear--they just stop going to school or don't show up for their job-- you're telling me that the vampire authorities wouldn't get curious? They wouldn't approach the other family members and ask where they are? In the very beginning, a little human girl shows up at school and falls asleep (another no-no). The vampires eat her once they realize she is human. So...they didn't put 2 and 2 together that if a human child was sent to school pretending that she was a vampire that maybe her parents could be human as well? Or that other humans are doing the same thing? Yeah, so many plot holes!
Andrew Fukuda's The Hunt started off strong. It was refreshing to read a vampire book through the eyes of a teen boy and I have no doubt that this will be a book that will even appeal to reluctant readers. It's bloody, gory, and pays homage to the vampires of old while still retaining some originality. Fukuda shows skill at writing suspenseful scenes and more then once I found myself holding my breath in anxiety. But what hurts this story severely is the plot holes. Lack of backstory is the biggest issue. While this may be Fukuda's plan since The Hunt does end on a cliff hanger and book 2 is in the works, I think giving his reader a little more information in book 1 wouldn't have hurt. When I finished reading it, I was so annoyed that my original rating was actually 2 out of 5 stars. But after a few days of reflection as I started making my list of likes and dislikes, I came to realize that I genuinely liked the main character and had no major issues with the writing itself. It was the holes in the story I had issues with. So my final, upgraded 3 out of 5 star rating is because I want to remain optimistic that Fukuda did this on purpose and he has some brilliant plan to fill in the holes in book 2 by giving us some awesome, original backstory. One can hope, right?