READ THE ORIGINAL AND COMPLETE REVIEW (AND MANY MORE) AT WORD SPELUNKINGI jumped at the chance to read and review an ARC of Cheryl Rainfield’s Hunted, drawn to the exciting and intriguing synopsis; but, I never imagined just how much more than a simple paranormal adventure I’d be getting. Hunted is a truly captivating book, with a story that pulses with originality, social awareness, and a razor sharp intelligence. MY BRIEF SUMMARYFifteen year old Caitlyn, a telepath, lives in a world where those with special abilities, Paras, are hunted down, stripped of their rights, and forced to endure unthinkable acts. With her father dead and her older brother missing, she and her mom are on the run from government ParaTroopers, moving from place to place, never getting close to anyone. Caitlyn resents the Normals, never believing she could truly care for one, until she meets Alex and Rachel. With a Normal BFF and a budding romance with a Normal guy, Caitlyn soon finds herself longing to stay, but when someone from her past shows up and she finds herself threatened not only by ParaTroopers, but also by dangerous Para renegades, she must choose whether to run again or stay and fight. STORY Hunted blew me away and moved me profoundly. Rainfield has delicately and intricately woven a strong, multifaceted story. The paranormal elements are electric, the characters are compelling, and the message at the book’s core is powerful and pure.The story is fast paced, but flows effortlessly, action packed, and deftly written. It’s incredibly gripping and impossible to put down, I read it in two sittings.The paranormal aspects in this book are great! The actual abilities of different Paras are nothing new (telepathy, telekinesis, teleportation, precognition, etc), but that’s not important because it’s what Rainfield has her characters do with these abilities that matters. I was completely mesmerized by the way Rainfield’s Paras used and sometimes abused their abilities. Using her telepathy, Caitlyn is able to get inside someone’s head, uncovering all their thoughts and truths and allows for completely nonverbal conversations. It seems almost like Caitlyn lives in two different worlds- the apparent and surface world made up of words and only that which people want you to hear/see/believe, and the deeper, more intimate world made up of only truths and bared souls. This deeper, intimate world is both fascinating and terrifying.The world Rainfield has created is layered, well developed, and realistic. The war and animosity between the Paras and the Normals is understandable and intricately mapped out. I really loved that even though the prejudices and fears Normals have toward the Paras is wrong and unfair, it isn’t simply dismissed. Rainfield makes it okay to understand this fear and hatred, while at the same time, never justifying it and clearly stating that it is wrong.Hunted’s story is thought provoking and bound to evoke strong emotions and discussions, which is a good thing. This is a book that you will want and need to talk about, and it should be talked about. Rainfield touches upon so many modern, provocative issues- sexism, racism, homophobia, abuse, basic human rights-but the book never feels preachy or like it has a hidden agenda. At the end of the day, this is first and foremost a great, entertaining story, a story that anybody who’s ever felt different, ostracized, or alone can relate to…and who’s never felt that way at least once?The last part of the book is climatic, explosive, and heart stopping. The ending is surprising but doesn’t disappoint, and will leave you wanting more, needing more. CHARACTERSRainfield’s characters are all engaging, compelling, and nicely developed. These are characters that one can easily imagine are real and out in the world somewhere breathing, living, and just being.The story is told from Caitlyn’s point of view and this allows for a strong connection to form between her and the reader, at least this happened for this reader. Caitlyn is equal parts feisty and insecure, strong and vulnerable, distant and caring. Her mind and tongue are razor sharp, and she’s impossible not to root for. That’s not to say that she’s perfect however, because she has her flaws and there were times when I didn’t like her thoughts or actions, but I never stopped loving her as a character.Alex is a relatable, easy to like character. He’s sweet, funny, and very much a teenage guy. But he’s also very layered and deep. There’s much more to him then what he allows people to see. Rachel is also a very likable character. I loved her friendly, loyal personality and the fact that she too has a past that haunts her. I must admit that when these two were first introduced, Alex the male, black love interest and Rachel, the teenage lesbian, I was afraid that maybe they wouldn’t serve any other purpose other than to shed light on racism and homophobia. But, as the story progressed and I got to know these two better, their race and sexual orientation took a backseat to who they were as individuals and what they meant to Caitlyn.I won’t go into too much detail surrounding the “bad guys” (don’t want to spoil anything) other than that Rainfield has created very dynamic, captivating antagonists. ROMANCEWhile the budding romance between Caitlyn and Alex isn’t the most significant aspect of this book, it is important. This relationship and Caitlyn’s emerging feelings for Alex are really the catalyst for her changing perspective on who she is, on what it means to be a Para and a Normal, and on the world. There’s a real sweetness to their romance, but there’s also a very realistic intensity and complicated nature to it that defines many teenage romances. Overall, this romance is written with sensitivity and care.MY FINAL THOUGHTS: Cheryl Rainfield has created something unique and very special with Hunted. Rainfield’s story and words left me thoughtful, empowered, and in tears. This is a book that MUST be read and MUST be discussed!