Author: Elsie Chapman
Publication: February 26th, 2013 by Random House Books for Young Readers
Format, pages: Hardcover, 304
Age Group: Young Adult
Genre: Science Fiction, Dystopia, Thriller
You or your Alt? Only one will survive.
The city of Kersh is a safe haven, but the price of safety is high. Everyone has a genetic Alternate—a twin raised by another family—and citizens must prove their worth by eliminating their Alts before their twentieth birthday. Survival means advanced schooling, a good job, marriage—life.
Fifteen-year-old West Grayer has trained as a fighter, preparing for the day when her assignment arrives and she will have one month to hunt down and kill her Alt. But then a tragic misstep shakes West’s confidence. Stricken with grief and guilt, she’s no longer certain that she’s the best version of herself, the version worthy of a future. If she is to have any chance of winning, she must stop running not only from her Alt, but also from love . . . though both have the power to destroy her.
Elsie Chapman’s suspenseful YA debut weaves unexpected romance into a novel full of fast-paced action and thought-provoking philosophy. When the story ends, discussions will begin about this future society where every adult is a murderer and every child knows there is another out there who just might be better.
Elsie Chapman’s young adult debut Dualed at first looks like it could roundhouse kick every other book near it off the shelf and crashing to the floor, but upon reading and closer inspection, Dualed may just trip over its own feet. Don’t get me wrong, Dualed was an action filled, pulse thumping read and I relished in the story and the protagonist of West, but this book and the execution of this idea was heavily skewed, that it ran with a one-minded approach, that no matter how much I wanted to cheer and get behind our characters West and Chord, I couldn’t help thinking about the Alts that have fallen, the “foes” that I did not get to know.
Dualed brandishes the saying ‘Survival of the Fittest’ with the city of Kersh using it as a way for conformity, for honour, for advancement in its citizens. Every individual has a genetically identical twin – known as an Alternate (Alt for short) – with a different family, way of living, etc. At fifteen, each person is given an assignment of killing their Alt, and the one to survive acquires life benefits that they wouldn’t have gotten previously – better everything. West Grayer, our protagonist, aids forbiddingly her boyfriend with terminating his Alt, but in the process her brother is killed (no spoiling, this is within the first chapter). West then joins the Strikers, a hidden organisation that targets Alts before assignments even begin and hired by the wealthy, to find strength in herself and some vengeance for her brother’s premature death. But while she does she gets her own assignment, given information to her Alt’s whereabouts, and must bring down her Alt if she is to survive in the end.
Like I said, Dualed is very much one-sided. We only get this story through the point of view of West, so by the time it comes to her facing her Alt all we understand and told about is West’s drive to come out of this dual alive. The Alts are one-sided, only ever seen as the enemy (besides Kersh to the Strikers), and it is only here and there that we can piece together the life of the Alt through West visiting her Alt’s home, spying on her Alt, seeing how her Alt does things. This novel could have been well executed if we were given the point of view of West’s Alt as well. We hardly got to know her. We actually knew really nothing about her except her parents care for her and are, how it always go, on her side. It’s a very flat society – one-sided. I would have enjoyed it more if the ending was also quite different. Again, the ending was very one-sided, not budging that flatline up or down; it frustrated me to no end because I wanted there to be something, a change in our characters, a change in the way this book ended.
Also, the Alts barely said a single word, such as in the confrontation between West and her Alt, the climax of the book. Poor.
West, however, was a character I did like. She was stubborn to the point that stubbornness was tolerable because it showed that she would rather go into a fight with the first swing than stand back, cowering in the corner, waiting to be hit first. After all, look at the society that she lives in. Her protectiveness and sort of maternal trait comes out when she refrains from killing a boy for her Striker assignment but rather protects him from others, teaching him to fight, teaching him to protect himself. I liked her until the end, until the end where I thought something – something like realisation, or defiance (like she showed previously) – was going to make her drop her weapons and walk away, possibly hand in hand with her Alt to start a rebellion and bring down the higher powers of Kersh. But no.
The book on a whole, without thinking about what I would’ve like to have been done differently on Chapman’s part and getting all philosophical and humanitarian-like, was solid. Not the best. But solid. It was enjoyable, tense, suspenseful. If you’re after heavy, well developed and thought out science fiction or dystopians than you might want to look elsewhere. Dualed will spike your blood pressure; as well as your inner critic. But Elsie Chapman is surely an author to watch out for in years to come; she can write pretty great action scenes.
Thanks to Random House for Young Readers via NetGalley for the egalley to review.
What others said about this book:
Wendy @ The Midnight Garden:
All that said, this one definitely satisfies if you’re looking for a fast-paced, suspenseful read. I literally read it in a day, which is a statement in itself of its high entertainment factor!
Other books in this series:
1. Dualed (February, 2013)
2. Divided (February, 2014)