By Elsie Chapman
Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: February 26, 2013
Genre: Young Adult Dystopian
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.
One of the analogies I’ve been tossing around for Dualed is that it’s like a bag of jelly beans. I like the red, black and white ones but the rest only look pretty and are best left to just sit and harden in the bowl before they get tossed out. For every three elements of the story that I enjoyed, there were three more that disappointed me. Dualed could have been so much more than it was.
The story started out promisingly. Chord, the best friend of West’s brother, has just gotten notification that the live or die battle with his Alt has just been activated. West and Luc refuse to let him face his Alt alone (as illegal as it is) and in the process, someone is hurt. This all leads to some good emotional stuff, Kleenex-worthy. I felt for West and expected to see her go all badass girl and train to be a warrior woman. But that wasn’t quite what happened. Cue disappointing element number one.
Instead of having West go the interesting, and yes, maybe predictable route, she becomes a paid super-assassin of sorts, taking out other people’s activated Alts so they don’t have to. She’s not even proficient with weapons yet and the excuse that this will give her training that wouldn’t be sanctioned by the Bureau is flimsy. Hello, these people will be expecting someone to be trying to kill them, not wandering around being easy targets who won’t shoot back. In spite of herself, West manages to fulfill some contracts, but I never believed she was great at this sniper business because she seemed to get her kills from good luck more than anything else.
In order for West to make all of these kills and to later avoid her own Alt, she’s all over Kersh and the different neighborhoods. I really liked this part of the story. Getting to know the seedy side of town, the different kinds of food vendors there were and the public transportation all interested me a lot. The problem was, I usually got it through big sections of infodump. This was one negative I didn’t mind as much though; I enjoyed the view of West’s world more than what West was doing sometimes.
There was a smoldering little romance that I could see being set up from the beginning of the story. However improbable it was in the story itself, it provided a nice break from West’s monotonous attitude. Chord was always popping up, giving her an excuse to be ticked off, thankful or afraid – mostly just annoyed, but whenever he showed up, there was sure to be something interesting and occasionally swoony happening. I liked the guy a lot; he was ridiculously loyal and patient with West and added a much-needed normal touch to the story.
I can’t say that I didn’t enjoy parts of Dualed. The fight scenes were pretty intense and when West eventually did go into badass warrior mode, it was exciting. I liked Chord and even though she was a pain in the rear to him, I wanted a relationship for him with West because he was the perfect character to root for. If there were a couple less things that made me grit my teeth, this would have been a very good read for me, but as it is, it was one I closed and decided to just move on quickly to something else. Since this is Chapman’s first, I won’t write her off though – Dualed was a great concept.
My Rating: C+