Fast-Paced Debut with Lots of Action
In Dualed, we are brought into Kersh: a city-state in a post-apocalyptic world where humanity has been left infertile. The Board - the governing body - somehow has managed to find a way to create/grow human clones in labs two at a time. Every set of twins (or Alts) are separated at birth (hatching?) and each baby is raised by a different family. They never meet until the time comes for them to hunt down and kill their clone upon their activation. You see, the Board teaches that the survival of Kersh depends upon the strength of its population, so only those who kill their Alts are worthy of living there. This world-building is interesting, but it left me hungering for more. It seemed like there were holes in the story and zip-aheads (you know, when you fast forward in time - roll with it) that confused me a bit. When it came to other aspects of the story, I could suspend disbelief enough to believe Kersh wanted to be a land of killers, but I wanted to read more about why the Board activated certain individuals when they did. I also wish there would have been more showing of the parents and how they dealt with the loss of one child, but having another walking around, genetically the same.
The writing itself in Dualed was gripping, but I did have a bit of trouble connecting with the characters. West Grayer is a young girl surrounded by death and loss, and I think she is a fair representation of that. She is withdrawn and pushes away anyone who attempts to get close to or help her. I think this included me. However, West was fascinating to observe (I never felt like I was there with her like I do in many books), and I enjoyed her interactions with Chord. My favorite thing about her was the doubt she felt about being the worthy one, being as she was a hired assassin for other people's Alts. As for West's Alt, I wish I could have known her a little better. We were only given brief glimpses of her life, and mystery does not always translate to villainy.
After it's all said and done, I have to applaud Elsie Chapman for Dualed. There were times that I was left scratching my head because of the pace, but I never felt the urge to put the book down. I think the strange and broken future world that saw kids killing kids on the streets kept my attention trained so completely upon it. I knew from a few chapters into the book that it may not be for me, but Chapman had me and wasn't going to let me go. And though I know that Dualed's sequel, Divided, will be coming out next year, I found the ending to be completely satisfying. I'm a huge fan of Old School science fiction's open endings, but that's not the case with Dualed. I can't imagine that any readers will be left standing at the edge of a cliff begging for book 2 because of how it all wraps up. Then again, I just read the ARC, so there may be a huge twist at the end that I completely missed.
Teen or adult reader alike, I think you should read the book for yourself. It's so fast and action-packed, it's likely you will forget that you are reading.