Dualed (Dualed #1)FeaturedHot
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.
Ordinarily, I like to start my reviews with what I did like about the book. With Dualed, however, I feel the need to start with the negative. The reason for that is that I think you need to be warned, so that you can mentally prepare yourself and just enjoy all the things Dualed does well, rather than getting hung up on this aspect.
The world building in Dualed is a bit laughable. I mean, it just does not make sense. Here's the thing: I love the idea of the alts and the kids having to kill someone with their face, and the city is creepy and atmospheric. That's all great. However, despite the blurb of description telling me how this came about, I'm really not buying society ever evolving into this, especially as a way of averting and preparing for war. I'm also not convinced on the science behind alts either.
One of the things I couldn't help wondering about within the context of this world was what happens when your alt dies as an AK (accidental killing during someone else's completion, aka killing their own alt) or of a disease. If that happens, does the remaining alt get a free pass? Besides, I imagine that often both alts are powerful and clever or both are wimpy and useless. Why get rid of one of each set when that doesn't necessarily seem like it will do the best Darwinist job? Wouldn't you be better off sticking all of the kids in an arena and making them kill each other until a specified number remain?
Anyway, enough of that. I just wanted to warn you to not think too much about the why and how of this society and to just suspend your disbelief. Besides that, I had no problems with Dualed. I was completely caught up in the story. There is so much action and excitement. Chapman builds up tension really well. Even though I knew that certain outcomes were guaranteed, I was still super concerned at the ending that things would not turn out okay. Partially, this suspense is maintained by the fact that Chapman definitely proves herself one of the awesome authors not afraid to have good people die in nasty ways.
Connecting with West took me a little while. She's one of the most emotionally closed off heroines I've encountered, reminding me most strongly of Trella from Inside Out and Outside In. Almost all of West's family has died, either killed by their alts, by accident or through even more painful methods. This has left West with serious trust issues: getting close to someone can only increase your pain when they die or their pain when you die. The more I got to know her, though, the more I liked her and sympathized with her. Though Dualed is not at all about being a typical teenager, her fear of not being good enough is one to which every reader can relate. Much as I came to care for and worry about West, I did still sometimes want to shake her, because she makes stupid decisions. They're the kind I would probably make too, blinded by the fear and pain of the moment, but I wish I could spare her that.
What I found especially interesting about West was that she was not an especially strong or weak character; so many YA heroines are either completely useless or total badasses. She comes off as a fairly ordinary (not in personality, but in physical ability) person doing what she has to. Though she's nice and has had her family decimated by this world, she becomes a striker, an assassin to kill the alts of others. She does this to practice for when she has to battle her own alt, since she does not feel at all prepared. She's fairly good at striking (though not a prodigy), but she still falls to pieces in the face of, well, her own face. I really do love the idea of having to fight a physical manifestation of your personal demons. Could you kill someone with your face?
My favorite character, though, was definitely Chord. He is definitely one of the YA heroes we should all be squeeing over. Though he does have some stalkerish tendencies, I believe them to be solely because to help West become a Complete, to help her kill her alt. Aside from following her to help keep her from dying, West is pretty hands off. He gives her the space she wants when he can, he doesn't press his feelings on her, he gives her money and medical care, and he doesn't give up on her. Chord is a steady, reliable presence, not commanding like most YA guys. He is sweet and also, for bonus points, a tech nerd. Be still my heart, because a guy who says stuff like the quote below? The best kind of guy.
Dualed is an action-packed thrill ride that will be perfect for fans of The Hunger Games or Divergent who are willing to overlook some weakness in world building in exchange for adventure and drama. Dualed definitely focuses on action, though there is some romance and even some humor.
Dualed’s blurb promises “thought-provoking philosophy” which immediately grabbed my attention. I was excited to see how Chapman had her protagonist, West, question the Board and it’s methods and how she used questions of ethics or morals to call their practices in to doubt in an attempt to bring down the system! Of course, since I’m obviously disappointed with Dualed, this didn’t happen. Sure, West questions how the Board runs the city, but other than a few fleeting thoughts, nothing is really commented on in a way that suggests that West envisions a different type of world, a world where ten year olds aren’t asked to kill. I had plenty of questions, however, many of which weren’t answered.
With the level of genetic manipulation that the Board has at their fingertips, why not implement a system where each child has been genetically modified to be a super soldier? Why not raise an entire race of killers, funnelling all resources into training and educating them on the art of war, instead of wasting resources on an Alt that’s eventually going to be killed? The Board claims their entire system is designed so they have a city of killers, of people worthy of living in their city, ready in the event their city is attacked or brought into the ongoing wars outside the city limits – but if that’s the case, why are you allowed to stop your training once you have killed your Alt? A man who completed at age 10, and is now in his 50s, isn’t going to be much help on the front lines if he hasn’t been keeping up with his fitness and weaponry.
In an effort to keep the focus on Dualed’s action, the subjects that are touched on are touched on so briefly, and in passing, that they might as well have not bothered. For example, West mentions how the Board rules “with an Iron fist” and that they have strict laws against vengeance kills – where a family member seeks out an Alt after completion in order to seek vengeance for their lost loved one. The Board is strict on this, since it thwarts the system and removes the sense of safety one gains after completion. But other than showing up to activate her, we see nothing of the Board. During the entire plot, not a single authority figure is seen or heard of. West mentions them periodically, and the fear they have instilled over following the rules, but we don’t see them. Ever. And I couldn’t understand how a vengeance kill was any different than hiring a Striker to kill your Alt for you? The Board seems unable to stop this from happening, and citizens of the city are willing to turn a blind eye to it. None of this made sense to me, for a governing body that claims to rule with an Iron fist, considering the existence of Strikers only undermines the entire foundation their society is built upon!
While most of my issues with Dualed lied in its numerous plot holes and shaky-at-best world-building, I also had a hard time empathizing with West. For the longest time, I could not understand why she decided it was necessary to become a Striker. Bits and pieces were revealed over the course of the plot, and I eventually learned that she was able to forget about the hurt of losing her family, and her guilt over her part in her brother’s death, if she were focused on hunting down someone to kill. She eventually admitted that it made it “almost” easy to forget that she was alone. While this admission was great as explanation, it was far too little too late. I had distanced myself from West, because I couldn’t understand her motives. My exasperation with her only grew as she became an Active – someone who had thirty days to kill her Alt – and she continued to focus on being a Striker. Having now re-read the blurb, I understand that her first mission as a Striker, which didn’t go smoothly, placed enough doubt in her for her to believe that she wasn’t the worthy Alt. But the fact that I had to read that in the blurb, that it was never made explicit during the plot, is the reason I couldn’t connect with her.
As for the romance, to be frank, it pissed me off. Not that it was included, but that West needed it in order to buck up and start hunting her Alt. It made me furious that after two hundred and fifty pages, West hadn’t developed enough self-worth to kill her Alt so she could live. The ONLY reason she decided to stop running was because she had admitted her feelings about Chord to herself, and she now had something worth living for. Intentional or not, I don’t like the message of life only being worth living if there’s someone to share it with. I would have respected West more as a character if she had seen the value of life in itself.
All that being said, Dualed did have one great thing going for it – and that was the action scenes! While I wasn’t a fan of the character development or world-building, Chapman slightly made up for it with how well she was able to write West planning out a Striker attack, the paranoia of constantly looking over ones shoulder and then the ultimate showdown between her and her Alt.
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.
The description of this book is what drew me to it in the first place. The whole idea of having someone out there who looks just like you and shares the same DNA but grows up under a different set of parents was intriguing. Then you throw in the fact that they get assignments to kill their alternates and whoever is the winner gets to become a useful part of society, this just brings the book to a whole other level.
I loved West. She was intelligent and strong even though she didn't see it in the beginning. When it came down to the one person she wanted to protect she would risk everything. I admit I was unhappy with a lot of West's decisions early on in the novel, I just wanted her to finish off her Alternate and be happy. Of course that wouldn't have made a very good story so looking back now I am pleased that she went through all of the issues and trials that she did. Then we have Chord, the boy that West has known for a long time due to the fact that he's best friends with her brother. When it came time for West to complete her assignment, Chord was there every step of the way trying to help her in any way that he could even though West was not very kind about it.
The action in this novel is intense. I found myself on the edge of my seat as I was reading, eager to see how things would turn out. There were moments where things were extremely emotional and then there were moments when you couldn't help but be angry. Though the romance doesn't take a major role in this novel, it is still there and it is extremely sweet.
I received this ARC through the Random Buzzers Ambuzzador program, this did not effect my thoughts or opinions in anyway.
West is literally running for her life for most of this book. She has gone active and has the constant knowledge that her ALT is after her. With all of this, “Dualed” lacks tension. It’s annoyingly repetitive and West is just too stoic a narrator. The story starts off strong; West has just buried another sibling who was killed by their alternate. She is still in her funeral blacks when Cord, a boy she has known all of her life, goes active. (Going “Active” means that you have a month to hunt down and kill your alternate) West refuses to lose another person and pushes Cord to go after his alt immediately. This sets off a chain of action packed and heartbreaking events.
At this point, I am hungrily flipping through the pages (well, sliding across the screen of my nook). I’m thinking that this book is going to be great, but it isn’t. The issue is that the book doesn’t so much decline as it goes static. West runs around Kersh, trying to avoid her Alt and Cord, while killing strangers and innocents. In the first 10% of this book West becomes a Striker. A striker is an assassin who kills alts for those who can afford to pay. This ruined the book for me. One, because “Dualed” isn’t being advertised as a book about an assassin and I felt completely blindsided. It happens so early in the book, that it blows my mind that it is not mentioned in the synopsis, the trailer or any other promotional media I have seen. Second, in a world filled with Katniss Everdeens and Rose Hathaways it is very difficult to like a heroine who kills for no reason.
The author tries to give us this spiel about how Striker’s fight against the system. No. Robin Hood fights against the system. Bruce Wayne fights against the system, Striker’s kill for the highest bidder. Sure, this is not what the Kersh government wants and I guess it is a form of rebellion, but that is not a good enough excuse. West does not sign up to help the little man or to smuggle people out of the city limits. No, she signs up to kill innocent people. At least the government gives them a 50% chance of survival. West and her people take that away. Since the government is so corrupt and rules absolutely, it’s not like the people who can pay to eliminate their alternates have worked hard for their money or anything. These are people who have the option of not getting their hands dirty. It is cheating. There is a way of life in Kersh and instead of trying to improve that life, West is just helping cowards beat the system.
There is all this talk about how West should become a Striker as a mode of training. I expected to read awesome training sequences, where West learns to become a warrior. There is none. So, we just follow along as West bungles through the murders of innocent people. This storyline was just no good for me. Seeing as there is no real training, besides West getting the feel for killing another person, it just seemed villainous. A fifteen-year-old girl killing people does not entertain me. Especially, when she is killing for reasons other then survival. Scenes where she just walks up to an unsuspecting person and offs them really made me cringe inside. Why are we rooting for this cold-blooded killer?
The one good thing about this book is Cord. Cord is loyal, trustworthy and steadfast. He comes through for West even when she turns her back on him, demands he leave her alone and abandons him. He protects her despite herself and is always there to lend a hand. He is a strong young man who understands why she is pushing him away. Instead of getting pissy, Cord becomes even more determined. He is not going to leave her to face death alone. I loved that about him. It got to the point where I wanted Cord to just forget about West and find a girl who respected his strength. West becomes obsessed with protecting Cord, with good reason, but after awhile it just seemed shallow. The person she is really protecting is herself.
My last thought is about the government of Kersh itself. Their governing style makes absolutely no sense to me. Kersh is afraid of an attack from the outside world. This fear pushes them to create a warrior society. If you are not the strongest ALT, you do not deserve to live. I’ll ignore the lack of common sense in this idea…just because you can kill someone first doesn’t make you a better warrior, but I wont start a philosophical discussion about that. My issue is what happens after you complete. You have won, you are worthy and you can now go off and live a normal life! Except, you could be walking down the street and get shot by an eleven year old trying to get to their Alt. Literally. So, the government spends all this time and money getting young people prepared to fight for their life, these young people kill someone with their face (which must be traumatizing) and now they have to worry about being collateral damage?! Why is there not a warzone or battlefield specifically for alts? We’re talking about people from the age of 10 to 20. Even with all their training, they are children! Of course there will be causalities. They are frightened and too immature to deal with the stress of it all. Why are they allowed to kill each other in the middle of the street? It just makes absolutely no sense to me.
Recommended for fans of Dystopian stories. If you like dystopian worlds, where people have to kill to survive, cool technologies and alternate universes you should check out this book.
Review: I had some ups and downs with this plot but I really did enjoy the overall story.
Kersh, is a walled up area for its citizens, blocked off from the outside world of war and the unknown. While inside, is just the same. Inside there is murder, untimely death, and the paranoia of what is to come. Each child age 10-20 must become an 'active' and complete their mission to kill their Alt before their time is up, and they can do this wherever (in a crowd, in their home, in a store) as long as it gets done. This all makes for a very interesting story, anything could happen.
The characters we follow are West Grayer and her friend Chord. Chord is the boy-next-door, has always been part of the family, and promises to protect West. West on the other hand is 15, stubborn, and just plain normal. She is a brave and courageous female lead, but sometimes she is so stubborn it is beyond aggravating. She can be SO dense! About half the time I was screaming at her to 'figure it out'.
My other concern was that there wasn't enough about why the Board makes everyone go through all of this, they say pending war, and just in case, but that was not enough for me. And for everyone to just go along with them and let their children die -- I question this.
The overall plot was excellent, there was so much action, killing and suspense that I was on the edge of my seat throughout the book, even more so when I was yelling at West.
I am most curious to see if we start to see more of the outside world around Kersh and how it will impact the characters, we shall wait to see in Divided if we get more.