Review: Dualed by Elsie Chapman

Dualed Book Cover Dualed
Elsie Chapman

The city of Kersh is a haven, but the price of safety is high. Everyone has a genetic Alternate, a twin raised by another family, and teens must prove their worth by eliminating their Alts before their twentieth birthday. Survival means advanced schooling, a good job, marriage – life.

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 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.

Review:

I’m amazed. I had no idea that a book containing as many life-or-death situations as Dualed could be so incredibly boring.

I was completely underwhelmed by this book, which is disappointing – the idea behind it had so much promise.  As mentioned in the blurb, Kersh, the futuristic city in which the story takes place, is a walled stronghold in North America. It was built to protect those who live there from the war and violence that dominates the rest of the world. In exchange for safety, the citizens of Kersh must prove themselves worthy of the city’s hospitality. They do so by fighting against their genetic Alternate until only the smarter, tougher twin is left standing, thus ensuring that Kersh has an army of capable soldiers available to fight in case of an outside attack. It’s Darwin’s “survival of the fittest” concept taken to the extreme.

A story idea like this one has tremendous potential, but that potential is undermined by the fact that almost nothing that happens in this book makes any sense. I found myself questioning just about every move and decision the characters make, as these moves seem to be completely counterintuitive.

I try very hard not to include spoilers in my reviews, but in this case I’m making an exception. If you plan to read this book, you shouldn’t read anything below this point.

Early in the book, West, the protagonist, discovers that there is a group of assassins, called Strikers, who can be hired to illegally kill a person’s Alternate for a large fee. The leader of the Strikers justifies his occupation by stating that it’s wrong for the government to use the Alternate rivalry to decide which person is worthy of survival; just because someone is willing and able to murder his/her genetic twin doesn’t mean they’re the better of the pair.

I agree with that sentiment, but what I don’t understand is how the Strikers assassinating Alternates makes for a fairer system. Accepting money to act as hitmen serves only to ensure that wealthier Alternates survive rather than Alternates who are better fighters, which doesn’t seem to be much of an improvement over the current system. It’d be different if the Strikers secretly followed Alternates around to determine which is the kinder, more decent human being, and then killed the lesser of the two, but that isn’t the case here. It’s all for profit, nothing more and nothing less.

Despite the Strikers’ lack of proper reasoning, West decides to join their ranks, thinking that killing other people’s Alternates will give her enough practice to increase her chances of killing her own. Again, this seems illogical to me. If West is afraid she’s not skilled enough to kill her Alternate without practice, how on Earth does she expect to murder dozens of other people? Also, doesn’t it seem counterintuitive to put herself in dangerous situations multiple times in order to “make it safer” when she and her Alternate ultimately fight their final battle?

Another thing that bothers me is West’s determination to push away Chord, a childhood friend and the closest thing she has left to family. She’s afraid that his affection for her will put him in danger, that he’ll want to be by her side when it’s time for her to fight her Alternate. This makes her do everything in her power to distance herself from Chord in order to keep him safe. I can understand why she might wish to do so, but she never seems to realize that attempting to separate herself from Chord just makes him more persistent in his efforts to stick by her. Because West refuses to keep in contact with him and update him on her safety, Chord must resort to tailing her all across town to make sure that she’s okay, thereby putting himself in more danger than if West had just allowed him to tag along in the first place. West sees that this is happening but still insists on pushing Chord away regardless of how ineffective it is to do so.

These are only a few examples of the many illogical situations and decisions in Dualed, so numerous that I just couldn’t get past them. It didn’t help that there are jarring sections in the novel where weeks pass from the end of one chapter to the beginning of the next, making the story jump around in a way that is confusing. I gave up trying to make sense of this story and instead focused on getting to the end as quickly as possible.

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