Review: Dualed by Elsie Chapman

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.

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Elsie Chapman’s debut Dualed is one of the best dystopian novels I’ve read since The Hunger Games and Divergent. For me, it was the action, philosophical elements, and strong female heroine of Dualed that put it in the same league as these successful predecessors. In addition to these elements, Chapman offers readers an entirely new world and society to explore… and attempt to comprehend. 

In West Grayer’s world, every individual has an Alt: a genetic twin. Each twin in raised separately and grows up training to face the other in a fight to the death. Neither knows when they will be pitted against the other or what skills the other might bring to the table. In this forced showdown meant to simulate a “survival of the fittest” scenario, it isn’t always clear who should be considered the “fittest.” 

I loved the questions raised by Dualed. It could easily be assumed that the reader would want West to win against her Alt, but things aren’t so clearly black and white.West’s Alt is very much like and very much unlike her, meaning she’s still just a girl. It’s difficult for the reader to determine if she has any villainous traits that would help guarantee that West is definitely the one who should survive between the two. There is a scene in which West eavesdrops on her Alt’s parents, and they appear to be completely normal people who don’t deserve to lose their daughter. With these types of portrayals and scenes, it’s hard to pick a side while West and her Alt battle to survive.

Another interesting element of the plot is West’s involvement with a group of organized criminals who oppose the government. West becomes an hired assassin, available to kill an Alt at a price for an individual for an Alt who feels unable to do it themselves. Highly illegal and dangerous, West and the group’s actions called further attention to the idea of which individuals are the “fittest” and most deserving of a future. The government clearly finds physical strength and ability (and any other talents that make for good soldiers and fighters) to be the most desirable and “fit,” while having no use for more intellectual or creative skills. In essence, the government is for the death and eventual extermination of those who possess undesirable and unnecessary talents. This is an completely terrifying idea – imagine a world filled only with individuals who possess one type of talent. What a boring and, ultimately, ill-equipped world.

Dualed is a fantastic debut that will truly make the reader consider the importance of diversity while entertaining with a fast pace and strong protagonist.

Random House for Young Readers, February 2013, Hardcover, ISBN:  9780307931542, 304 pages.
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2 thoughts on “Review: Dualed by Elsie Chapman

  1. I have wanted to read this since long before it released. The idea of it is just so awesome – having to fight with someone who looks just like you?? I love fast paced dystopians with a strong heroine. This book was like it was written just for me!!!

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