Review: Dualed by Elsie Chapman

Thursday, January 3, 2013
Title: Dualed
Author: Elsie Chapman
Genre: young-adult, scifi, dystopia
Series: Dualed #1
Pages: 304 (Nook ARC edition)
Published: expected February 26 2013
Source: publishers via NetGalley
Rating: 3.5/5

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.

This sounds like a promising, exciting novel, doesn't it? A city of assassins who have to kill another version of themselves in order to live past age 20? Sounds almost too good to be true, right? And it is - for some aspects of this shortish novel. Sometimes, it's a fast-paced thrill ride of an extreme game of hide and seek.. and sometimes, Dualed falls apart when you look more closely at the worldbuilding surrounding the main story and characters. While not perfect, this is a novel that be fun and engaging, or dry and stilted (coughtheromancecough). I certainly had fun reading Dualed - the pages fly by quickly - but there are some weaker components that kept this from being a higher-rated reading experience. I may have had higher hopes going into this first outing from Elsie Chapman, but I must admit that it provided more than enough good aspects to keep me eagerly awaiting book two - Divided

For the most part, Dualed is a decently executed and entertaining novel. It's just far from the most logical novel I've ever come across. The worldbuilding in particular seems weak and hardly plausible for the situation - for example, the reasoning for Kersh cutting off the rest of the world? The wars that sprouted up because....? Um. Why, exactly? An answer for both questions is never adequately provided for why the world is the way it is in West's time. That felt like an egregious error in the worldbuilding. I can buy into a city of assassins born to battle themselves, but I need concrete, believable background information about why the world evolved to be the way it is shown in Dualed. The idea that worldwide infertility led to a devastating series of world wars just doesn't hold water. Humans are prone to violence, but there is usually an inciting incident or reason, especially for such a large-scale reaction. But a sketchy reason of a vaccine gone wrong leading to massive wars leaves much to be desired in terms of motive and reason. 

Also, the idea of accepted "Peripheral Kills" bothered me. The city has spent time, money, effort in raising assassins, and ones that have "completed" can be killed in another ALT's fight.. and that's just.. okay with the populace? Accepted without pause? With the ominous-but-lacking-a-real-antagonistic presence The Board? (Especially as it seems to happen pretty often..) That seems.. off to me. I was left with a lot of questions and problems with how this society was constructed and how it acts now, and which kept this from being a wholly satisfying read. I was sad there wasn't a more present antagonist - from the Board to West's ALT (that is never named), and barely seen. The show is much more about West and her internal battle to believe she is worthy, but a few less "strikes" and more direct conflict would've done more for the story. I need something to actively root against, especially in a dystopic future - and a governing committee that willingly sends 10-years into a battle to the death would've been a perfect fit.

Now, on to what I really enjoyed about the story:  the believability and accessibility of main character West, the intense action, and Chord. First-person is used rather well here for West's narration and inner monologue. She is a distant character - from especially Chord, from the audience - but access to her thinking process, her battle for believing in her own worth do a lot to make this character very easy to invest in. West is a hard girl - brittle in her demeanor and her interactions, but Chapman makes it easy to understand why she pushes everyone away from her once she loses her last living sibling. If I didn't wholly love or identify with West, I thoroughly enjoyed reading about her and being in her POV. Chapman's strength is in characterization and her protagonist benefits immensely from how finely-tuned her presentation is. She struggles with self-doubt and a fear of being hurt even more - qualities a lot of readers will recognize and sympathize with. West is one of the two best things about Dualed.

The action must be talked about. It's excellent, and so intense from the very first chapter on. I wasn't expecting for the novel to begin with such a bang, but Chapman isn't afraid to go into dark places with her story. That is obvious very early on, and her authorial willingness to sacrifice characters and craft well-executed and vivid action scenes stand out among the other aspects I had issues with. I would've liked to see more training go into West's weaponry proficiency - the pacing in the middle stalls about and jumps around - but I am more than willing to look past it and enjoy the taut action scenes. 

A solid ending, thankfully not a cliffhanger!, good cast and amazing action scenes helped to make Dualed a memorable if not perfect read. It may have stalled in the middle and in the details about the worldbuilding, but there is more good than bad here, and I am definitely interested to see where Elsie Chapman takes her novels from here. I had to think over my reactions to this novel for a few days before I rendered a final verdict, but here it is: Fun. Engaging. Action-packed. Imperfect but most definitely worth a read. I definitely liked that Dualed tries for multiple themes and ideas about various issues, and if some of them are not concluded completely satisfactorily, I am willing to wait andsee what Chapman brings to the table for the later novel.


  1. tnx 4 the interesting review

  2. I had problems with Legend for exactly this same reason. I didn't feel the world-building was explained in a logical way and a lot of it was just glossed over. I have this book coming up for review too and now I an concerned I will feel the same way you did.

    I'm glad you liked most of the rest of it though. It's funny that it is in multiple POVs because so was Legend! I am seeing a lot of similarities and I am looking forward to reading this.

    Great review, Jessie!

  3. I don't like the sounds of the world-building in this one but I do like the sounds of West and all the action. I've been really eager to read this one so I'm glad that you mainly enjoyed it. Great review!


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