Review: Dualed by Elsie Chapman

Elsie Chapman
Series: Dualed, #1
Release Date: March 26th, 2013
Publisher: Random House
Number of Pages: 304
Rating: 2 stars

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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.
Upon finishing Dualed, all I am overcome with is an overwhelming sense of complete and utter mediocrity. Running through my head last night, while reading, and ultimately finishing Dualed was a giant list of 'what-ifs' and 'should-haves' that, in my opinion, would have made reading Dualed a much more interesting experience. Should these issues have been addressed, Dualed could have easily been a four star read for me, but in the end, there are far too many holes in the world and the character development for me to give Dualed anything more than a disappointed two stars.

1. What if the world-building were thorough, and the novel itself actually made a shred of sense?
I'm sure you've read about the world-building in other reviews for this before. While I do acknowledge and maybe even appreciate that Chapman took the time into developing a world and its past, which many authors seem to look over, it just doesn't feel like Chapman put much time and thought into the world-building. Each of the explanations we are given are incredibly poor at best, and at worst, make absolutely no sense whatsoever, and with each passing page I found myself asking the same questions: "Why? How?" And, if I even received an answer to one of my questions, I was not left satisfied with the answer. In the world of Dualed, there are Alts, which are basically clones, or doppelgängers (but not the Petrova ones. Those are actually cool.). At a certain time in each person's life in Kersh, the Alts are assigned to kill each other, that way the Alt left standing will be the stronger one, and thereby deemed worthy to live in Kersh.

Why? Why go through all this trouble, and have minors kill other minors, just so your city can be populated by strong people? And what if the Alt that wins isn't necessarily the stronger Alt? What if the Alt that wins gets lucky, or strategizes, whereas the other Alt is far more stronger than the winner? And another gap in logic concerning the Alts is their lifestyle. In Dualed, Alts are described as being identical in every way, shape, and form. They must have the same exact body shape as you, body fat composition as you, personality as you, voice as you, and on and on.

But then where does lifestyle choices come into play? What if one Alt is less athletic than the other? With that, one Alt would be outside running miles daily, hiking strenuously through forests, and then what? The other Alt would just magically gain the muscles his other Alt gains while he/she is sitting on her computer or eating dinner?

I don't think so.

And also, now that I've brought up food and eating, where does diet come into play, as well? One Alt could have a much worse diet than the other, yet they must have the same exact body fat composition?

"High metabolism!" Someone shouts to me through the computer.
Yes. Because metabolism is something every author puts into consideration while writing a YA dystopian novel.

Though, someone did bring up an interesting point to contradict my above issue in the comments of one of my status updates on Goodreads, and that point brought up was food rationing. This was a very good point to bring up, and would have set my complaints about body fat composition being identical to rest. If it were presented to us in Dualed, that is.

You may tell me I looked too far into the world-building to come across the above few points, when I really should have been "having fun and going along with the ride", but I find it quite difficult to "have fun and go along with the ride" when the roller-coaster I'm riding on is bumpy and has large holes in its tracks.

2. What if I cared about the characters?
This issue with Dualed is pretty straightforward, and there's not much to explain, but it's certainly worth point out, considering that next to the awful world-building, this is the novel's biggest fault. Honestly, I just didn't care about any of the characters or what happened to them. Dualed would have been a lot more engaging read if I actually cared about whether or not West would win against her Alt, but, if I'm going to be honest, I was rooting against her. It's not that West was an unlikeable character, because she isn't. She's just a very frustrating one. Before she got her assignment to kill her Alt, she preached to everyone how they shouldn't stall, that they should kill their Alt the very second they receive their assignment, and on and on, and snore and snore. But then what does West do? Oh, that's right.

Stall, and wait until the very last chapter minute to kill her Alt. While I suppose this is understandable, and maybe is intentional by the author, that doesn't defeat the fact that the hypocrisy of West's character was thoroughly frustrating for me. And as for her relationship with Chord, I really couldn't care less about that, either. Chord was a nice character. I did like him, but was this romance really necessary? They've known each other all their lives, but just now take the time to realize that they're in love? And even then, I felt absolutely no connection between the two characters. We're told that they're in love - multiple times - but I never felt that they actually were in love.

3. What if this were told by the POVs of both West and her Alt?
This is one of the 'should haves' that ran through my head while reading Dualed. But really, what if this book were told by the POVs of both West and her Alt? I feel that Dualed would have been a much more interesting and engaging read if we saw the world through the perspectives of two people trying to kill each other. There's not much to say about this 'should have' other than the fact that it would have made the cat-and-mouse aspect of Dualed a lot more fun and multi-layered than it was just told by the POV of West (and, admittedly, I did have some fun reading the cat-and-mouse aspect from her perspective, too), and it would have given the other Alt a good deal of character development and maybe have the readers grow to like both Alts, so that the impact of the finale when one of them wins would have more emotional impact.

Before this review turns into too long of a rant (and I'm afraid it's already become that), Dualed was a thoroughly disappointing read for me, even though I had gone into it with incredibly low expectations. With those low expectations, I was still expecting more from Dualed, and that only made the mediocrity of everything that much more devastating. Dualed is the epitome of a good premise killed brutally by execution, and the most ironic thing is that I think the execution may have killed more than West herself.


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