Christal’s Review – 2.5 Skulls – C
Dualed was an exciting read but, ultimately, I just couldn’t believe in the world-building and that stopped me from becoming invested in the characters and the plot. I can buy into some shaky world-building as long as it’s engaging and fits within the plotline, such as Divergent by Veronica Roth, but Ms. Chapman just didn’t convince me.
Dualed started with a bang and continued with a very intense storyline. The city of Kersh has walled itself off from the rest of the United States after rampant infertility leads to fighting and war. Every citizen must prove their worth to society by finding and killing their genetic twin or Alt. A person can be activated anytime between the ages of 10 and 20, and they then have 30 days to eliminate their Alt (or die themselves) or they will both be destroyed by a chip in their brains. This is supposed to ensure that only the strongest people advance in society and that they are ready to provide security for Kersh if the need arises. The story follows a fifteen-year old girl as she becomes active and faces the prospect of taking her Alts life.
The main character, West Grayer, was well-developed and interesting but the few supporting characters were a bit one-dimensional. West has had a hard life, losing all three of her siblings to Alt battles and her parents; her mother was a random casualty of someone else’s Alt battle and her father committed suicide shortly after. Because of this, West is tough and pretty good at surviving on her own. She is determined to beat her Alt and live the life her brothers and sisters should have had. Though I could understand where West was coming from, I felt like she was a very emotionally distant heroine and I couldn’t really connect with her. I still enjoyed reading her story, but I felt like I was kept an outsider as much as everyone else in her life.
One problem I had with the story and West’s development in general began not to long after the book began. West decides to become a striker, or assassin, in order to better prepare for her own Alt battle. She would kill other people’s Alts for money so that they didn’t have to do it themselves. This was very much frowned upon in the society and West would probably have been killed if she was caught. I just didn’t buy it as something that would help her prepare for an Alt battle. She wasn’t given any additional training, instead being thrust into her first assassination on the day she begins. When she is completing these assignments, the Alts don’t expect her and aren’t hunting her; they’re looking for their genetic twin. It just seems very different from what she experiences during her Alt battle and just didn’t work for me.
The story begins to become a little repetitive once West is activated. It becomes a series of action scenes and close calls. West’s Alt is seen but not really heard; she isn’t even given a name. The only consistent interaction that West really has is with her friend Chord, and that is only because he forces it. The seemingly requisite romance felt contrived and unnecessary. The relationship between Chord and West almost seemed more familial than romantic, like he was taking the place of her brother Luc, so the romance came off a bit strange to me.
Though I was interested in West and the exciting plot kept me reading, I was really bothered by the world-building. The idea that there was a vaccine that caused permanent infertility given widely to the public was just unbelievable. Like I said before, I can buy into a lot of shaky ideas, but I just couldn’t buy into this one. Ms. Chapman goes on to “fix” the infertility via biological intervention which then somehow caused the whole country to fall to infighting and she just completely lost me. Everything was so vaguely described that I just didn’t care about the society. Segregating Kersh was even worse because there seemed to be no real reason behind other than following the trend of other YA dystopian books. I just didn’t believe that Kersh would separate itself to avoid fighting and then require all of its citizens to turn around and become killers. They walled themselves off to avoid the causalities of war, but half of their citizens are killed by the other half of the population. Not to mention that peripheral kills (PKs), or unintended casualties, are just accepted as a fact of life. If you knew children would be out in the street killing each other every day, why would you even leave your house? I just can’t believe in this society.
Thankfully, Dualed has a pretty solid ending and doesn’t leave you with a cliffhanger. Everything is resolved and I am having trouble seeing where the sequel, Divided, will go since no one in this book questioned the current laws or even had a hint of rebellion in them. Dualed had the potential to be another YA blockbuster, but it just fell flat for me and I don’t think I will be checking out the sequel.
Thank you to Netgalley and Random House for providing an ARC copy of this book!
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