Elsie Chapman’s stunning debut novel, Dualed, is an emotionally charged thrill ride that introduces readers to a bleak world brimming with endless possibilities, not to mention an intriguing protagonist you can’t help but care for. Chock-full of pulse-pounding action and gut wrenching tragedy, Dualed is YA fiction at its finest.
Fifteen-year old West Grayer has spent her entire life in the walled-off city of Kersh, where the government genetically alters cells so that two of every person is born to different families. In an effort to control population and ensure that every citizen is able-bodied and skilled in battle, the government requires teens to seek out and kill their twins, or Alts, before they can live normal lives. When Grayer’s time to face her Alt comes, she will have to rely on all she knows to stay alive. Is she the better twin?
The characters are what really work for the book. Yes, the plot is fun and exciting, but it’s the characters that will stick with the reader. West Grayer is an engaging, complex, and likable protagonist that I fell in love with by the time I hit page fifty. Not only is she developed incredibly well, but her reactions and motivations are believable and understandable given the tragedies she’s endured.
Chord, her good friend and the closest thing she has to family, also stands out as a strong, memorable character. He is to West what Peeta is to Katniss: unconditional, undying support through every situation. The interactions between Chord and Grayer are the best parts of the book, adding emotional resonance and depth to an already fun story.
The characters are great, the plot is inventive, so what could have been done better? While this is the first book in a series, I wanted more world-building. There wasn’t enough of it to be fully immersed in this incredible idea, as much as I wanted to be. That’s not to say it won’t be done in the sequel, but a little more description and detail would have made an already strong novel even stronger.
Chapman’s crisp style and the brisk pace at which the story moves are both welcome aspects that really work for the book and make it difficult to put down. If you are looking for good YA reading material, look no further. Dualed is your book.