CM . . .
. Volume XIX Number 21. . . .February 1, 2013
For the chance of a better life, one which contains guarantees to quality food, education, employment, and dignity (amenities which she has been denied all her life), only one thing is required of 15-year-old West Grayer. A simple task really, considering she has been aware of this assignment all her life and has trained for it just as long: she must become a killer. In actuality, West must only kill one individual, her Alt—her genetically engineered double, born and raised by a different set of parents, but who is, nonetheless, a living breathing human being. In the spirit of true competition, West's Alt is systematically attempting to kill her as well, all for the same promise of life.
Head-to-head death matches like these play out across the city testing every citizen against their own Alt, whether they are up to the challenge or not. Such are the demands of society in the city-state of Kersh, the last bastion of civilization in a world torn apart by war. This is how a superior citizenry and soldiers are produced when resources are rare and so precious that they cannot be shared among the weak or undeserving of society, lest they be wasted at the expense of the city's security.
Chapman's debut novel will fit nicely within the genre of young adult dystopian literature, but will, at the same time, notably offer readers something that is altogether a bit different. In a nice change of pace, the story's single thread narrative focuses intimately on West's personal struggle to overcome deep depression and feelings of worthlessness which stem from the regrettable death of her brother. Utterly shaken by this recent trauma and haunted by the memories of her family who have all suffered similar unfortunate fates, West finds it difficult to concentrate at the task at hand. Moreover, much to the detriment of her personal safety and survival, she pushes away the love she receives from long-time friend Chord, not realizing that it is perhaps the one thing that she needs most to succeed.
Unceremoniously dark and violent, the book's morbid plot offers readers little in the way of hope or genuine goodness to grasp onto as characters are unnaturally indifferent to the brutality exhibited around them. Those who do object are either (conveniently) powerless or cannot be bothered to offer even the slightest resistance. This lack of altruism even extends to the main protagonist who, although overwrought with worry and fear, voluntarily takes up work as an Alt assassin-for-hire. However, these faults, which make West out to be a spectacularly unsympathetic and, at times, a highly unrelatable character, will largely be forgiven and forgotten once readers encounter the book's emotionally charged conclusion.
Dualed is not for everyone, especially those expecting detailed world-building and history, but the novel is more than suitable to garner praise and approval from both male and female audiences who appreciate fast-paced action and romance intertwined in their dystopian literature. A sequel, already in the works and titled Divided (to be released in February 2014), will hopefully build upon themes of class, power, and identity which are only briefly, but still intelligently treated here. All in all, Dualed is an engaging, thought-provoking, and an all-round satisfying read.
Andrew Laudicina, a MLIS graduate from the University of Western Ontario in London, currently resides in Windsor, ON.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.