February 26, 2013
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narrator: Alicyn Packard
9 hours, 59 minutes
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In the city of Kersh, everyone must eliminate their genetic Alternate twin, raised by another family, before their twentieth birthday. West Grayer, 15, has trained as a fighter, and has one month to hunt and kill her Alt. A tragic misstep shakes her confidence. Guilty, grieving, she feels unworthy, runs from her Alt and from love - both can destroy her.
Dualed takes the 'only the strong survive,' to the extreme. Everyone has an Alt, their twin who is, truly, an Alternate them. Raised by different families, with different advantages and opportunities, but having the same DNA. Someone they must kill upon their activation.
The premise makes Dualed sound a bit darker than it actually was. Yes, the ultimate goal of West - of those in Kersh - is to kill someone and yes, there is violence in Dualed. It's much more about West discovering who she is, what makes her different from her Alt, and if she really should be the one to survive.
The characters are ones you almost immediately care about. Due to the Alt system, they've all lost someone, often more than one someone, close to them. They've formed strong bonds both familially and with those who become like family. Their activation is a foregone conclusion - it will happen, the only question is when. With the nearly imminent chance of one's possible death always in the air, there's always a tension.
Though the focus is West and her Alt, the relationships shown in the beginning of the novel - West, her brothers, their friend Chord - make the story so much stronger. Their bond is, perhaps, stronger because of the hardships they've had to endure and we see not only how they've prepared each other - training, knowledge - but how that love is sometimes the only motivation they can find.
The audiobook of Dualed is a great listen. The narrator does a brilliant job inflecting her voice with all of the emotions West - or any other character - is feeling. You hear the desperation, the fear, the anxiety as she endures both the physical and the emotional struggle of being the one to survive. Hearing the story also keeps the tension up, as West's time counts down (and you can't skip ahead to relieve it as easily as you could in print).
The only negative to listening to Dualed instead of reading it is Elsie Chapman's stellar writing. Chapman has some fantastic, fantastic writing which is not as easily noticed or appreciated when listening to the story.
There's a bit of wondering, questioning when it comes to the Board and the infrastructure, of sorts, of Kersh. I love the characters and the look we got at how their world functions. From the smaller things that were part of the tale - payments, business windows, West's notes on the different sectors - it's clear that Kersh is very well imagined and thought out. More knowledge (as a reader) of Kersh's workings, of the society as a whole is something I'm hoping to find at least a bit of in the sequel.
Whether you listen to it or read it, Dualed is a great book. With great characters - West, especially - a very well imagined world, and a killer (literally) premise, Chapman's debut is one not to miss.
Other books you might also enjoy: Proxy by Alex London and Legend Series by Marie Lu