Friday, February 15, 2013

Review: Dualed by Elsie Chapman

*A huge thank you to NetGalley and Random House for the opportunity to read and review this book. 

I've had my eye on Dualed for months and if I'm being totally honest I didn't expect to get approved to review it. (I am normally not as aggressive in requesting books as I was last month...) So when I got a yes for this, I was really excited. (Hello shattering glass. How nice to see you.)

Dualed has a totally awesome premise that just screams, "Hey, Kat! Read me now!"... and so, when I received this book, that's exactly what I did.

Alas, I wish that Dualed had been able to scream a few other things at me before I got to the end of it, because if I'm being completely honest, this book was not for me at all.

(Summary from GoodReads)
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.

This book has a totally epic, makes the hair on the back of my neck stand on end, "Whoa!" premise ...Unfortunately, it plays it very, very, VERY safe in its execution. Do people die? Sure. Does our leading lady kill anyone? You betcha.

But here's the problem, guys: those deaths do not matter. Almost every character in this book is a nameless extra. West spends 90% of this book by herself, by choice, wandering around Kersh and just thinking. Or doing random jobs as a Striker.

Which brings me to my next problem: What is up with that? It was a subplot that totally came outta left field and which never really felt like it connected to everything else going on, in my opinion. She has no problem going all trigger happy doing this stuff, yet she can't muster the guts to take on the one person she needs to through the majority of the book. I just couldn't get behind that. 

If I had to sum up Dualed in a single word, I would honestly have to pick boring. I can't remember the last time I was so happy to reach the end of a book. I distinctly recall liking that part because (1) it ended decently, so I feel no moral pressure to come back and save these characters from themselves because of a cliffhanger, and (2) because it meant I wouldn't have to read more of this book. Period. 

Being fair, especially after that acidic a bullet: Elsie Chapman *can* write, and despite all else it lacked for me, it had one of the strongest atmospheric presences of any novel I've *ever* read. I just wish it had offered a bit more in other areas (plot, characters, romance...) that I care about. 

Dualed is a really one woman show, guys. And that is a problem for me, since to have character in your characters, the best thing to do is have them interacting with others. (At least that is my opinion...) West spends a great deal of Dualed either totally alone or pushing others away, and what this does, aside from making the book really dull for a character oriented reader like me, is it makes the book get way too bogged down in descriptions and West's thoughts about things.

Further, the problem is compounded by the fact that West herself never really presents anything about herself that makes her distinct, memorable or interesting. She isn't really likable--I suppose I can understand this, given her circumstances--or unique in any way that I could see. I've heard several bloggers question "Why West?". What makes her so special within this world Elsie Chapman has created that we need to see a story through her eyes. Because (yet again, get ready for another bullet...) she may be the most bland protagonist I've ever reviewed a book about on this blog. She was completely empty, which yet again was likely the point, but despite this she did nothing to hold my interest. 

There were other characters: Chord, the love interest, for instance. But the problem here is that West is the only character we spend any real or signifigant amount of time with and everybody else--yes, even Chord--came across as a paper doll to me. That's not good, guys. 

I get WHY: it's to protect the reader. If we cared about West's alt, or the people she's hired to kill, or *anyone*, it would require West to care about them since this is in first person. And she's been through so much loss and pain that she is totally shut down, locked so tight that by the end when we see what is suppose to be a glimpse of hope for her (via the romance with Chord) I refused to believe it. 

We don't get enough REAL time with this couple for their romance to matter. I know: we get flashbacks from their childhood. We get the ways he tries to help her despite her stubbornness. We get an eventual "HEA" of sorts. But we don't REALLY get to see anything develop. It's all totally artificial and I just couldn't get behind it. I think that if Elsie had let them work together more, and be together more, the romance--and the novel--would have benefited tremendously. West could have really used some company to liven up this journey and Chord might've just been the ticket. I suppose we'll never know, and I'm sure she had her reasons for what she decided--all authors do. But that's my two cents as a reader. 

I think my reaction to this when I finished it and Jay asked what I thought was: "What did I just read?". Dualed was nothing like I expected and unfortunately I don't mean that in a good way. Don't take my word for it, though! If you are still interested in reading this, give it a go--everyone likes different things and some of my objections are admittedly my own personal taste. Personally, though, I don't think I'll be continuing this series when the next book comes out. Shame, I really wanted to like this one.


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