Word Spelunking

Dualed - Elsie Chapman 4.5/5 StarsFresh ideas and worlds are getting harder and harder to come by in YA dystopian books, but Elsie Chapman's Dualed offers readers a suspenseful and action-packed story with an intriguing premise.In a war torn future, the city of Kersh is a small safe haven and in this city every citizen has an Alt (a twin) that is raised by another set of parents. Each set of Alts must prove their worth by fighting each other to the death (within a month of their “assignment”) by their twentieth birthday. All West Grayer knows is grief and loneliness, but she is determined to be the surviving Alt and goes to extreme measures to make sure she's prepared when her time comes. But fighting against her identical Alt proves more difficult than she ever imagined and fear, doubt, and love get in the way.Dualed has a captivating and explosive premise that is explored through the eyes of an unlikely heroine. Elsie Chapman has created a story that is as thought-provoking as it is entertaining. This is one of those books that is bound to inspire some great discussion about life, murder, and what one is capable of in impossible situations.The idea of two Alts, two identical adolescents, that must fight to the death for a chance of survival is a refreshingly gritty one. I really like the intensity of the life or death tone of the book. Chapman starts with a bold premise, that is both fascinating and unsettling, and she really follows through with this tone and doesn't shy away from the dark and macabre. This premise isn't without its flaws in logic though, but I think this has a lot to do with world-building that is slightly lacking. The world-building that is present is definitely complex and excellently crafted, it just doesn't seem quite complete yet. I don't feel like I've been given a clear and complete look at this dystopian world and why it is the way it is. And I'm hoping this explored more in-depth in book two.But, what the story lacks in world-building, is made up for in emotional and psychological development. Chapman really throws the feels at ya! West's impossible and difficult situation is heavily and fiercely felt throughout Dualed. All her pain, grief, guilt, and determination feels incredibly real and organic. West doesn't start out as a badass or ruthless person, but the desperate position she's in requires her to either give up and die or do whatever she has to to survive. She chooses the latter and I really loved watching her transform into the capable, cunning, kick-butt young woman she has to become.The main focus in Dualed is on West's hunt for and showdown with her Alt, but there is a bit of romance. The romantic elements didn't thrill me, but I do like West's love interest Chord and the dynamic between the two. I found the ending satisfying, but I'm definitely eager for more.MY FINAL THOUGHTS: Dualed packs a wicked punch and offers readers an intelligent story, with a great mix of action, suspense, and romance, that will leave readers entertained and thoughtful.

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