As the assassins’ trend continues to emerge in YA, I hoped to find one that changes it up. When I chose to read Dualed, I had thought I found it. Here was an assassin who actually kills people for a living. There are no “moral” cop-outs, like vigilantism or self-defense kills. This main character is hired to kill people, innocent ones, and she does it. Intrigued, I kept reading on to see how it will turn out. Will this character later feel regret, remorse? Will the story be taking an interesting psychological look into an assassin’s mind? Unfortunately, while it’s fast-paced and action-packed, Dualed never goes that deep.
Dualed is set in a future dystopia where a city, Kersh, is blocked off from the rest of the world. Kersh has managed to stay away from war by blocking its borders and raising the toughest and best citizens/soldiers. In order to have the best, for every child born, an identical one of he or she is made. When the person reaches a certain age (usually their teen years), they must kill their clone, which they call Alts. Whichever Alt survives is considered the strongest and worthy of living in Kersh. It’s in this city that we meet West Grayer, a fifteen year old girl waiting to be activated to kill her Alt. She’s all alone, except for her brother and friend, Chord. But when her brother gets caught and killed in an Alt showdown, she becomes hopeless, yet somewhat determined to not let her Alt kill her. She becomes a striker, an assassin people hire to kill their Alts for them. It’s illegal, so West must be efficient and discreet, and when she gets activated, she has even more reason to lay low.
The world in Dualed is interesting, and it’s a pity that there’s hardly any world-building. That summary I just gave you is practically all the background you get in this story. As I kept reading it, I was hoping for more, something to prove that Kersh is more than what West knows it to be. Nope, we only get page after page of West getting into a ton of dangerous, close call situations as she kills and goes on the run.
In addition to the lack of world building, the characters, especially supporting ones, are one-dimensional. A romance grows between West and Chord, and it’s not very convincing since we hardly know Chord. We just know that they knew each other all their lives and care for each other; so I wasn’t really rooting for their romance. It was also disappointing that the story never elaborated on the Alts’ lives. Isn’t West an Alt herself? That’s a question that was on my mind the entire book. What makes West better than her Alt; what makes West’s Alt better than her? These and many others are questions the story should’ve explored to give us a well-round world, story and characters.
What Dualed has in its favor is that it is a fast and mostly suspenseful read. The author paces the story well and writes action and violence effectively. Its premise had a ton of potential, but it just didn’t follow through. If you’re looking for a quick, mindless action read, Dualed will deliver. If you’re looking for something thought-provoking and genuinely intriguing, well… the ever-accumulating YA dystopia, and now assassin, genre has better offerings.
Dualed by Elsie Chapman will be available wherever books are sold on February 26th. Support The Young Folks and purchase the book at our TYF Store, powered by Amazon.