Okay, okay, you’ve seen, read, and heard about a million different dystopian stories, books and movies that take place in a ravaged, not-too-distant America. And, yes, Dualed by Elsie Chapman is yet another example of this trend. But that doesn’t mean that this novel doesn’t deserve to be one million and one.
West Grayer lives in Kersh, a city that has isolated itself from the rest of America when the wars broke out. After a universal cold vaccine rendered the U.S. population infertile, war in the States was constant. But the mysterious Board decided to wall off the city of Kersh in order to live in peace. But peace comes at a cost, as it always does.
Children must be engineered from prospective parents’ genetic codes. Space is limited. The threat of the outside wars spilling over their walls is constant. The Board deals with these realities with one solution: every child born is a twin. Your twin is your alternate, or alt. You and your alt are trained in combat and weaponry in school. At some point in your young life, anywhere between the age of 10 and 20, you will become “active.” When you become “active,” your alt also becomes “active.” And you have 30 days to “complete:” to find and kill your alt before they kill you. If you both fail to complete within a month, then your engineered genetic code will self-destruct and you both will die. In a society where space and resources are limited and the threat of war is close, only the strongest can survive. Only one will survive. Only one is worthy.
Dualed is like a combination of Highlander, The Hunger Games and Children of Men. West Grayer, a sixteen-year-old girl, has lost almost everyone she loves in this world. Most were PKs, peripheral kills, those who are killed by accident during a completion. One thing that makes Dualed and West unique in a sea of dystopian fiction is that she doesn’t really fight the system. She, and many others, can be critical of the Board and may not always follow the law, but West isn’t interested in revolutions or protests. She isn’t out to save the world or even make it a little bit better; she’s just too busy trying to survive and to protect the one person she has left in this world.