This review discuses a something that happens in the first 10% of the book. It is something not discussed in the synopsis, but absolutely should have been.
West is literally running for her life for most of this book. She has gone active and has the constant knowledge that her ALT is after her. With all of this, "Dualed" lacks tension. It's annoyingly repetitive and West is just too stoic a narrator. The story starts off strong; West has just buried another sibling who was killed by their alternate. She is still in her funeral blacks when Cord, a boy she has known all of her life, goes active. (Going "Active" means that you have a month to hunt down and kill your alternate) West refuses to lose another person and pushes Cord to go after his alt immediately. This sets off a chain of action packed and heartbreaking events.
At this point, I am hungrily flipping through the pages. I'm thinking that this book is going to be great, but it isn't. The issue is that the book doesn't so much decline as it goes static. West runs around Kersh, trying to avoid her Alt and Cord, while killing strangers and innocents. In the first 10% of this book West becomes a Striker. A striker is an assassin who kills alts for those who can afford to pay. This ruined the book for me. One, because "Dualed" isn't being advertised as a book about an assassin and I felt completely blindsided. It happens so early in the book, that it blows my mind that it is not mentioned in the synopsis, the trailer or any other promotional media I have seen. Second, in a world filled with Katniss Everdeens and Rose Hathaways it is very difficult to like a heroine who kills for no reason.
The author tries to give us this spiel about how Striker's fight against the system. No. Robin Hood fights against the system. Bruce Wayne fights against the system, Striker's kill for the highest bidder. Sure, this is not what the Kersh government wants and I guess it is a form of rebellion, but that is not a good enough excuse. West does not sign up to help the little man or to smuggle people out of the city limits. No, she signs up to kill innocent people. At least the government gives them a 50% chance of survival. West and her people take that away. Since the government is so corrupt and rules absolutely, it's not like the people who can pay to eliminate their alternates have worked hard for their money or anything. These are people who have the option of not getting their hands dirty. It is cheating. There is a way of life in Kersh and instead of trying to improve that life, West is just helping cowards beat the system.
There is all this talk about how West should become a Striker as a mode of training. I expected to read awesome training sequences, where West learns to become a warrior. There is none. So, we just follow along as West bungles through the murders of innocent people. This storyline was just no good for me. Seeing as there is no real training, besides West getting the feel for killing another person, it just seemed villainous. A fifteen-year-old girl killing people does not entertain me. Especially, when she is killing for reasons other then survival. Scenes where she just walks up to an unsuspecting person and offs them really made me cringe inside. Why are we rooting for this cold-blooded killer?
The one good thing about this book is Cord. Cord is loyal, trustworthy and steadfast. He comes through for West even when she turns her back on him, demands he leave her alone and abandons him. He protects her despite herself and is always there to lend a hand. He is a strong young man who understands why she is pushing him away. Instead of getting pissy, Cord becomes even more determined. He is not going to leave her to face death alone. I loved that about him. It got to the point where I wanted Cord to just forget about West and find a girl who respected his strength. West becomes obsessed with protecting Cord, with good reason, but after awhile it just seemed shallow. The person she is really protecting is herself.
I always pick up dystopian novels hoping not to recreate, but have a similar sensation to how "The Hunger Games" made me feel. "Dualed" seemed a promising choice. A dystopian world where characters must kill a carbon copy of themself in order to survive? What a twisted, but brilliant concept. Unfortunately, the book did not live up to my expectations.