In the city of Kersh, everyone must eliminate their genetic Alternate twin, raised by another family, before their twentieth birthday. West Grayer, 15, has trained as a fighter, and has one month to hunt and kill her Alt. A tragic misstep shakes her confidence. Guilty, grieving, she feels unworthy, runs from her Alt and from love – both can destroy her.
Dualed is in a word, harsh, really harsh. In the dystopian city of Kersh, the primary rule is survival-of-the-fittest. Each individual has a genetic identical, the person who is their nemesis since birth and a test for their worthiness. By the age of 20, they are activated for the assignment – to kill their Alternate within 31 days or risk elimination. In a city of killers, West is all alone after her brother dies during such an Alt-confrontation, leading her to believe that in order to develop her skills she needs to become a Striker, an illegal assassin hired by rich people to kill off their alternates.
The narrative delves into her psyche and brings out her despair, grief and hopelessness. She feels inadequate in comparison to her Alternate, and feels the need to avoid her until she is ready. While killing off others’ Alts in cold blood, and avoiding remorse about it, she is spiraling into something which she is not. Playing a dangerous game of cat and mouse, she realizes there is only one person left as family to her – the person she loves and would do anything from being killed as a collateral damage. What was more harsh is the fact that almost everyone in the city accepts the killing as a part of their life (there are even signs about how they should be considerate about public property during their kills), a rite of passage so that they can claim to be worthy of their existence. An argument made by one of the secondary characters actually spurs my hope that in the sequel, they will come out against the brutal system that values violence over humanity. The book, as a whole, is pretty bleak in it’s atmosphere and the writing evokes sympathy for the loss of innocence in these children. The subtle mentions of the Board notices, the flashbacks of her childhood, the existence of Strikers – all of them point to a society that has regressed far from humanity and the fact that only the ones who have completed get privileges just emphasizes the importance the city places on being ready for a war, rather than looking for the peace of it’s citizens.