Book Review: Divided by Elsie Chapman

Posted June 4, 2014 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews / 4 Comments

Book Review: Divided by Elsie Chapman

I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Divided by Elsie Chapman
Genres: Dystopian, YA
Published by Random House Books for Young Readers on May 27, 2014
Pages: 320
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley


The hunter becomes the hunted. . . .

West Grayer is done killing. She defeated her Alternate, a twin raised by another family, and proved she’s worthy of a future. She’s ready to move on with her life.

The Board has other plans. They want her to kill one last time, and offer her a deal worth killing for. But when West recognizes her target as a ghost from her past, she realizes she’s in over her head. The Board is lying, and West will have to uncover the truth of the past to secure her future.

How far will the Board go to keep their secrets safe? And how far will West go to save those she loves? With nonstop action and surprising twists, Elsie Chapman’s intoxicating sequel to Dualed reveals everything.

Second in the Dualed dystopian Young Adult series set in an alternate history, one I hope never comes to pass.

I did receive this as an ARC from the publisher.

My Take
I would seriously recommend reading Dualed, 1, first as Chapman writes as if she expects you to understand some basics of the society in her story, and I have to assume that she spelled these out in the first installment.

Chapman’s put a nice twist on this dystopian thriller with a hint of Escape From New York, although Kersh’s inhabitants never did see the movie.

How sad that every child is brought up with the following as a mantra:

“Each one of them helps with reflexes, coordination, muscle strength. At all times you’ll need the three to defeat your Alt.”

I suspect Chapman’s world is more interesting for her lack of information, leaving my imagination to try and fill in the blanks or else she’d have to think harder. No, I haven’t read Dualed, which is probably part of my problem, but then Chapman should have written this so it could function without the reader having to read it. And I suspect this lack of info is coloring how I perceive this story.

There are no info dumps in here — and, lol, no, this is not because Chapman doesn’t tell us much! Instead she gives us the background of a good variety of things as part of the story, so thank you for that. Unfortunately, she counters this bit of good news with a lack of show. I’m not feelin’ it.

If striker marks are so awful why does Grayer have them? I don’t understand why Grayer is so freaked out all the time. From what I can gather, an activation only lasts 24 hours or the Alts only have 24 hours to find each other and kill the other. Or, maybe they do have more time. It’s difficult to tell from this.

Julis’ words of encouragement and advice are good ones. Counsel that any of us could use in our own lives.

There’s a scene in which Chord is ordering pizza and West talks about not being used to being a complete in relation to what she can order. And I’m lost. She can have better quality food as a complete? Why? What’s the purpose of better? Wouldn’t it be more practical to ensure that an idle has good food so they’re at their best? What would she be allowed as an idle? There’s no sense of how the economy works. Supposedly she’s still in school and doesn’t work. Yet she’s appears to be an orphan, so who pays the rent, food, utilities?

It’s a series of tropes, some well used and some not. I do like the twist Chapman put on those assassinations West has to perform. I don’t really understand why West doesn’t talk to Dire about this new contract. He’d be able to give her good advice. And it’s not like he’d go blabbing it about. I do hate the trope in which one character keeps getting interrupted and can’t seem to progress beyond the first words or the apology bit. Why would the Board need to be kept safe from the Surround?

I’m confused about that comment West makes about Chord not wanting to be friends with his own Alt, the one who killed his best friend. If Chord is complete, doesn’t that mean his Alt is dead? So how could he be friends with him? Why doesn’t West text Chord about Dess finding out?

At least West is consistently stupid. She gets the black contract and doesn’t contact a soul. *major eye roll*

If Sabian’s daughter knows West has been hired by her father, then how can she not know she’s been hired by her father? I’m so confused by that exchange between Bryn and Chord. As for West, how lame is that “noble savage” trope West uses. How does West convey her location to Bryn?

”That part of you — whether it’s technical skill or instinct — that lets you kill is the same that knows when to show mercy. How you decide to use it is up to you.”

There are too many holes and too little information, combined with the lack of show, I’m not involved in the story. I’m not impressed.

The Story
West is enticed with an offer too good to be true: her future children will never have to face their Alt. All she has to do is kill on command. What she vowed she would never do again.

The Characters
West Grayer is complete and now working under Baer at Torth Prep. Aave, Luc, and Ehm are the siblings who were incomplete; Luc was Chord’s best friend.

Chord is complete and the man West loves. An incredibly patient one. Dess is a young boy whom West helped (his story must be in Dualed).

Baer Tellyson is now the weapons instructor at the school. He was once a Level Three Operator. Quinn is Chord’s chem partner; it seems that Nash is in their class. Julis is a psychologist? a counselor? helping Grayer deal with her nightmares.

Dire Latimer runs Dire Nation, a shop that works as a front for his real operations, running strikers for money. Hestor is a duplicitous clerk in Dire Nation. Innes is a brilliant scientist.

Sabian is a Level One Operator who likes to work behind the scenes. Sabian’s kids — Bryn and Hollis — seem decent sorts.

Gracen Beck, Shaw Finley, and Auden Parrish are targets — and Parrish is Luc’s Alt. A complete. His father is Meyer Parrish, a Level Two Operator.

Alts are twins, an Alternate version of each person. It’s a sterile society, and I’m guessing that people are impregnated or the children are test tube babies with the Lab creating the children, for there are always two who look alike but are raised by different families. There must be some connection as the parent-child relationship seems to be intense. The intention is for each pair of twins, the Alts, to hunt each other down and kill the other, to prove who is the best, who can face down their worst enemies. Rather barbaric…

A complete is the successful Alt, the one who killed her — or his — other half. A PK is a peripheral kill, not completed by his Alt. An EK is an early kill in which an Alt kills their other half as soon as they recognize him or her; it’s a criminal action. An incomplete is an Alt that didn’t survive their activation. I think an idle is someone who hasn’t been activated. A striker appears to be an assassin, not legal and subject to black contracts which are for those who overstep the rules. An activation is the signal for the Alts to drop whatever they’re doing and hunt each other. To kill.

Kersh is an isolated town, surrounded by a huge iron wall, protecting it from the Surround — the rest of the world. Its current model was set up by its Founders: Cris, Jackson, and Tamryn. Cris became Level One, the political group; Jackson was Level Two and handled military matters; and, Tamryn became the Lab and was charged with the science of babies. Members of the Levels are Board Operators and feared by the rest. Level Three evolved from being intermediaries.

The Ronin Mark II is a Roark and delivers a variety of possibilities besides death, including removing any Alt code. Combined with Chord’s key-code disrupter, it should enable any Kershite to slip through the electrified barrier and get out of Kersh.

The Cover
The cover feels stylized and neon-y as a sword-bearing West faces a horde of her own Alts in the mirror maze…with Hollis racing up to her.

The title is how West feels, Divided by her choices.

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