Author: Elsie Chapman
Publication: Random House Books for Young Readers (February 26, 2013)
Description: Two of you exist.
Only one will survive.
The city of Kersh is a safe haven, but the price of safety is high. Everyone has a genetic Alternate—a twin raised by another family—and citizens must prove their worth by eliminating their Alts before their twentieth birthday. Survival means advanced schooling, a good job, marriage—life.
Fifteen-year-old West Grayer has trained as a fighter, preparing for the day when her assignment arrives and she will have one month to hunt down and kill her Alt. But then a tragic misstep shakes West’s confidence. Stricken with grief and guilt, she’s no longer certain that she’s the best version of herself, the version worthy of a future. If she is to have any chance of winning, she must stop running not only from her Alt, but also from love . . . though both have the power to destroy her.
Elsie Chapman's suspenseful YA debut weaves unexpected romance into a novel full of fast-paced action and thought-provoking philosophy. When the story ends, discussions will begin about this future society where every adult is a murderer and every child knows there is another out there who just might be better.
My Thoughts: My thoughts on this book are going to be more scattered than normal because I haven't come to a clear conclusion about what I feel about it.
I thought that the world building was intriguing. As a result of some previous conflict, the city of Kersh has become a walled city to keep its residents safe from whatever is happening outside. It has also determined that all of its citizens should be able to fight in case the outside tries to take it over. The solution is extreme. When couples want to have a child, they go to a center which designs their child by combining the genes of their parents and the next couple that wants a child which results in two identical children each raised by a separate couple. Only one of the children can survive to become a "complete." Sometime between the age of about 12 and 20 a trigger will be tripped and the child will have 31 days to kill its "Alt." Failure to do so will result in the death of both Alts. Therefore, the whole adult society is composed on people who have already killed their Alt. According to the authorities, this will be to the social good as the strongest will survive.
I thought the main character West Grayer was well-drawn. West is a fifteen-year-old girl who has watched her whole family die. Her mother was an accidental kill as she got in the way of a couple of Alts trying to kill each other. She lost an older brother and younger sister when their Alts proved better at killing. Her father commits suicide because he can't deal with the loss of his wife and children.
When the story begins, West is living with her older brother Luc and training to survive her own challenge. When she and Luc go along with their friend Chord when his test begins, Luc is killed in the fight but Chord survives. West is traumatized and withdraws from Chord. She decides that she won't let anyone close to her again because then she won't be hurt. She wants to protect Chord from being caught in any potential crossfire too.
West decides to become a Striker. Strikers are underground assassins who are hired to kill Alts which is not what the government wants but somehow overlooks. West performs a number of contracts and then her own challenge begins. She continues to fulfill Striker contracts while avoiding her own Alt. She doesn't feel ready—cold enough—to meet her Alt to decide which will live. During this time Chord tries to help her and stay close but West is determined not to involve him.
Where I am conflicted about the story is all centered around West. This book was so emotionally painful to read that I had to keep setting it down and walking away. It hurt to see West try to remake herself into what her society demanded of her. I ached for the loneliness that West felt. And I absolutely hurt for the choices she needed to make.
Readers have a tense, gritty, emotional experience in store that will haunt their dreams and thoughts for quite a while.
"When there's a completion, do you think of it more as an Alt having to die, or an Alt getting to live?I got this eARC from NetGalley. You can buy your copy here.
"I don't get it," Luc said, shrugging. "They're the same thing."
"But it's not."