cover image Dualed


Elsie Chapman. Random, $16.99 (304p) ISBN 978-0-307-93154-2

Stylish, frenetic, and violent, Chapman’s debut is the textual equivalent of a Quentin Tarantino movie. The star is West Grayer, the 15-year-old sole survivor of what was once a family of six. Her mother became collateral damage in a state-sanctioned assassination; her father committed suicide; two siblings were also assassination targets; and the third was another collateral victim. This is all fairly normal, because West lives in an assassination-based society where children are bred in pairs, but raised separately. When the state decides it’s time—anywhere between ages 10 and 20—the twins are notified, and a lethal game of hide-and-seek begins, with the winner awarded the privileges of living and breeding. It’s how the state creates a defense-ready population. Parents scarcely object: one mother says to a targeted teen, “[T]his is not the time to be testing my patience,” as though imminent death were roughly on par with breaking curfew. The brutality is no worse than in The Hunger Games or dozens of other entertainment options, but the societal nonchalance that surrounds it makes for a dismal setting. Ages 12–up. Agent: Steven Chudney, the Chudney Agency. (Feb.)