I would like to thank Net Galley and Random House Books for Young Readers for providing me with an eARC of this book. This has in no way influenced my opinion or review.
Blurb from Goodreads:
You or your Alt? 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.
I was so excited to get a chance to read this book early! I remember seeing the cover a while back and knowing that this one was going to be one I really wanted to read. I love dystopian books. So the premise of this book was right up my ally.
I love the cover of this book. The way there are really two girls, one standing up and one as a shadow. But you can see they are different people, which is basically what this book is about, people really being two halves of the same whole.
I really wanted to like this book, and, for the most part, I did. but there was something that was kind of off about the main character, West, and about her choices. First I need to say that I was a bit confused with how mature West seemed. She was a 15 year old girl, but she acted much older. This threw me. I understood that the kids in this society were trained from an early age to basically be assassins and I could understand how this might make them grow up faster, but I was taken aback by the fact that there was really nothing 15 about her. I suppose the fact that children can become "actives" at the early age of 10 had something to do with it. She was very strong and stubborn. And she did so many things that made me not want to like her: pushing Chord away, taking the job as a striker, taking forever to decide what she would do about her alt once she became active. I got a bit annoyed and kind of wanted to smack her! Yet, there was something about her voice in this book that pulled me through and make me keep wanting to read it.
Chord, well, he's the ultimate in wanting to keep someone he loves safe. The relationship between him and West is one of mutual friendship through West's brother, Lucas. But there are certainly underlying tones to what they have from the very beginning, despite their age difference. Chord goes to extreme lengths to keep West sage, even when she doesn't think he's around. I would love to see some of this book told from his POV, or a novella that tells some of it from his POV. It would be great to get his feelings and hear his thoughts. Despite West pushing him away through almost this entire book, he still stands by her side. He is loyal and loving, certainly caring to a fault. I love this about him. It draws me to his character and makes me really like him.
While the plot for this book is very interesting, I found it to be a bit slow at points. There certainly is some action, but the time frames of so much seems to be off. One minute West is learning to be a striker, and immediately she becomes an active. Then she's still taking jobs, while trying to hunt her own Alt, or stay away from her Alt. But she talks about all these strikes she has been on, that just seem like they could not have happened given the time frame of the book. This really bothered me. And, even though I read the book fairly fast, I just couldn't get over the idea that things kind of seemed out of place and jumpy. The book also slowed a lot after a quarter of the way through. I wanted to see more action, more stuff between West and Chord, more movement, but it just wasn't there. And finally about three quarters of the way in, things really picked back up and I was back to rooting for West to win.
The end pretty much wrapped things up, which makes me wonder where the second book in this series will even go. I also didn't feel as much of a connection to West as I would have liked. I didn't have any sympathy for her, I felt like she didn't really have the desperation. I thought she would before actually becoming a striker. It was so fast, one minute she's a student, the next, boom, she's a striker. There really wasn't that thought process of what she went through to come to the conclusion that doing it was her one and only hope of living. I was also kind of baffled by the fact that there really wasn't more violence in this book. I mean, after all, there must have been so many kids running around looking for their Alts as it seemed like a pretty large area. But I didn't get the sense that people were really frightened for their lives because a killing could happen at any time. And I was a bit baffled by how the strikers actually were able to evade the government so well. The last thing that bothered me is that we don't get insight into the government at all. In most dystopian books, there are characters who represent the government and we get a sense of what they believe is right and wrong. There was absolutely NONE of that in this book. We never saw any governmental people at all. So how was I supposed to really think that these people would uphold the rules of how you were allowed to kill your Alt or the consequences of killing someone's Alt for them. It just didn't make as much sense as I would have liked.
All in all, I did enjoy the read. I think the banter and relationship between Chord and West made up my most favorite parts of the book. I liked it because while you could sense the tension between them. The fact that they were walking the thin line of friend versus love interest yet it wasn't such an absurd notion that they might end up together because they were childhood friends. And it wasn't what ruled the book (as happens in so many YA books these days).
So I give this book a 3, still good in my book, but I really think the author could have done so much more with it to make it even better. I am interested to see where she takes the sequel.
"*I received a copy of this book for free to review, this in no way influenced my review, all opinions are 100% honest and my own."
"Thanks to the publisher or author for sending me this copy!"