Review: Divided by Elsie Chapman

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

Review: Divided by Elsie ChapmanDivided by Elsie Chapman
Series: Dualed #2
Published by Random House BFYR on May 27, 2014
Genres: Adventure, Dystopian, Romance, Science Fiction
Pages: 320
Format: Hardcover
Source: YA Books Central
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two-half-stars

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.

I’d actually decided not to read Elsie Chapman’s sequel to Dualed. Though I did enjoy Dualed (I was one of the few), I also was aware of its flaws and unsure whether I could overlook them again. However, Divided arrived unsolicited from YABC, for the very reason that I was one of the only people who read and liked the first book in the series. As such, I decided to give it a try. That turned out about as well as could be expected. Elsie Chapman’s Divided has a few things to recommend it, but the shitty world building is insurmountable.

Divided falls into a subsection of dystopian novels written based on a really cool hook. Some author asked themselves “what if society made you do THIS?” and then they run with it. In theory, I love the idea of having to face down yourself. The concept is dark and creepy and it’s a good hook. Unfortunately, something being good in theory doesn’t make it good in practice. The compelling hooks that get these books picked up by publishers and anticipated by readers are the same things that keep the books from ultimately being particularly good.

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Recently, I wrote a post on books that I think are placed in the wrong genre and listed Dualed among them. As I said, the idea has merit. However, placing this idea in a futuristic US means that it needs to be plausible in our world with the rules it functions by. Perhaps, had Chapman done something more speculative (think What’s Left of Me by Kat Zhang) and set Dualed in some sort of alternate universe where everyone was born a twin because that’s just how the world worked, the world building might have been believable. Unfortunately, as it stands, it’s not.

In Dualed, I was able to sort of turn my brain off and not think too much about the world building, to let that slide somewhat and still enjoy the book. In Divided, I really couldn’t do that. Where Dualed had a paragraph of world building and then went off to play with action and stuff, Divided really wants to legitimize the world building. Chapman is trying to really explain the world she created and give more details. This does not, however, manage to make the world remotely believable and kept me from being able to ignore the illogic of the whole thing.

The world of Divided has a lot in common with Divergent on the base level. Both are set in a city, cordoned off by fences from a nebulous but dangerous outside world. There is, in both societies, a spectacular lack of curiosity about what’s going on outside the electrified fences and great fear of the people outside trying to get into the really terrible city. The first thing I find hard to believe is that no one tries to sneak out to the Surround. Heck, even in The Forest of Hands and Teeth, teens were sneaking out of the fences into zombie-laden territory because people are curious. They know there’s danger in a more real way than either the people of Divergent and Divided do, but they still want to know what’s outside. The lack of curiosity in Divided seems very unlikely.

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Then there’s the whole concept. The people in the city are sterile. Thankfully, they have super science powers and are able to make babies with science. They decide to make everyone in twins (combining the DNA of four parents, each pair receiving one of the twins), who will then, at some point in their formative years, be activated and fight until one of them is dead and the other is “completed.” They set society up this way to limit the population, since a walled city doesn’t allow for population growth and to make sure that all of the adult population was tough and battle ready in case the scary whatever is out in the Surround should attack.

Let’s ignore the fact that the Surround has never once given any sign they give a shit about the people inside the fences. The problems with this are bigger than that. Most glaringly, why the fuck are these people worried about population control? The government is literally in control of all baby production. If they don’t make a baby, it won’t exist. Just make the number of babies desired and BAM the population is controlled. How about the strong population thing to face the nonexistent enemy? Well, they could just train all of their people on weaponry or build an actual military. If they’re determined to do the fight to the death to see who’s strong and tough thing, they’d be better off putting all the kids in an arena and having them battle until half of them were dead.

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The alt system is flawed in so many ways, even by their own logic. Some complete by their alt dying of some other cause before they’re activated. This person then doesn’t have to prove themselves worthy of living in this shitty walled city. Then there’s the fact that both twins might be weak. Just because one managed to kill the other one does not make the winner the Hulk or Xena. All they’re achieving is making sure that most of their people are murderers. Plus, there’s also luck. The way the battles are set up, by which I mean they’re told to go find each other somewhere, anywhere, luck can easily win the day. They’re not put on an even playing field like an arena and told to compete. The weaker one could easily sneak up on the stronger and shoot him/her during sleep.

Then there’s the plot of Divided, which all hinges on West make an overtly stupid and not particularly West-ish decision. She agrees to kill three more alts on the promise of future favors from the Board. WITH NO WRITTEN AGREEMENT THAT SHE WILL GET HER PAYMENT. This whole thing is so obviously messed up. Chapman tries to make the comparison with West’s prior choice to be a striker, but it’s really not the same at all, motivation-wise. It doesn’t seem like something West would do. However, I guess if she didn’t take the deal, there wouldn’t be a plot, so you do what you have to, I guess. View Spoiler »

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For all that, I didn’t precisely dislike Divided. I do still enjoy Elsie Chapman’s writing. West is still delightfully closed off and unfriendly. The action scenes, based on illogical foundations though they may be, are still entertaining. It’s not a great book, but it wasn’t terrible, world building and plot aside. I don’t know. I considered rating lower, but I didn’t dislike it when it comes down to it. I fully believe Elsie Chapman could write good books, since her characters and writing are good, but this series isn’t it.

Unless you’re the sort of person who doesn’t mind at all if the world building doesn’t make any damn sense, do not read Dualed and Divvided. It will only make you sad and frustrated.

Favorite Quote:

“I think lying hurts you as much as the person you’re lying to.”

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

gif spock star trek most illogical

5 responses to “Review: Divided by Elsie Chapman”

  1. Angie F. says:

    I agree with all of it! I looooved this idea, and I really enjoyed Dualed, but then as more information was revealed in Divided, I had to go “THIS WORLD MAKES NO SENSE!” And I listed some of the same things as you, because come on, they are so obvious! The world could still be messed up and horrible, but SENSE!
    Angie F. recently posted…Review: In Bed with a Rogue (Rival Rogues, #2) by Samantha GraceMy Profile

    • Christina Franke says:

      It’s frustrating. I had that fear going into it. I knew the world building was dumb in the first book but was able to overlook it. Now, it’s so central and just nope. Why not just be a fantasy novel? WHY?

  2. Oh god, I requested this book from NetGalley while in the middle of reading Dualed, which I did enjoy. I was so psyched to be approved… But now I’ve just been putting off reading the sequel for ages, and I have all this NetGalley Guilt over it. Like you, I saw flaws in the world building in the first book but I managed to kind of ignore that aspect of the book and just enjoy the rest, for the most part. The concept was great and I really wanted to love it. However, by the end of Dualed I strongly suspected that I wouldn’t enjoy the sequel as much if the world building issues weren’t tightened up. Sounds like the opposite is true. Stuff like the population control thing is crazy making!
    The Avid Reader recently posted…Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Book Characters that would be Sitting at My Lunch TableMy Profile

  3. Gillian says:

    “Most glaringly, why the fuck are these people worried about population control? The government is literally in control of all baby production. If they don’t make a baby, it won’t exist.”

    ….

    OMK.

    Also I haaaaate when good writers sort of squander themselves on illogical premises and all the shitty worldbuilding totally overshadows great characters. It is super sadmaking.
    Gillian recently posted…Fall into BelzharMy Profile

  4. I was one of the few that enjoyed Dualed as well, but I totally noticed it’s flaws. One of the reasons I haven’t started Divided is because I might notice them even more this time around. I’ll probably avoid it for a few more weeks before I finally bite the bullet and go for it.
    Michelle @ In Libris Veritas recently posted…Fan Art Up! (1) – Beauty and the BeastMy Profile

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