I'm always reading something, usually multiple books at a time.
My review for the first book in this trilogy, Dualed, can be found here. As you can tell, I liked this second installment better than I did the first (three stars instead of the two I gave the first). One reason for this is that the heroine, West Grayer, came across as more sympathetic, by expressing remorse for actions she seemed numb about in the first book, as well as admitting that she needs help from other people when she's into a situation over her head.
As I'd expected, there is a moment in which the official history behind the city of Kersh is revealed to be a false one. The world still doesn't make sense, but in some new and different ways.
When we rejoin West at the beginning of Divided, her "completion" at the end of Dualed is "months ago" (number of months unspecified). She is back in school, but also working as an assistant for the weapon-skills teacher Baer (yes, a high school with a course on weapons skills!). She is also in therapy to help her process the trauma behind facing her Alt and becoming a Complete,* as well as the guilt of having been a striker**
*The narrative does include an expository recap on all this, in case readers are joining in without the benefit of having read the first book.
**Strikers are assassins who are hired to perform an Alt's "completion" for him or her.
Three (More) Strikes and She's Out (From Striker Life)?
The inciting incident for this installment of the trilogy is that West is approached by a Level One Board Operator named Sabian and given an offer she finds herself unable to refuse. (The Board is Kersh's governing body, and Level One is the upper echelon). Sabian is aware of West's past as a striker and proposes that if she kills the Alts of three children of high-level Board members, she will be given a unique opportunity. When she has children, those children will not have Alts. Instead, the computer system will be rigged so that they are coded as having Alts, and those fictional Alts will endure tragic fatal accidents while still in infanthood. In addition, West adds on another term: Her striker marks would be permanently removed from her wrists. (These are special tattoos that not only mark strikers but also contain tracking data allowing the strikers' employer to know their whereabouts.)
The proposition itself helps underscore much of what's wrong with West's world, of course. The Board Alts already have the most advantages compared to their counterparts in every other ward of Kersh. They are given the most advanced training. And yet, a high-level Operator seeks to create an even greater edge. West is assured that she would be helping to ensure that the most worthy Alts complete, but by the society's purported ethos, the only way to determine the "most worthy" is to allow the Alts to actually fight each other to the death. (Which of course has so much wrong with it.)
Naturally, West finds that things are not exactly as they appear, within the confines of her assignment. She seeks a more ethical way to fulfill the terms of her contract, and things take a fairly interesting turn as she does.
Once again, as with the first book, this one wraps up a self-contained plot while leaving open more to be explored in the next (and final) installment.
So this is another YA dystopian in which our protagonist lives in a walled-in city and believes that the walls protect its inhabitants from what lies outside of it. I can't help but be reminded of the Delirium trilogy and the Divergent trilogy. We also have a teenage protagonist who somehow appears to have the fate of society in her hands. My son asked me why I keep reading these, and I told him that I'm interested in seeing what themes and ideas they share, and thinking about the reasons for them. Sure, we can say that books like these are being published because there is demand for them, but they must be tapping into some deeper cultural anxieties.
I can't help wishing this series had a more plausible world. In Divided, we learn the city's true origins, but that brings in some more layers of implausibility for me. How is it that no one knew--how was there no collective memory of the city's true past? Also, I can't help thinking no one would accept the requirement that every child must have an Alt to face in a battle to the death. It just goes against human nature
Having said all that? I still want to see what happens next, in the final book of the trilogy. So this series has that going for it.
I received this book as a free, uncorrected proof ebook from NetGalley. This does not inhibit my ability to provide an honest review.