Matched by Ally Condie
Genre: Young adult, dystopia, science fiction, team vs. team romance
Rating: 4.89 out of 5 stars
Summary: Cassia has the perfect life, run by the Society, which determines all aspects of her life from her career, to her food intake, to her recent Match and childhood friend, the incredible sexy and always understanding Xander.
All this changes when she puts in the microcard from her Match and sees not Xander’s face, but that of her neighbor and friend, the mysteriously and equally sexy, Ky. Intrigued by Ky, Cassia is drawn to him, choosing to defy the societal expectations placed on her by her family, her friends, and the Society whose probabilities guide her life.
Given a new take on life, and discovering the idea of choice, Cassia is forced to make a life-altering decision: Team Xander or Team Ky.
I had been hearing good things about Matched before I picked it up at Target, and felt even more strongly about wanting to read it when I perused the synopsis. In addition to this and my knee-jerk weakness for dystopic novels and young adult fiction, I knew I had to read it.
Condie does not disappoint. The Society she creates is at all times wonderful and simultaneously frightening. Everything is determined using probability in order to lengthen human life, from the bland yet nutritious food to the mandated exercise. Residents are given three pills to help them through their existence, a blue pill to help them survive without water/food for an extended period of time, a green pill to assist them in times of stress, and a red pill which it’s hypothesized may or may not cause instant death. All the pills are used at various times, with the exception of the blue pill which serves as a plot point and may or may not have been stolen from “The Matrix”.
In order to limit choice, the government chose 100 songs, 100 paintings, and 100 poems for its residents to consume, because it was considered too much choice that brought upon the downfall of prior civilizations. It can safely be assumed that these various groups of 100 are extremely boring and somehow involve Charles Dickens.
The overarching plot is pretty formulaic. Girl meets boy one who is perfect for her, and even though she’s a teenager, knows that they will get married and have lots of babies one day. That is until girl meets boy two, who is even more perfect for her, plus is rebellious and wants to give her a real life. Reader inevitably knows girl will end up with boy two, but still insists on being Team Boy One because, “OMG THEY ARE DESTINED TO BE 2GETHER 4EVER!!!!!1!!!!one!!!!!”.
This however does not take away from the overall richness and enjoyability of the book as a whole. With the exception of The Hunger Games, I have become pretty adjusted to the predictable nature of young adult fiction. Every once and I while I will be surprised by one that breaks the mold, but more often than not they are predictable. Again, not necessarily a bad thing, and I keep reading them regardless of this same repetitive formula.
Boy One is represented by Xander, Cassia’s funny, charismatic, and incredibly attractive childhood friend that wants to bone her. He is extremely kind, and on more than one occasion defies the Society to help ease the pain of a friend. This however does not make him as rebellious as boy two, who is quickly shown to be the obvious front runner to Cassia’s affections.
Boy Two is the more rebellious Ky, who due to an unknown sin committed by his father (I chose to ignore this nod to the bible), is unable to join the marriage pool and be Matched in the way that Cassia and Xander are. He is also clever, putting on a facade of mediocrity in order to go unnoticed by the Officials, despite the fact that he is able to excel above Xander in games of skill if he wants to. He is able to write in cursive, and has access to poems not of the 100 chosen, which he gains via a system akin to the Black Market. All of this draws Cassia to him, rather than her first and safer choice, Xander.
Cassia, AKA the girl, is more of a faceless shell than a person. I have also since learned that her name is pronounced Casha (because I suppose replacing the e with an a in my name changes most of the phonetics of it). Anyway, we learn that Cassia/Casha also has a rebellious streak and likes to stand out (i.e. she is proud of the fact that she is the only one to choose the green dress for her Match banquet), she is very active and enjoys the outdoors, and I assume she has ears, eyes, a nose, and a face. Although I couldn’t tell you one thing about them. I can only imagine that this allows young girls reading the series to escape from their hard lives where their moms give them a curfew and tell them to do laundry and don’t even let them go out on school nights!
Hopefully in the next few books we get some more descriptive elements about the characters themselves.
Cassia’s family becomes as equally misbehaved as Cassia, although for some reason the author would have us believe they were once paragons of model citizens. Her younger brother Bram, not to be confused with the muffin of a similar name, is always running late to school and is constantly complaining about things that he deems to be unfair. Her mother works in the Arboretum, and has a fondness for plants, but not for breaking the rules, at least initially. And her father disposes of artifacts (old age technology, books, etc) no longer allowed by the Society. He too is willing to defy Society, by purposefully destroying his father’s DNA sample after his death so he would not face resurrection. In the end, they all side with Cassia’s choice in partners, big guess which boy that turns out to be, going against the Officials once again.
For me, the world in Matched, more so than the characters are what really stand out and make the story as wonderful as it is.
-The world Condie creates is frightening and believable
-A lot of thought and explanation is put into fleshing out this world
-Quick, easy, enjoyable read
-Cassia’s decisions involve much angsting and little thought
-Most of the characters seem to be aligned in the same way (not much variation)
Overall, I am excited to read the second book in the series, Crossed, which comes out in November 2011. So expect a post on that, if not a Bibliomantic Book Club post if I can get the others just as hooked on the Matched trilogy.