At Least it’s Not a Prequel: Cassie-la Digests “Crossed” by Ally Condie

Crossed by Ally Condie
Genre: Young adult, dystopia, science fiction, romance, Speed 2 was completely unnecessary
Rating: 3.12 out of 5 stars

Summary: Cassia is on the hunt for her true love, Ky, who has been captured by the government and sent to die in the Outer Provinces. But her heart is still sort of in love with her match, Xander as she still struggles with the decision to back Team Ky over Team Xander. Thankfully she has a lot of time to think as she travels through the canyons outside of Society, learning more about her past and a growing rebellion hidden within the works of Alfred Lord Tennyson.

Roughly nine months ago, I reviewed Ally Condie’s, Matched, the first novel in her young adult dystopic trilogy AND my first ever post for Bibliomantics. As with all novels in a series, one hopes but is never too hopeful that a sequel will live up to its predecessor. Often it doesn’t (see Jaws 3 and Jaws: the Revenge), which was sadly the case with Crossed. Although it isn’t that bad, it’s more of a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles versus Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: Secret of the Ooze sort of thing.

My first thought (which I discussed at length with Cassie-wa) was the awful cover, which Ally Condie cannot be held at fault for. This is a rather a misstep by the publishers. The Matched cover is gorgeous, and features Cassia in her matched dress trapped inside the same bubble as on this cover (the bubble obviously representing the Society). It was symbolic but it didn’t beat you over the head with it. The Crossed cover on the other hand is too much. The symbolism is awful, blatant and poorly executed. How is Cassia’s foot magically out of the bubble with no broken glass scattered around it? Is she Kitty Fucking Pride!?!

With all that out of the way, I would like to delve into the narrative itself, which was very different in this sequel. Whereas Matched is solely from Cassia’s point of view, Crossed alternates every other chapter with her counterpart Ky. Not only does this heighten the suspense (Cassia and Ky are continually moving in similar areas but keep missing one another), but we also get to learn more about Ky and his life as an aberration. His father, much like Ky, played the system, purposefully scoring low on his job skills test so he could be a mechanic, since he liked using his hands. Bom chicka wah wah.

A lot of this novel is focused on aberrations and anamolies. We learn that aberrations become that way either because a parent commits an infraction which passes onto their family, or a child can become an aberration on their own (which does not transfer to the rest of the family unit). Anamolies on the other hand, chose to break away when the Society was forming, and instead went their own way. We also learn that the Society formed to “prevent a future warming event”, possibly global warming. Al Gore is peeing himself right now. Rather than move to the provinces, the anamolies choose to live in the “carvings” in the canyons where the majority of this book takes place. Obviously somewhere in the Midwest. Hopefully all the inbred creatures from The Hills Have Eyeshave gone extinct by now.

In the middle of all these flashbacks and explanations in Condie’s world, Cassia and Ky are looking for one another. Cassie escapes from a work camp by faking aberration status and Ky is pretending to be a farmer (against his will) to draw fire from the Enemy, who is attacking the Society. If he can live for a full six months, the Society has promised to give him status as a full citizen. Of course he’s not expected to live, and he plans to escape and head back to Oria to find Cassia. It’s like a bad present exchange trope. “I sold all my pants to buy you a hair tie.” “But I sold all my hair to buy you a belt!”

For some reason while reading this novel, I got the distinct feeling that Crossed is desperately trying to be more like The Hunger Games, and not just because the world is divided into provinces akin to Suzanne Collins’ districts. What made this trilogy so great was that it had the formula of The Hunger Games (dystopic love triangle with strong female narrator) while being situated in a world wholly unlike Katniss’ world. Now however, with this integration of a hidden rebellion to the plot, it feels like Cassia is being pushed into a Katniss mold. The only difference is their social backgrounds, Cassia coming from a sheltered world in which she is a citizen, and Katniss being on the fringes, who must fight for all that she has to survive.

This rebellion is being led by a figure called the Pilot and the movement is referred to as the Rising. Members communicate with each other through archivists (first introduced in Matched) and through Alfred Lord Tennyson’s poem, “Crossing the Bar”.

“For tho’ from out our bourne of Time and Place
    The flood may bear me far,
I hope to see my Pilot face to face
    When I have crost the bar.”

And you thought it was about death, didn’t you? Silly English majors. This secret code for members of the Rising is the catalyst for Cassia’s desire to find them and join their cause.

In the meantime, when we are in Ky’s point of view, we are getting looks back into the first book and how the plot intertwines. I.e. Ky knew about the Rising and thought Cassia did too when he saw her reading another Tennyson poem. While this interplay is interesting, I can’t help but wonder if it was planned all along, or if Condie tacked it on as an afterthought. For me, it definitely feels like a later decision, but this could be caused by the different perspectives, which is why it seems so out of the blue to me.

Despite this, Condie manages to make Cassia and Ky’s relationship reasonably believable. They know what they’re doing is forbidden, and they are aware that their time together consists of stolen moments. Much like Libba Bray’s Gemma Doyle trilogy, these characters grasp that some things simply cannot be, and they’re aware that there might be no happily ever after.

THE GOOD:
-Kept the relationship between Ky and Cassia semi-realistic
-Got an outsider’s look into the workings of the Society
-Peak into the darker, more evil tendencies of the Society
-Given more of a back-story into Ky’s life from his POV, YAY TEAM KY!

THE BAD:
-New information felt like they were tacked on/an after thought
-Wilderness not as exciting to read about as life in the Society
-Trying too hard to be like The Hunger Games – it’s not, deal with it

Despite the dip in readability in this sequel, I have high hopes for the final book in the trilogy, which puts Cassia in a completely new and exciting position. It also moves the story back into a more interesting sphere. I’m all for running around in the wilderness, but this novel gave me more than enough of an understanding of the Outer Provinces. This isn’t The Hunger Games, the fun isn’t in fighting for survival, the fun is in the way the Society works and controls its citizens.

I for one cannot wait until November 2012 when Cassia has to pick once and for all: Team Xander or Team Ky.

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