Reached by Ally Condie
Genre: Young adult, dystopia, science fiction, romance, this is why not everything needs to be a trilogy (hint, hint)
Rating: 3.56 out of 5 stars
Summary: Cassia has finally joined the Rising in an attempt to topple the Society, a government which controls its citizens to the point of deciding who they marry, where they work and when they die. For their own good of course. Joined by her love interest Ky and her other love interest Xander, Cassia and her friends await the arrival of the Pilot, the mysterious leader of the rebellion who will lead them all to a new world in which they have the option to choose for themselves. Or so they hope. This conclusion to the Matched trilogy will answer all your questions but may not leave you satisfied.
Whelp, the Matched trilogy is finally over and I’m kind of apathetic about the whole thing. I loved the first book in the series: Matched, which was coincidentally the first book I ever reviewed on Bibliomantics (review HERE) and was pretty much disappointed by its sequel Crossed (review HERE) but still had high hopes for the finale. I don’t think all those hopes were satisfied. I didn’t hate the way it ended, but I certainly wasn’t gripped by it either. In the immortal words of Stephanie Perkins: sad face.
Where Matched focuses on the Society, which regulates the lives of its citizens down to their jobs and spouses and Crossed is about the outsiders who oppose the society, Reached centers on the rebellion itself. A rebellion which begins and ends in the first 80 pages. So don’t expect much excitement there. Rather than focus on how main characters Ky, Cassia and Xander got placed where they did and how, things merely jump extremely far forward between the books and we are given flashbacks to explain some of the gaps and jump in time. Yay. Flashbacks. Awesome.
Condie also gives us a brand new POV: Xander. Since the last novel which features very little of the X man, he has become a Medical Official, collecting final samples from the old (who are killed when it is their time) and giving babies their tablets (which will make them immune to disease) on their Welcoming Day ceremonies. Unbeknownst to the babies or their parents, the Rising has replaced the Society approved tablets, which will make them immune to the red tablets they are given when they come of age.
As we learned in the other books, the red tablet erases your memory, and are used by the Society to control its citizens. Ky and Xander are both immune, having been selected by the Rising for immunity when they were born. How? Why? Who knows. I was under the impression that the blue pill allowed you to stay in the Matrix and the red pill sent you down the rabbit hole. But what do I know?
Meanwhile, Cassia is a mole planted by the Rising who sorts data for the Society and Ky is literally a pilot. As in piloting planes. This is especially confusing because the head of the Rising is named the Pilot and could be anyone but ends up morphing into a preachy, metaphorical God stand-in who helps resurrect people from an illness called the Plague. Jesus is in us all guys.
In order to start the rebellion, the Rising releases a live Plague virus into the population. This Plague causes people to go still (basically living in a state of suspended animation) until the Rising can swoop down from the sky, cure them and take over from the Society. Thus winning over the hearts of its civilians. Unfortunately for them, this plan backfires when the virus mutates itself and they must desperately find a new cure. Whoops, good plan.
Even more religious mumbo jumbo is brought in when people start going still, and their bodies travel to a strange heavenly place that’s all white and people are able to communicate with the dead while they’re unconscious. Thankfully they do not play harps and sit on clouds, it’s much more symbolically painful than that.
It is this plot that the novel focuses on rather than the rebellion itself, which is what I believe makes the novel so draggy. And not in the good Pandora Boxx kind of way. Again, more of a focus on the Rising itself, how the insurgents came to be where they are and less a race to find a cure for a mutation/let’s see how people adjust to a brand new way of life.
The main point of this finale seems to be to tie up all the loose ends Condie created in Matched and Crossed. This is all well and good except that these seem so contrived that I hated each and every single one of them. Like the previous book, the majority of the revelations feel forced and disjointed and kept giving me the feeling that Condie didn’t have a plan from beginning to end but merely wrote and added to the narrative as she went along. Or maybe I just expect so much because J.K. Rowling was dropping hints for Deathly Hallows since The Sorcerer’s Stone.
In addition to these problems, Condie makes the initial love triangle even more complicated by turning it into a love clusterfuck. The first two novels had a much more formulaic girl one must choose between boy one and boy two, but in Reached, it becomes girl one must choose between boy one who is now starting to get interested in girl two in order to make girl one’s decision easier. Meanwhile, boy two is being stalked by girl three and if things were different you know they would make a great couple. Phew. Did you get all that?
Don’t worry you guys, despite how it sounds, you’ll never guess who Cassia picks to spend the rest of her life with. Just kidding, you’ve known since book one.
Perhaps the strangest point in the novel comes when Ky, Xander and Cassia travel outside of what was once the Society to find a cure for the new Plague mutation which the Rising brought about by using the Society’s own weapon against itself. That’s what you get for sinking to their level. Random aside: there is a whole lot of, “What’s best for humanity as a species?”/choosing between the lesser of two evils, but it would take a whole different post entirely to unpack all that, although it is a pretty intriguing concept. Just read the book if you want to hear more about that. But really don’t, just read Matched so you’re ready for the movie.
Anyway, the Pilot brings the trio to their home base to try and discover a cure. Ky is chosen because he’s the best literal pilot and they need someone to fly them there, Cassia is brought along to help sort for possible ingredients in the antidote, and Xander goes to help check on the patients and work on mixing up a cure. The three most important people chosen by the Pilot and they’re all teenagers who are the best out of anyone in their respective field? I find this highly suspect.
I know it’s a common trope (more accurately called Wake Up, Go to School, Save the World) to have teenagers be the salvation of the planet but they usually have Watchers or friendly Headmasters to help them along. These three kids are basically on their own (especially when everyone they need help from keep mysteriously dying). Off page of course, no one dies on page in this series. Literally no one. It’s your grandma’s version of The Hunger Games.
Thankfully, there is a gorgeous last line and everything is happiness and butterflies and rainbows. This is tedious, but Condie throws us a bone and gives us some gorgeous prose to make it all better. “There is ebb and flow. Leaving and coming. Flight and fall. Sing and silent. Reaching and reached.”
– It was a definitive conclusion, albeit a boring one
– Intriguing look at the Rising versus the Society and all those implications
– The Pilot gets all the best lines, wish we could have had more of him
– Great final line to tie the whole series together, does give hope
– Felt long and dragged out, would have preferred more rebellion
– Surprise information still feels like it was added in as an afterthought
– Love triangle gets even more complicated yet still predictable
A final note to whoever designed the covers. You had me hooked with the gorgeous Matched, you had me cringing at the overly symbolic Crossed and you killed me with this awful piece of awfulness that is Reached. I generally share covers that I love on Instagram, Twitter and Tumblr (small sampling here) but this book did not make the cut. YOU KILLED MY LOVE! KILLED IT!