Monday, December 27, 2010

REVIEW: Matched by Ally Condie

Matched
by Ally Condie
Published 11.30.2010
366 pages
Dutton Juvenile, Penguin Group

Synopsis
Cassia has always trusted the Society to make the right choices for her: what to read, what to watch, what to believe. So when Xander's face appears on-screen at her Matching ceremony, Cassia knows with complete certainty that he is her ideal mate . . . until she sees Ky Markham's face flash for an instant before the screen fades to black.

The Society tells her it's a glitch, a rare malfunction, and that she should focus on the happy life she's destined to lead with Xander. But Cassia can't stop thinking about Ky, and as they slowly fall in love, Cassia begins to doubt the Society's infallibility and is faced with an impossible choice: between Xander and Ky, between the only life she's known and a path that no one else has dared to follow.

REVIEW: I really enjoyed this book and regretted when I had to put it down.  The protagonist is Cassia.  In the beginning, her life is perfect.  She is a level-headed 17-year old who comes from a good family and is excited about her future.  She is Matched to her best friend, Xander.  She does well at school and at work.  Her life will be a series of contented and controlled experiences.  She will close her eyes at age 80 like all citizens, and she will slip easily into death at her scheduled time.  She could be any girl, but I don’t mean that I found her dull, or that I could easily transfer my own personality into the story via her character. She’s her own person, knows what she is good at and what her place in her world is.  I found it very easy to connect with her and her fully confessional, first-person narrative makes you feel like you have a very close friendship with her.

The glitch on her screen when she sees Ky’s face is the main catalyst for Cassia to start questioning how are in the Society.  Several more things then happen that add to her sense of unease: her grandfather gives her forbidden words and encourages her to start asking questions, talk of her receiving her final work assignment increases, she receives more information about Ky that tickles her curiosity even more, her father gets into major trouble for losing something important, and the whole family starts to feel the strain of being scrutinized.  Through it all, Cassia struggles between the ideas of choice vs. safety, of data vs. emotion, etc.

All these things revolve around each other in the book and basically boil down to a question of free will.  Is it worth letting people make their own major life decisions given the risk for failure, or is better to have even-steven contentment without choice?  The catalyst for the question is not entirely a moral one for Cassia; it’s a question of love.  She knows Xander is a sure thing, and that their Match likely would prove to be a successful one based on the Society’s meticulously gathered data.  However, the attraction she feels for Ky is so potent, she struggles with ignoring it.  Ky also offers her something that she desires: knowledge.  Along the way there are other subplots that help build to the story’s tipping point, and these things lead to warnings and a very harsh crackdown by the Society.  However, the story’s spotlight is the forbidden attraction between Cassia and Ky.  I think the book on the whole is very well-written, but Cassia's growing tension over her feelings for Ky was wonderful, and I was genuinely excited for Cassia.  Ky is the most fascinating character in the book, and I hope we hear more of his personal voice in the sequel.  I wouldn't call him Cassia's opposite, but he certainly comes from a completely different frame-of-reference than she does.  He came from shadowy background and was adopted by Cassia’s neighbors.  He blends in, has been assigned to menial work despite his intelligence, and simply exists.  He is just there. 

The pacing is steady – this is a book that simmers, not boils. Cassia’s growing awareness and questioning of how the Society runs things and how they control her life carries the narrative.  It’s interesting to see her anger build, and her soft-spoken ways give way to a real determination that leaves you hoping it’s the ‘real thing’ between she and Ky.  My prediction is that she will be a different sort of character in the next book.  The grit she shows towards the end leaves real promise for further development, and I look forward to seeing who Cassia will grow into in the squeal.

There are a lot of elements in Matched that we’ve seen before: controlled society, forced domestic partnerships, love triangles, etc.  The Society in Ally Condie’s Matched is extremely similar to the Community in The Giver.  So similar, in fact, that I checked the ‘Acknowledgments’ to see if she credits Lowry at all.  She doesn’t, and I really think she ought to.  The Society reads like a less formal, more affectionate version of the Community from Lowry’s work.  Emotions aren’t as checked as they are in The Giver, but there definitely are limits to what the Officials in Condie’s book will allow.  While not wholly original, Matched is a well-written, attention grabbing story that kept me turning the page.  Each character is distinct and helps builds the tension leading up to the climax.  Condie skillfully balances the plot and Cassia’s inner, emotional struggle, and never once did I feel that one or the other was missing.  In fact, I kept it in my bag over the weekend and snuck in reading time where and when I could.  I definitely recommend this book. 

8 comments:

  1. I loved this book! Although I felt like it needed just a bit more of romance. Great review!

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  2. Yay Linds! So glad you enjoyed this one as well, it was one of my favorite reads as well. And you are so right, it's definitely a book that simmers and doesn't boil and I was very caught up in all the repressed tension:) I just love Cassia and Ky and I completely agree with what you said about her starting to show some grit there at the end, can't wait to see how that grows in book 2! Stunning review Linds, I loved reading your thoughts:)

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  3. Great in-depth review, Linds! I have this on my shelf, but I keep putting it off because of the mixed reviews - I also hear it's a lot like Delirium, which I loved, so I worry it won't live up! Either way...loved your review! :)

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  4. @Savy - I'm opposite. If anyhing, I would have liked more commentary on the Society. loved the tension between Ky and Cassia!

    @Jenny I really enjoyed it - I think Cassia is going to turn out to be be some kind of awesome!

    @Melissa Give it a shot - it may not be for everyone, but I can't get into a dull story at all, so dull it def. is not!

    -Linds

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  5. Heey
    Here from BookBlogs!
    I read a couple of reviews on this book, but liked this one best!! It sounds like a really nice book! New follower!!

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  6. I've read a couple other reviews that mentioned The Giver similarities. Lucky for me, I haven't read The Giver yet (for shame!) so I hope when I read Matched it will seem very original to me.

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  7. Shoot me, but I have yet to read The Giver, but now I'm curious as hell to read it to look for the similarities. I feel strongly about giving credit where it is due.

    I loved this book but I have quickly realized it is not for everyone. Glad it worked for you.

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  8. I absolutely love your reviews. You really touch on so many aspects of this wonderful book that I wish I would have mentioned in my own review. I've seen in other reviews that Matched has been compared to both The Giver and Brave New World, neither of which I have read but I feel like I should since I loved this one so much. I can't wait to see the ways that Cassia's character grows in the next book and I wish I didn't have to wait so long to read it!

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