by Ally Condie
Dutton Juvenile, Penguin Group
SynopsisCassia 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
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.
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
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.