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Matched by Ally Condie

October 20, 2010

Remember this pithy description?

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.

 

It’s here, it’s finally here. This is my first ARC review for Ruby’s Reads. It is the first book that I have read and reviewed that I have not purchased myself. I won this copy as part of LibraryThing’s Early Reviewers Program. How awesome is that?

The first thing I noticed about Matched was that the narrative style reminded me of Carrie Jones’ Need (and its sequel, Captivate). It’s told in the first person by Cassia Reyes, a seventeen-year-old girl living in a futuristic, Dystopian world. The novel opens on the night of Cassia’s Match Banquet. Being “Matched” means obtaining a husband or wife chosen by the Society. The Society is a big brother-type group made up of Officers and Officials. Their main job seems to be collecting data on their citizens–and then using that data to predict how each person will act. For example, the Society knew which dress Cassia would choose for her Match banquet. They also know that she will be the second person to reach the top of the hill in her hiking class.

On the surface, some of the things that the Society has done sound pretty good. All your meals are prepared for you. All transportation is public. There are summer leisure hours. Most diseases have been eradicated. The Matching system has eliminated all that pesky worry about finding a life partner. If you’re anxious, the Society has thoughtfully provided you with some pills–take the green one and all your worries will fade away.

But Matched isn’t a Utopian novel and it’s through Cassia’s eyes that we learn about the problems inherent in the Society’s ways. Chief among them is that the Society doesn’t allow room for creative thought. A long time ago, the Society made lists of the hundred best things. The hundred best paintings, the hundred best poems, the hundred best songs. Everything that didn’t make the list was destroyed and, making new ones appears to be prohibited. Everyone within the Society has a job that is functional. Poets, musicians and artists are a thing of the past.

Cassia is very much a part of the world that the Society has built. She has been waiting for her Match Banquet for most of her life. She’s a rule-follower and she believes every line she is fed. When her Match is revealed to be her best friend, Xander, Cassia is even more convinced that the system works. Its not until Cassia goes to view Xander’s microcard (for fun, not because she needs to know anything about the boy she’s known her whole life), that her world is rocked for the first time. On the viewing screen, for a split second, another face besides Xander’s appears. It’s the face of another boy she knows–a boy named Ky.

Ky’s split second appearance on the screen is the crack in the windshield. Once Cassia has seen Ky’s image, she is no longer able to be content with the world she lives in. She is irresistibly drawn to Ky–and he to her. Though Cassia already has her Match, her feelings for the other boy continue to grow. Because of his unique history, Ky also has a lot to teach Cassia about the Society, about the Hundred Poems, about things that she’s never even thought of before. He opens her eyes. And in the process, a romance blooms between them. The problem is, it’s sort of a flat, lackluster romance. It’s one that never made my heart do a happy lurch in anticipation.

I was fully prepared to like this book. I loved the cover.  Props to the design department for putting the girl in a green dress, by the way. And there was plenty to like. The world that Cassia inhabits is an intriguing one. I sort of pictured it like The Truman Show. You know, all clean and sterile and friendly but not really real. The problem was, it felt a little derivative. It took elements from Brave New World, tossed in a dash of The Giver and mixed them up with some George Orwell. It was impossible not to make comparisons. Matched plays on two things: the remarkable human ability to resemble sheep and the assumption that you can predict human nature. Condie’s message was unclear to me. I couldn’t tell if she was making an argument that it is impossible for any organization to know as much about the people they are trying to control as they think they do, or if the point was that, yes, people are predictable, but they have a right to live their own lives anyway. I just don’t know.

What I do know is that I never really connected to any of the characters. We don’t get to see enough of Xander or Ky in order to take sides in the triangle. Cassia’s brother could be any ten year old boy. Her parents are slightly more interesting, but I don’t understand what really drives the Society Officials that Cassia comes into the most contact with. I don’t think they even had names. So I kind of pictured them as blurred faces in shapeless gray jumpsuits.

Matched is the first book in a trilogy. I liked it enough to be intrigued as to what will happen next. Condie definitely left Cassia in an interesting place. And I do want to see more of Cassia’s world, especially the Outer Provinces. I want to see if there are rebel societies doing rogue things like painting pictures and singing non-perfect, off-key songs and writing romance novels. I’m pretty sure none made the Hundred list of books. Matched is the beginning of a promising series–but I need to see some more before I’m converted to the cause.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Julie permalink
    November 25, 2010 7:16 pm

    I won this book through your giveaway, and I just finished the book today. It was good, and I was fascinated by the Hundred Books and Hundred Songs and so on. Only one hundred books were deemed to be appropiate, and the rest were destroyed. That was an interesting concept that some are comparing to Fahrenheit 451.

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