Matched by Ally Condie

#6 of 200

Original Language: English
Publisher: Dutton Books
Country: USA
Publication Date: November 30, 2010
ISBN: 978-0-525-42364-5
Page Count: 384

In the Society, Officials decide. Who you love. Where you work. When you die. Cassia has always trusted their choices. It’s barely any price to pay for a long life, the perfect job, the ideal mate. So when her best friend appears on the Matching screen, Cassia knows with complete certainty that he is the one . . . until she sees another face flash for an instant before the screen fades to black. Now Cassia is faced with impossible choices: between Xander and Ky, between the only life she’s known and a path no one else has ever dared follow—between perfection and passion.

Matched is the first novel of Ally Condie’s latest trilogy. It is the story of a dystopian Society in which everything, from food portions to free time to marriage is ordered and organised by the leaders of the Society.

Cassia has just turned 17, and in the year of your 17th birthday you attend a Matching Banquet where you will meet your perfect match. Cassia is overjoyed to know her perfect match is her best friend Xander, but when she looks up her match it isn’t Xander she sees.

Cassia’s Matching Banquet, and her 80 year old Grandfather’s Last Banquet are the beginning of the end for Cassia. Her unquestioning loyalty to the ways of the Society are at an end. Suddenly she imagines more than the 100 History Lessons, the 100 Poems or the 100 Paintings. She wants to marry for love, not for the best genetic match.

Condie’s dystopia keeps everything simple and ordered. There are limited free time hours, specific school lessons, and detailed food schedules based on nutrition, not enjoyment. She has created a perfectly ordered Society, where control is everything and no one has any. The Society has the power to reduce a person to memory - or remove them altogether - with a simple, but threatening smile. No one is willing to challenge them. Yet when Cassia reads Dylan Thomas’ Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night (1951) a contraband poem, she learns that there is more to life than docility. The words of that poem encourage her to act, to not go gentle, when things go wrong.

The novel itself is average. The romance blossoms slowly, without too much snap or corny pronouncements, and the mysteries of the Society are unveiled slowly, if at all. Matched is the first book of Condie’s Matched trilogy and provides a decent base for the plot. I have high hopes for the remainder of the trilogy, so long as Condie revises a few mistakes.

Firstly, the entire novel is lacking passion, and without it everything seems bland. While this may be used as a literary device, with the Society having control even over their emotional outbursts, it dulls the story. In Cassia we can see the desire for passion, the underlying turmoil as she acts, and understand that she cannot safely present that face to the world. However, the two love interests, Ky and Xander, do need more emotion. Ky displaces sadness for his past and for the events in the Outer Providences, but these ‘outbursts’ are only presented as ‘the emotions in his face’ or ‘the moment of tears in his eyes’. No YA reader wants that to be the extent of his passionate love for the protagonist. Xander is completely bland. He is Society’s Golden Boy and he presents himself that way with few exceptions. It isn’t until the last few chapters that Xander’s personality comes through, and despite his declarations of love, he remains a passionless drone.

Secondly, Condie explains very little. We learn the purpose of the red tablet, and some of Ky’s past. We learn a little about how our world became the Society but not much else. The focus is, justifiably maybe, on Cassia’s romance. In part the romance is what pushes Cassia to think outside the box, but we need more. Readers want to know why there are only 100 poems left, how the 100 were chosen and why the others needed to be destroyed. They want to know what is going on in the Outer Providences, and why everyone is so scared to speak up.

I may not have made Matched sound very appealing but in truth I did enjoy it. As part of a trilogy I think it has enormous potential; especially if more background is explained. Cassia is a likeable, normal teenager and we can relate to her. We feel her confusion, her anxiety and her determination to be more than she is.

This is a great new read for a young adult, and I look forward to reading Book 2 ‘Crossed’ when it is released in November 2011.

Raiding Bookshelves Rating

Judging by the cover: The starkness of the cover is beautiful. As a dystopia novel, the bubble enclosing the cover model is perfectly suited to Cassia's naivety about her world at large. The green of her Matching Banquet dress looks amazing against the clean whiteness of the rest of the cover.

Originally posted: 9 January 2011 (Raiding Bookshelves)

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