Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Matched by Ally Condie

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Publisher, Year: Dutton Juvenile, 2010
Other Works: Crossed (out in 2011)
Flags: Teen angst
Rating: A, or Great Read
Premise: A teenage girl begins to question the things she's always accepted as fact when her Society's proven method of "matching" up marriages seems to go awry.

I went into this book sort of tentatively because there was someone I talked to who had read it, I can't remember who now, but they said that it was a creative story, but the writing wasn't that great. I couldn't disagree more. I thought the writing was excellent! A breath of fresh air, honestly. Condie's writing is smooth as silk. It has a musical quality to my ear.

Imagine a place where the Society (central government) directs every aspect of its citizens lives: what to eat, what to wear, where to go, and especially those important decisions like who to marry and what career path to follow. We first meet Cassia, a teenage girl getting ready for her all-important Matching Ceremony, where she will find out who she will marry one day. She is thrilled and surprised to discover that she’s been matched with her best friend, Xander. Such a match doesn’t happen often as most couples are formed from different areas of the country where you’d have no opportunity to know anything about your match before the fated day. However, when Cassia enters the chip into her computer to learn what it says about Xander, a new face flashes across the screen. Another boy she knows, Ky, and now her curiosity about him cannot be suppressed. As her mind is filled with questions, she begins to realize that perhaps things she has accepted since childhood about her surroundings are not all that they seemed to be. +/-

Although I liked Cassia overall, I liked Ky as a character much better. He is a person true to himself. While Cassia is still trying to figure out who she is, Ky has never been more certain of the metal he’s made of. As Ky’s past unravels, I find myself, along with Cassia, greedy for more. He was just the right mixture of vulnerability, strength, and mystery. I loved how Cassia had to figure out in stages what his game was. How he wasn't always what he appeared to be.

I am always amazed how these writers can come up with such an interesting alternate reality. At first, it takes a little time to buy into it. To accept the terminology, the system, and the pills without raising an eyebrow. However, once I was on board, the story and all its little intricacies started to come together, and I realized how creative it was. I have always had this experience with these type of books, and I really am happily surprised that there are writers out there who can keep reinventing the dystopic wheel.

Although I enjoyed the novel, I wish there had been stronger motivation for Cassia to start thinking outside of the box when it came to the Society. I think in several cases, her loyalty to what she’d been taught since birth about her country/government would have been more difficult to break. I had a hard time believing that Cassia would flip on the society so quickly when she'd been brought up with its ideals for so long.

Secondly, I tire of these love triangles sometimes, especially when both parties don’t get a fair shake. Honestly, I can't say whether I like Xander because I simply don't know enough about him. Cassia and he obviously have a long history together, which she knows, but we aren't privy to. I don’t feel like, for me, the inner tension between the two characters is strong enough. I need to really waffle between the two, and, at least from my perspective, there is a clear choice. If there's going to be a love triangle, then I'd at least like the opportunity to weigh both on their merits equally and see which is really the one found wanting. Perhaps this one-sided-ness is by design, and we will get to hear more about Xander as the story continues; I hope so.

Overall, Matched is a fantastic story, a quick and easy read, but one you can really sink your teeth into. A real winner in by book. And the sequel is out this fall!

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