Condie, Ally. Matched. New York: Dutton Juvenile; November 30, 2010
“What are you smiling about?” Xander wonders as I smooth the folds of my green silk dress down neat.
“Everything,” I tell him, and it’s true. I’ve waited so long for this: for my Match Banquet where I’ll see for the first time, the face of the boy who will be my Match. It will be the first time I hear his name.
I can’t wait. As quickly as the air train moves, it still isn’t fast enough. It hushes through the night, its sound a background for the low rain of our parents’ voices, the lightning-quick beats of my heart.
Cassia has always trusted in the Society. They decide who she’ll marry, where she’ll work, and when she’ll die, and their decisions are always perfect. So when she’s Matched with her best friend, it makes perfect sense…until she gets a flash of someone else’s face on the Matched screen and begins to question everything she’s ever known.
MATCHED is one one of the most anticipated novels this fall, and I feel fortunate to have gotten my hands on an ARC (Advanced Reader Copy). And believe me, it was worth the wait!
The pivotal point in this book is choice. The main character, Cassia, lives in a world that has no choice. But unlike other dystopian novels, this world is full of people who are actually happy in their positions in life. Everyone is equal in all aspects, and their lives are uniform. Just like the bubble on the cover, the world looks so pretty and enticing, but it is still confining. Cassia doesn’t openly rebel at first, which comes off as very realistic. She makes her choices slowly, with most of it in her head as she convinces herself to think a new way — a way outside the way the Society thinks, including memorizing an illegal poem she found that is not one of the 100 Poems of the society. This poem becomes a great theme for the book, and I hope for the series as a whole.
So what sets this dystopian apart? Well if you are expecting another HUNGER GAMES, then reset your expectations. This book is slower paced, though really well-written, which makes it just perfect for book clubs. I actually put it down quite a few times, but this time it was so I could think about the story. As for the writing, it was so gorgeous I didn’t want it to end. And this book makes you think, even after you’ve finished the last page. After I finished, I started to wonder what choices do I make because I choose that . . . and what choices I make because they are part of the culture or society (TUESDAYS WITH MORRIE also talks about this idea where you break away from the culture). Even the climax of the book has to do more with Cassia’s choices rather than a large, outside event that has culminated (though from the hints, I think that will come in a later book).
The twist at the end, while not changing the plot as a whole too much, does bring out the idea of choice even more. I don’t want to throw in a spoiler, but I was actually surprised. My only hesitation about MATCHED as a whole is that the last few pages of the book, we don’t get to see the results of Cassia’s final choice of the book–or even see her make the choice. Instead, we’ll have to wait for the second book for her outward actions to become more apparent. But that only makes me wait in anticipation for the next book in this trilogy to come out.
One of the best things about this story is the inherent goodness of Cassia. She is so unselfish, which reflects the mindset of the culture. The Society seems very Vulcan in this aspect, where they go more by logic and actually think about how the good of the many outweighs the good of the one. And as a result, the community as a whole works. Cassia’s parents are good individuals who care about their family. I have to add that, since you’ll notice throughout the book that despite this, they don’t really ask each other personal questions. So even with her best friend, things stay very superficial. This is also an area where Cassia steps away from Society when she starts to share her innermost thoughts with someone else–something that even her parents don’t quite do with each other.
And as for the love story, since you can’t talk about this book without talking about Xander and Ky, I was impressed. This love triangle is done very well (see my rating below), and even though I guessed who would win out, I still felt for both guys. This book fits the frame as whole, as ultimately it is Cassia’s choice. She has to choose between the boy whose been her best friend since she was little, and the guy whose face flashes for an instant as her match. In a previous post, I graded different books on their LOVE TRIANGLES (see the post here), so I decided to also rate this one.
MATCHED — Grade: A [24.5/25]
1. Screen Time: 5
2. Winning Moments: 5
3. Make the choice a mystery: 5
4. Chemistry: 4.5
5. Choice: 5
You can read an interview with the author (and find the first chapter) on the amazon page for MATCHED.