Monday, January 3, 2011
Matched by Ally Condie
In the Society, officials decide who you love. Where you work. When you die.
Cassia has always trusted their choices. It's hardly 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.
I was so much looking forward to the release of this book that I accidentally ordered two copies for our library. I do not regret this, because I think this dystopian story deserves to fly off the shelves.
The world that Condie created is fantastically believable. Set at some unknown date in the future, the Society closely monitors all human activity, guaranteeing peace, order, and a kind of happiness. Everyone's life is planned for them, and I found myself understanding the appeal of such a system.
Finding love is very tedious, and how are you ever going to know if the person you end up with is really meant for you? Well, the Society matches you with the person who most complements your personality and genetics. Finding a job is stressful, and you knows if you will be able to find something that will fulfill you and use your skills? The Society monitors your schoolwork and playtime, so that when they assign your job to you, it is tailor-made to your preferences. And getting old is terrifying, what with the gradual process of losing your bodily functions or your mind. The Society takes care of that too, with enforced euthenasia at age 80, so that everyone gets to live a long healthy life without having to deal with the inevitable slow decline.
What I love about dystopian books is this: yes, life might actually be better if someone regulated and arranged big life choices for us. But is that worth giving up free will? Obviously, most books choose no, it's not worth it, and Matched is no exception. Throw in some shady Outer Province wars and the hints of more overt manipulation, and I'm fairly certain a revolution is in the works for the rest of the series (yes, this is the first of a planned trilogy).
I also loved Cassia's family. It was so nice to see loving and supportive parents when broken homes are far more common in today's novels. Condie acknowledges the benefits of the Society in the portrayal of Cassia's parents--they are perfectly suited for each other, and genuinely love each other despite the arranged marriage. Cassia's grandfather was one of my favorite characters in the book, as he subtly fights against the system by encouraging creativity and hiding the most dangerous weapon of all: human words, a poem that opens Cassia's mind and urges her to rage against injustice instead of sit idly by.
The only thing I didn't like was the appearance of yet another YA love triangle. I loved Xander, Cassia's lifetime best friend, who is funny and caring and genuinely loves her. But he was shunted to the side fairly quickly in favor of the mysterious and haunted Ky. Ky's archetype is pretty prevelent in our culture, so I'm sure more readers will prefer him, but I just wanted Cassia to end up with someone she can love without the drama. I guess no drama would make for a boring read, though.
Anyway, romance qualms aside, Matched was a truly excellent book. It's gearing up to take the YA world by storm (and it is already optioned for movie making), so everyone should definitely check this one out!
Five out of five green pills.
Release Date: November 2010
Reading Level: Grade 7+
Where In Dunlap Public Library's Collection: YPL CON