Monday, November 8, 2010
My Review of Matched
I’ve been looking forward to writing this review. Matched is a beautiful book—and I don’t say that lightly. I read Ally Condie’s new novel with a pencil in one hand. Eventually I had to stop marking all phrases and passages I wished I had written. The story was too thrilling to keep pausing to underline every third sentence.
Matched takes place in a land where everything and everyone is under the careful control of the Society. Officials dictate what food the citizens will consume, what clothing they’ll wear, what professions they’ll pursue, and when they’ll die. These decisions are made using state-of-the-art science and statistics. The people accept their lot because they’ve been told that order and stability are essential for their survival. Their forefathers weren’t always so careful, and a terrible disaster befell the whole human race.
When citizens turn seventeen, they must attend a Match Banquet. It’s at these ceremonies that every young man and woman learns the identity of the person that the Society has decided he or she should marry. Cassia Reyes has been eagerly awaiting the banquet her entire life, and she trusts that the Officials have chosen the right mate for her. This time, however, there’s been a kink in the system. Cassia has been assigned not one match, but two. The first is Xander, a boy she’s known and loved since she was a child. The other is Ky, an enigmatic young man who should never have been matched at all. Like most citizens, Cassia has always believed that the Society doesn’t make mistakes. Its methods are scientifically sound. Tried and true. Error-proof. So how could her match have gone so terribly wrong? For the first time in her seventeen years, Cassia begins to question everything.
The world of Matched is terrifyingly bland. But it’s believable because the characters who inhabit it are anything but bland. In fact, they’re just like us. Cassia has a little brother who’s both naughty and charming. Her mother and father may look like a perfect pair of citizens, but they don’t always toe the Society’s line. Cassia’s grandfather subtly encourages her to break the rules that need to be broken. They’re all ordinary people trapped in a plastic world. That’s what makes the story so frightening.
Two of the best, most believable characters are Cassia’s “matches,” Xander and Ky. If the Society had chosen poorly—if one of the boys had been a jerk—this would have been a less compelling story. Instead, the Society chose too well. Read the book and try to figure out which one you’d choose. As Cassia learns, the answer isn’t always so clear.
As you may have gathered from the previous paragraphs, I loved Matched. It’s the first book in ages to make me cry. (Don’t tell anyone.) And it’s one of the few that have left me green with envy. The language is lovely, the story is engrossing, and the questions it poses are profound. I was moved—and I’m not easily moved. I highly recommend this book.