Matched by Ally Condie
2010; Dutton Juvenile
Cassia has always trusted the Society to make the right choices for her: what to read, what to watch, what to believe. So when Xander's face appears on-screen at her Matching ceremony, Cassia knows with complete certainty that he is her ideal mate . . . until she sees Ky Markham's face flash for an instant before the screen fades to black.
The Society tells her it's a glitch, a rare malfunction, and that she should focus on the happy life she's destined to lead with Xander. But Cassia can't stop thinking about Ky, and as they slowly fall in love, Cassia begins to doubt the Society's infallibility and is faced with an impossible choice: between Xander and Ky, between the only life she's known and a path that no one else has dared to follow. (courtesy of Goodreads)
I read the first two pages of Matched, smiled, and said "I'm going to like this." Ally Condie is a fabulous writer. She created a Utopian dystopian love story with strong, likeable main characters.
Cassia is a normal Society girl. She has a rebellious streak, but doesn't really act on her desire to be different. She sticks to the rules, because why wouldn't you? The Society is perfect. Their lives are perfect - thoughtless, easy. Her family is perfect. Her friends are perfect. Things are even more perfect when she is Matched to Xander, her best friend since childhood. The Society always chooses couples who are mentally and genetically perfect for each other - how lucky that Xander is deigned to be her lifelong partner.
This changes when she briefly sees a photo of Ky, another acquaintance pop up as her match. Why would this be? Xander was her match. No one ever has two matches. And the Society never makes mistakes. Curiosity leads Cassia to get to know Ky better. Their friendship blossoms into something more - passionate, desperate love for one another. Meanwhile, Cassia's feelings toward Xander stay the same - he is a beloved childhood friend, but she is not in love with him.
Couples cannot break the match. They cannot choose their own partners. What will happen if Cassia dares to be different?
Cassia is a likeable girl. As I said above, she's a good girl - very smart, friendly, athletic. The girl next door basically. She's very brave and willing to defy convention to do what she knows to be right.
Matched features a pretty normal love triangle. While it may not break any new ground, it still manages to suck in the reader. The choice between Xander and Ky really is difficult. Xander is a fabulous guy. I'm sure Cassia realizes that a life with him would be satisfying and happy. They would have the perfect Society family. But it would be without passion. Ky inspires that passion. He is labeled as an outcast by the Society. Unworthy. He understandably has a chip on his shoulder toward authority figures, but he keeps quiet. What I like best about him and what really distinguishes him from Xander is that he pushes Cassia to be better - to learn, to think. With Xander, Cassia would stagnate. With Ky, Cassia would grow.
Matched is a very user-friendly book. The writing is effortless. It felt like I wasn't even reading - I was just watching the book take place. While I appreciate the talent of authors whose prose is so beautiful that you savor each word just as much as you enjoy the plot, there is something to be said for a book that sucks you in so completely that you don't have to work at all.
I did feel like Ally Condie read The Giver one too many times. I thought it heavily influenced Matched. That's not to say it's a carbon copy of The Giver - the plot is completely different, but there were a lot of similarities between the worlds. This isn't necessarily a bad thing. I thought Stephenie Meyer's The Host was inspired in part by the philosophy in Orson Scott Card's Ender series and was a better book for it. In this case, I liked the world Ally created. I love how she created a world that was so happy and idyllic yet you could clearly see terror and horror creeping in from the edges. Still, I got a little irritated seeing so much of The Giver in Matched. It wasn't something that should have bothered me, but it still did.
The action also lagged in a few places. The book never was a page turner, which was fine since so much background material was necessary to establish the plot. I felt like the book was always moving forward, just not as fast as I would have liked.
Regardless of its flaws, Matched was a thoroughly enjoyable book. By the end, I really cared for Cassia, her family, Ky, and Xander. I lived in their world for 366 pages and I didn't want to leave them behind. I cannot wait for the next book.
Rating: 4 / 5