Books: Matched* (1); Crossed (2) - to be released November 2011
* indicates a book I have read
Matched by Ally Condie tells the story of Cassia Reyes a teenager living in "The Society" - a utopian world where life appears perfect. Disease has been eradicated and every person trusts in the government to control aspects of their life from what they will eat, where they will work, who they will marry, and when they will die (which for everyone is at the age of eighty, peaceful and surrounded by loved ones). The story begins on Cassia's seventeenth birthday, the day of her Matching banquet when her future husband will be revealed to her.In many ways I feel like a bit of a broken record with this review coming so soon after Tyger, Tyger. Also, having just recently finished Andrea Cremer's Nightshade, (review to come next month) I know many of my same sentiments apply to that work as well. Despite some glaring similarities, I appreciated that these books were all very original and unique from one another. Yet, with the sequel-wait I'm inevitably tormenting myself with, I do have a bit of regret about devouring so many "Book One"s in a row!
Cassia couldn't be happier when the Matching data pairs her with Xander Carrow, her childhood friend and trusted confidante, but when just for an instant she sees the screen flash to the face of Ky Markham, Cassia wonders how much The Society really should control about her future. Ky has always been a bit of an outsider in Cassia's neighborhood but once he appears as a possible match for her, she is determined to find out as much about him as possible. Xander and Ky come to represent two different sides of Cassia's life tearing her between safe, comfortable choices and the chance to really choose for herself.
I suppose when I heard the premise of Matched I rolled my eyes a little. Dystopia in young adult fiction seems to be the replacement for supernatural beings in trendiness and I wasn't overly thrilled about another book with a love triangle. But I plunged ahead with reading Matched after hearing so many good reviews for it, and I couldn't be more glad that I did. Where other novels present a shattered dystopian universe, The Society represented a utopia of sorts. It is a world where technology takes over but rather than destroying life it is a structure built to persevere through removing free will. Like many such science fiction stories, there is also a hidden world in Matched but through most of the novel, the darker portions remain hidden under the veneer of The Society's perfection.
The love triangle was also handled really well in the story. Xander and Ky didn't fit typical teen male stereotypes and I actually found myself understanding Cassia's draw toward each of them and for one of the first times in a young adult book I was as conflicted about the choice as the protagonist. My largest complaint about this book is the one area where it most follows the pattern of recent young adult releases - it is book one in a series. I really wanted Cassia's story to be resolved and though there is a great story arc in the book, it's definitely a novel to leave readers wanting more.