Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Book #25: Matched

I wasn't sure that I was going to like Ally Condie's Matched when I first started reading it. Sure, it's a dystopian world, which I can totally get behind, but the protagonist Cassia's only concern seemed to be receiving her match--the boy with whom she would later enter the Marriage Contract--and then getting on with her Camazotz, Giver-esque existence. She seemed perfectly nice but without much depth or interest. I stuck with it, though, and now my only complaint about the book is that I didn't know it is the first in a trilogy--and the other two volumes won't be released until Novembers 2011 and 2012.

As I mentioned, Cassia lives in a dystopian world. Everything is controlled by the Society: marriage partners, vocations, the age of death (eighty), living arrangements, nutrition allotments... the list goes on. The Society, the reader discovers, was formed after it was determined the old (i.e., our) way of life was too harsh and cluttered. They eradicated disease, yes, but they also eradicated independent thought. All of human culture up until the Society was condensed into samples--the Hundred Poems, the Hundred Paintings, the Hundred History Lessons--which were the only remaining ties to a pre-Society past. The only choices to citizens: obey now or obey in a few minutes after you've taken the red tablet you carry around with you.

Back to Cassia and her match. At her Match Banquet, she learns that she is matched with someone she knows. This rarely ever happens in the Society, that a person's ideal match for strong progeny is someone familiar. In Cassia's case it is her best friend Xander, and she feels quite happy with the development. Until she looks at his datacard, that is. When she looks at his information on her port, the screen suddenly goes blank. In Xander's place appears the face of another boy she knows: Ky, an Aberration. As an Aberration, he is allowed to exist in the Society, but not to be Matched or receive the highest benefits of the Society. Suddenly Cassia isn't so sure anymore. Add in the complications of an illegal poem her grandfather gives her at his Final Banquet and the fact that Ky seems to be even more different than she first realized and Cassia suddenly isn't so content with her Stepford Society life anymore. But can she rebel in a Society where rebellion just does not happen?

I really got into the pace of Condie's writing, and while I think Cassia was perhaps in her head a bit too much to stay completely interesting to the reader, the complexity of the Society more than made up for any other shortcomings. I'd suggest this book to readers who enjoy dystopian fiction, female characters who really come into their own, and captivating series.

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