As a teen, I often struggle with making important decisions. What college will I go to? What will I major in? Should I finish this essay, or should I hang out with friends? These are just some everyday examples of decisions that we have to make.
This is a review of Matched by Ally Condie, a novel where the choices one can make are limited, but powerful.
Synopsis: *SPOILERS AHEAD*
In Matched, almost everything is decided for you. Where you work, who you love, and even when you’ll die.
At the start of the book, Cassia, our protagonist, is 17 and is just about to go to her Match Banquet, where she’ll learn who she’s been matched with. Whoever it is, that will be the man she’ll eventually come to love and marry. However, when she stands up to watch the screen and see her match for the first time, the screen stays dark, which means that her match is actually at the same banquet as her, not in another city. Her match is actually her lifelong friend Xander, and she’s completely content with that. However, the conflict begins when Cassia checks the micro-card that is supposed to hold information on Xander, another face flashes on the screen, a boy named Ky, who is labeled as an Aberration, which is a person without privileges who has either committed an Infraction, or has parents who have.
Suddenly, Cassia is thrust into a world of choices. Should she obey the decisions of the Officials and stick with Xander, or should she follow her heart and pursue Ky? And what should she do with the illegal poems her grandfather left her? For the first time in her young life, Cassia has to make choices that will impact her life forever.
Let me start out by saying that I’m a big fan of dystopian novels. Sure, the genre might be a bit to “mainstream” at the moment, with everyone jumping on the dystopian bandwagon after successes such as The Hunger Games and Divergent, but for me, it simply means more books to read. That being said, my love of dystopian novels isn’t completely clouding my judgement on this book. It has its strong points, but it has weak points as well.
Here we go!
Matched pretty much falls in line with other Dystopian novels when it comes to the idea of the government (in this case, the Society and it’s powerful officials) controlling the citizens. It kind of follows some tropes commonly seen in dystopian fiction, with the fact that Cassia is shown a new way of life by an outsider with Ky helping her with memorizing the poems, teaching her how to write, and encouraging her to make her own choices, and of course, Cassia is one of the few people who dares to make her own choices, such as when she is forced to Ky at work, or her decision to choose Ky over Xander… which brings us to another trope, the ever popular love triangle!
Tropes aside, Matched is still a good read. There are some pretty interesting rules in the Society, such as the Anomalies and Aberrations, and the characters were pretty realistic. You can really see Cassia start to change throughout the story, going from the girl who obeys all the rules, to the girl who takes charge of her own life and makes her own decisions. I feel bad for Xander, though! At the end of the novel, he’s still dedicated to helping Cassia, and still wants to be with her, but she’s got her heart set on Ky. I guess that’s that just the fate of a love triangle, though.
One thing I loved in this book was the inclusion of poems, most notably the Dylan Thomas poem, Do Not Go Gentle, which is actually one of my favorite poems. (Like Cassia, I have it memorized!) In a society where poetry, art, and music are limited to the point of their only being 100 of each, the inclusion of a black market for such things was a great addition by the author, as it shows that Cassia, Ky, and Cassia’s Grandfather aren’t the only ones disobeying Society and the Officials by reading and selling these illegal poems, and that there’s dissent through all of the cities and provinces.
All in all, I’d recommend this book. While this one might be your standard, choice-based dystopian novel, the sequels are where things begin to change. Crossed is split up into the point of views of Cassia and Ky, and Reached is split up between Cassia, Ky, and Xander. While some people don’t like the split POVs, I feel that they all worked to create a multidimensional story, and to further characterize the story. Also, there are really big plot twists in each, as you learn more and more about the characters, Society, and the rebellion against it. Maybe I’ll do a review of those books soon.
I’d give it a 3.5/5 for being a bit stereotypically dystopian, but with solid characters and a good set up for the books to come.