“The goal of matching is twofold: to provide the healthiest possible future citizens for our Society and to provide the best chances for interested citizens to experience successful family life. It is of the utmost importance to the Society that the matches be as optimal as possible.”
(Matched by Ally Condie)
My summer reading included a book that combined a bunch of my favorite things: young adult fiction, dystopian societies, science fiction, romance, and really great writing. In Matched, Allie Condie imagines a world in which the Society makes all choices for its citizens in order to guarantee a happy and healthy life. Luck is replaced by probability, everything works according to statistics and predictions, and the ultimate goal is to provide “optimal results” for its citizens. This is no more evident than in the Matching process.
Protagonist Cassia Reyes is thrilled to be matched with her childhood friend until she sees another face flash for a split second on her Matching screen. And this face is also someone she knows. As Cassia struggles to figure out what this means, she slowly discovers the one thing that’s missing from her perfect society… choice.
Things I loved about Matched:
Strong female lead. Cassia Reyes is a smart, strong girl to be admired and emulated. In Matched, you don’t see much action from her… no flying arrows or vampire battles. Her strength comes from a much deeper place. I enjoyed seeing her blossoming desire to embrace independent thought and become the author of her own life. Even as she deals with her romantic feelings for two different boys, she does not lose herself. Reflecting on her journey, Cassia says, “Then, the question I asked myself was: Do I look pretty? Now the question I ask is: Do I look strong? As I look at my eyes and the set of my jaw, it seems to me that the answer is yes.” I would have no hesitations holding Cassia up as an example to my teenage nieces.
Romance. For such a stark, dystopian tale, the building love story between Cassia and Ky was sweet and swoon-worthy. In fact, the pragmatic goals of the Society’s matching process provide a great contrast to the exhilarating yet confusing maelstrom of young love. Now, I must confess that I absolutely hate love triangles, and I worried that this would be another Team X vs. Team Y novel designed to incite young readers into an almost violent defense of their chosen couple. A quick Internet search revealed that there are definitely Team Xander and Team Ky factions out there, but as for me, I was pleasantly surprised at how this triangle played out. Xander is a terrific character in his own right, and at no time are the characters pitted against each other for fabricated drama. In fact, the two boys represent two very important aspects of Cassia’s character, “the desire to be safe, and the desire to know.” Well done, Ms. Condie!
Theme of creation. As Ky shares his drawings with Cassia and teaches her the lost art of handwriting, she observes, “This is the difference between us. I live to sort; he knows how to create.” One thing I loved about this book is how Condie makes the case for the importance of the arts, using “forbidden” poems by Dylan Thomas and Alfred Lord Tennyson as a major driver of the plot. In a society where no one is allowed to be an individual, poetry and art represent the act of creation… of choice… of authorship. More than just the desire to choose her own husband, this fundamental right to choose and create is what Cassia is fighting for.
Beautiful language. As Jason Mraz says it best: “See I’m all about them words.” As the wife of an English teacher, it was obvious to me that this story was written by another English teacher. In the best possible way. Condie’s love of words for their pure beauty and power is apparent throughout the story. As Cassia says about the scraps of Ky’s story that he shares with her: “I did not expect to love his words. I did not expect to find myself in them.” Ah yes… great writing can do that! The language Condie uses is beautiful but simple. At times, it almost reads like poetry: “When I open it up, there are words inside. Gorgeous words. Cursive words. They were beautiful up on the green hill with the sound of the wind in trees and they are beautiful here in my gray-and-blue kitchen with the grumbling of the incinerator in the background. Dark, curling, swirling words curve across the brown paper.”
Requisite nod to Greek mythology. I love Greek myths and Condie included a cool retelling of the Sisyphus myth in Matched, so she earns bonus points from me!
Great cliffhanger. When I turned the final page of Matched, I ran right out to the bookstore to buy the sequel, Crossed. I am now anxiously awaiting the trilogy’s conclusion, Reached. Ally Condie’s fans are participating in a re-read of the first two books of the trilogy to prepare for the release of Reached in November.