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.
Hardcover, 366 pages
Published November 30th 2010 by Dutton Juvenile
What would it be like to live in a world without war, sickness, hunger, poverty and all the other ills that menace our society? We all long for the perfect utopian society but at what price? What would you be willing to sacrifice to live in this world? In Matched, Ally Condie provides a very real and frightening glimpse into a perfect world. It is a life completely controlled by The Society. As a member, you have no input on any aspect of your life. All your decisions are made for you. Your meals are prepared to fit your nutritional needs, they are not based on taste or desire and calories are strictly monitored, you must be healthy after all. Reading material is limited to the Hundred Poems, Stories or Books. The same is true for music and art. Everything is confined to the list of One Hundred choices. Three generations ago, a Societal Committee selected the top choices in each category and then destroyed the remainder; culture was too cluttered. How are you able to enjoy and appreciate anything when you are inundated with so many choices? Now no one writes, paints or thinks beyond the parameters set by a select few. What of love? Society takes care of that for you as well. Your perfect mate is carefully selected for you at seventeen, it is a match based on optimum genetics. In essence through the Matching system only desirous characteristics and genes are picked. Life expectancy is eighty years, the age where life is complete and you leave on your eightieth birthday before loneliness, depression and feelings of worthlessness set in. It is an entire existence based on statistics and psychological predictions. Everything is monitored, the Society is always watching. Our story begins with Cassia on her way to her Matching banquet, dressed in a flowing, green gown. She is nervous and excited. It is a night of caloric gluttony, destiny, and a mistake? Cassia's match is her life long friend, Xander. She is relieved and ecstatic but when she views her microcard on her match, there is a momentary flash on the screen, another boy, another face, is it truly a glitch? For Cassia it is the moment that changes everything. Does she dare to dream of another life?
What I Liked:
- I was completely engrossed in the concept of the Society, granted this is not a novel idea but Ms. Condie does an excellent job crafting the iron, vise grip of The Society. At first it seems that it wouldn't be so terrible to live in this world but as the story moves, more and more details are revealed about the utter control. At each revelation it felt like a fist squeezing tighter and tighter, filling me with anxiety until I was choking with dread and horror. How awful it would be to live in this world! Yet, it is not too hard to imagine, we have witnessed many examples of absolute government control in our world, such as life behind the Iron Curtain in Germany. I liked the way I was pulled into this stringent world but I was even more grateful to return back to my own life.
- I appreciated watching Cassia slowly lift the blinders from her eyes. As a child of the Society she has never had a chance to think for herself or express her ideas. As events transpire Cassia matures and dares to think outside of the control. I liked that she was willing to sacrifice everything to follow her heart.
- When reading a good dystopian novel, I insert myself into the story and ask myself how I would react. I am definitely not a girl who is good at following strict rules, I like to run with scissors and color outside the lines. At first I thought I would be like Cassia ready to break free but then I wondered would it be that easy if I was bred and indoctrinated to believe in the ideals of the Society? What kind of a person would I be? Would I dare to be different? Would I risk it all? Could I stand the sacrifice? My thoughts were plagued by the possibilities. That is, to me a good dystopian novel, one that generates thought. If you also appreciate these qualities in your reading then Matched is for you.
- Finally, I liked the conceptualization on the cover of Matched. There is a bubble with a girl in a green dress trapped inside. This represents Cassia contained in the microcosm of The Society. A perfect representation of the ideas in the novel.
And The Not So Much:
- Unfortunately, I always want detailed, background information in my dystopian novels and Matched does not provide the details I seek. How did The Society come into being? Who makes the decisions? How are the Officials chosen? How far into the future? How many mistakes can one make before punishment? What happens to transgressors? I know part of the intrigue is seeing the world through the character's eyes but for me I would prefer a richer background in order to fully understand the World I am navigating.
- The love triangle. I guess I am just tired of the whole concept, it has been done again and again. The dead horse pulverized and buried. There really wasn't much of a dilemma in this book. Cassia is matched with Xander but in reality she hasn't had time to explore the possibility of a romantic relationship with him, nor does she take the time to truly see Xander in a romantic light. Instead she grasps at the idea of forbidden love. In essence she is abandoning her childhood friend instead of a lover. The other complaint I had was that Xander wasn't as developed as Ky.
- This book moves slowly with little action. If you are an avid dystopian reader and you are expecting a thrilling adventure, this one will disappoint you. This is a book, where the author takes her time to carefully create her world of constraints. I consider this to be a building book, one where the framework is laid out for the next novel to be packed with danger and adventure.
Matched is a book that will stick with me. It is a frightening picture of what the world would look like if a few people seized power and played God. Does anyone have that right to snatch away the freedom to choose, even if it is for the greater good? An idea that has been continuously debated through the ages. This book is another example of the chilling consequences that result when free will is eradicated. The question is do you dare to live your life outside the lines? Do you have the courage to be different? Can you make a change? Will you continue to dream?
"It is all right to wonder."
"It is strange how we hold on to the pieces of the past while we wait for our futures."
"Every minute you spend with someone gives them a part of your life and takes part of theirs."
"Nothing I have written or done has made any difference in this world, and suddenly I know what it means to rage, and to crave?"
"It is strange to see people in different ways."
"I think a part of me hasn't felt at peace. It was as though I saw for the first time that life could branch into different paths, take different directions."
"I do not expect to love his words. I did not expect to find myself in them."
"Growing apart doesn't change the fact that for a long time we grew side by side; our roots will always be tangled."
"And I tell her that I don't want my life to be samples and scraps. A taste of everything but a meal of nothing."