Sunday, May 22, 2011

Review: Matched by Ally Condie

Title: Matched
Author: Ally Condie
Publisher: Dutton Juvenile
Release Date: November 30, 2010

For Cassia, nothing is left to chance--not what she will eat, the job she will have, or the man she will marry. In Matched, the Society Officials have determined optimal outcomes for all aspects of daily life, thereby removing the "burden" of choice. When Cassia's best friend is identified as her ideal marriage Match it confirms her belief that Society knows best, until she plugs in her Match microchip and a different boy’s face flashes on the screen. This improbable mistake sets Cassia on a dangerous path to the unthinkable--rebelling against the predetermined life Society has in store for her. As author Ally Condie’s unique dystopian Society takes chilling measures to maintain the status quo, Matched reminds readers that freedom of choice is precious, and not without sacrifice.

Matched is written with a catchy, often pseudo-poetic style. The main character, Cassia, is soft-spoken, obedient, and polite, at least until an innocuous-seeming event causes her to question her society and eventually rebel against it in quiet, secret ways. I liked that Cassia grows throughout the book, becoming more than the smart but complacent teenager to whom readers are first introduced.

The pace is slow for the most part. Much of the book is dominated by Cassia’s internal struggles and the frustration she feels at having her every action predicted by Society Officials, which gets a bit trite at times. Nevertheless, although the main characters face little physical peril, a general sense of unease keeps the plot moving. And thankfully, toward the end of the book things finally start happening. The revelations in the last few chapters validate prior events and alleviated most of the plot concerns I’d had up to that point.

The political leaders in Matched monitor and dictate everything from love to diet to language. Even a person’s date of death is predetermined. As in 1984, the government in Matched restricts citizens’ ability to imagine any other way of life by limiting their creative potential. All but a select few pieces of poetry, music, and art have been destroyed, and writing or drawing by hand is an obsolete concept. Ally Condie conveys this convincingly, and I’m intrigued enough to anticipate seeing more of the Matched world in sequels. Also, I loved the mentions of Dylan Thomas. All the poetic references differentiate Matched from other dystopian novels and are integrated into the story with meaning and thoughtfulness.

Cassia’s budding connection with Ky creates a very sweet romance. Ky himself is probably the most compelling character in Matched, and his personality and past are revealed in emotional bits and pieces. Initially, I was ready to pass Xander off as the typical ‘best friend and underdog’ love interest whose sole purpose is to facilitate the requisite love triangle. I’m not completely convinced otherwise, but his actions in the book and his understated competition with Ky elevate his character above the level of a rote stereotype.

Although slow-building, Matched features romance and conflicted characters, and ultimately reaffirms the importance of intellectual, creative, and romantic freedom.

Rating: 3.5/5

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