As you read the reviews on Bookshop Talk, you'll notice that every review is positive. No, we're not a bunch of literary
pushovers who love everything we pick up; we just see no point in telling you about a book if we didn't like it.

November 30, 2010

MATCHED by Ally Condie, 2010

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.

Review by Amy Finnegan, writer, reader, housewife

MATCHED was released just today, but if you don't get a copy quickly, you're going to be sorry when everyone starts talking about this very unique story. So hurry, run to a bookstore or grab your Kindle!

MATCHED is a dystopian tale (a society many years in the future), but don’t think of it as similar to THE HUNGER GAMES, because other than having strong female leads, they have very little in common. Where THE HUNGER GAMES has an earthy feel and revolves around violence, MATCHED takes place in such a clean, “perfect” world, that I almost felt like the pages were printed on stainless steel. The world feels sterile . . . safe.

So what’s the problem?

The problem is that there’s a cost for all this perfection: free will. Among other startling benefits, the Society chooses what you will eat for all three, well-balanced, meals. They choose your vocation based on data they’ve gathered on you since you were a child. And according to their definitions of compatibility, they also Match you with a spouse who you have usually never met. Even more disturbing, they send you on your way to the grave before your body becomes a nuisance (to the Society, that is). Yes, even one’s death is decided according to gathered data, and proven statistics.

Not cool, right? As a reader, you see this from the beginning of the book, and you’re just dying for the main character, Cassia, to get a clue. But she’s been raised in the Society and knows nothing else. In fact, she is really quite pleased with her neat, organized life. Her parents were Matched by the society, and they’re happy together, so what could possibly go wrong for Cassia? And even when she’s Matched herself, she feels that she couldn’t have been luckier! The Society really does know best.

Then love steps in, that dastardly emotion that has started nearly as many wars as religion has, and is notorious for leading both men and women to make selfish, and even deadly decisions. Love, that traitorous thing that makes the world spin ‘round.

Except for in the Society, where there is absolutely no room for it.

Ally Condie tells this story with such skilled ease that I truly started to feel like this wasn’t such a bad way to live. Then slowly, along with Cassia, I began to rebel against her suffocating parameters. There were so many eye-opening moments for me that it’s hard to pick just one, but this book made me think over and over again about how dangerous “censorship” could become.

Even as strongly as I agree that some books, video games, movies, music, or whatever, shouldn’t be thrust into the hands of their too-young intended audience, where should we stop? Who gets to decide what material is suitable, and what material is not? It was a chilling question that I forced myself to answer while reading MATCHED because of the Society’s quest for a non-violent, perfectly behaved populous.

For example, the Society only allows 100 songs, 100 poems, 100 History Lessons, etc., to be enjoyed by the public. The Society has destroyed everything else. There is a part in the book where Cassia, after reading the one saved poem by Henry David Thoreau, wonders if Thoreau wrote anything else. Her next thought is “If he did, it is gone now.” Talk about a gut-punch. That really shook me up.

What amazed me the most about this novel was that I never felt preached to, and even with such compelling, thought-provoking writing, the story never felt heavy, and certainly not dry. There is plenty of tension, romantic and otherwise, to drive this story forward. Feeling like I’d actually been enlightened was just a bonus.

MATCHED is a brilliant concept, blessed with exceptional writing! I can hardly wait until Book Two!

Market: Young Adult
Language: None
Sensuality: Mild
Violence: Mild
Mature Themes: Politics, censorship, family obligation, marriage

Book formats:
Matched (hardcover)
Matched (Kindle)

To learn more about the author, visit: Ally Condie


Kim said...

OH, I'm DYING to read this book!!! I have a friend who has promised to send it to me for Christmas, but I'm not sure I can wait that long! I read the first chapter on Ally Condie's website last night, right before going to bed, and I could hardly sleep!

Thank you for this great review!

Anonymous said...

I feel like dying too Kim...I've heard Sooooo much and read the first chapter or so can't wait to actually get my hands on a copy!!!!!