Wednesday, January 12, 2011

CBRIII Book 4: Matched by Ally Condie

If there's anything that's evident from my CBR last year, it's that I have no qualms about reading YA novels. In fact, reflecting upon everything I've read in the last 10 years since I turned 18 and became an adult (at least legally), some of the best novels I've read have been YA - the Hunger Games trilogy, His Dark Materials trilogy, and, of course, the Harry Potter series. So when I heard about a new novel called "Matched" that appeared to be in the future dystopia vein like the Hunger Games, I couldn't resist.

Cassia Reyes lives in the Society, a totalitarian state. The author is pretty vague about the Society, not mentioning where it is located (there are provinces that are named, but no countries) or how it came to be. All we're told is that it exists, it controls the lives of its people in order to give them long-lasting lives free of struggle or problems, and it values adherence to strict rules above all. Cassia's whole life is monitored, from how she performs in school to how she works out on a treadmill at home to how she works as a "sorter," and this data is compiled and used to plan out her life - what job she will be assigned, where she will live, and who she will marry. Her entire life is controlled right down to her possessions - she is allowed one "artifact," an item from a time before the Society existed. In her case, she has a golden compact handed down to her from her Grandmother. Even her meals are controlled - all citizens are given specially-delivered meals that have been nutritionally-balanced for each specific person, in order to make sure they are as healthy as can be.

At the beginning of the story, Cassia is on her way to her Matching banquet, at which she and dozens of other teens will be introduced to their future mates. When it is her turn, she is surprised to learn that her future husband will be none other than her lifelong friend Xander. Xander and Cassia are given special microcards to read on their "ports" (computers) at home that will tell them all about what to expect now that they are Matched. Cassia returns home and excitedly puts the card into the port, expecting to see all she needs to know about Xander. But instead, a completely different face flashes on her screen and then it goes black. Cassia is stunned - could the Society have made a mistake? Was she given the wrong Match?

Matched follows the basic storyline of a person in a so-called "perfect" society who slowly begins to realize that things aren't as they seem. After she sees the other face, which happens to be that of another friend, Ky (not a spoiler to mention this), she begins to question what the Society really is doing by controlling its citizens lives. By taking away their ability to make choices, is the Society helping them or hurting them? And why did she see Ky's face - what is the explanation for that?

While the story does unfold in a somewhat predictable way, I was thrown a bit by the reasoning behind the microcard error. I won't spoil it here, but I will just say that I thought the author was going one route with it and the explanation given was not what I was expecting. Overall, the story is entertaining, but frustratingly vague. I wanted to know more about the Society, but the story is definitely more about Cassia's awakening and, of course, her love life, since she's torn between two boys. Still, the author leaves the ending open for another book, and if there is a sequel, I will pick it up to see what happens next.

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