Title: MatchedAuthor: Ally Condie
Publisher: Dutton Juvenile
Publication Date: November 30, 2010
Source: borrowed from the good ol' public library
Plot Summary from Goodreads:
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.
I am late to the Matched party. But with book 3 in this trilogy (Reached) getting so much hype, I HAD to see what all the fussin' was about.
Let's start with the good stuff. Matched draws you in at the beginning. I love seeing what kinds of crazy dystopian worlds YA authors can come up with, and the Society in this novel gave me a lot to ponder. In the Society, everything you do (down to the calories you consume and the dreams you have) is monitored by Officials. Citizens are only taught information that they must know (so if you're a doctor, you wouldn't ever be taught something a carpenter knows, and vice versa). And their lives are strictly regulated in order to ensure production of high-quality offspring. So enters the Matching ceremony, where 17-year-old Cassia finds out who the Society has decided she will marry. You don't have a ton of information about the Society at the beginning of the novel, so this immediately left me wanting to read more.
Another thumbs-up goes to the romance in this book. I often find teenage love triangles high on the eye-roll scale (Twi-hards, DO NOT even get me started), but Cassia/Xander/Ky had a great dynamic. I love how the Society created so much doubt in the relationship between Cassia and Ky--they were constantly left to wonder if what they were feeling was true, or just pushed upon them by their environment. Kind of a cool spin on the whole thing.
However, despite these plusses, I struggled with the novel. Let me be more clear: it was kind of dulls-ville. "It's DYSTOPIAN!," you proclaim. "How can it be boring?" Ooooh, but it is, my friends. Trust.
My first issue with Matched is that it is not an original concept. It only took me a few chapters to realize that I was basically reading Divergent again, but with different characters and goals. The Society, with its strict rules and classification system, runs very similarly to Veronica Roth's dystopian Chicago in Divergent. The characters realize that they want to rebel against this society for one reason or another. Their family members harbor secrets that complicate the situation. There is a love story involving a boy with a mysterious past. Etcetera. It all felt very repetitive.
That is not an entirely fair thing to say, because Matched was actually released before Divergent, but the fact remains that anyone reading both series is going to see the overlap in theme, setting, etc. (If I read Divergent second, I'd be telling you that that one didn't have an original concept either.) I've heard similar comments about the Delirium series, which also generally gets high ratings, so maybe it's just a YA dystopian thing and I have to get over it. But as someone who reads this genre once in a while (rather than all the time), it irked me.
Also, Cassia. Ugh, Cassia. She seriously underwhelmed me as a protagonist. She just didn't have any FEELINGS for such a large part of the book. I felt like the first 200 pages involved all these crazy revelations being thrown at her, and she blandly took them in without any forceful emotional reaction. There was finally one scene where she gets in an argument with her brother, and responds to him with "acid" in her tone, and I was like, "YES! ANGER! LET IT RIDE, GIRLFRIEND!! FEEL THAT RAGE!!" I wanted more volatility from her. Tears, screams, throwing things. By the end, I would have taken an eye twitch. Really, anything.
That "flat" feeling unfortunately ran all the way through the novel, even through the conclusion. I was hoping that the end would sucker-punch me with a huge cliffhanger, but...no. There are questions at the end, but absolutely nothing that makes me want to jump out of my seat and go buy Crossed rightthissecond.
Overall? Matched left me scratching my head about all the hype around it. If the romance angle is what draws you to YA fiction, then this could work for you. But if you want anything that falls into the "gut-wrenching" or "emotionally-charged" categories, I'd say: look elsewhere.
Will I read Crossed and Reached? Eh...maybe. Part of me feels like I should (stopping after part one of a trilogy feels like only finishing a third of a novel to me...and I hate to DNF). And maybe things will pick up in those installments? But I won't be scrambling for them anytime soon.
If you liked Matched, what sold you on it? And if you haven't read it yet, have you read any other YA dystopians that you'd recommend?