Saturday, January 1, 2011

Matched [Review]

Title: Matched by Ally Condie
Series: Matched, #1
Genre: Science-fiction
What They Say:
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.

What I Say:
I have been waiting to get my hands on this book for quite a while. The premise was extremely intriguing, and finally getting to sit down an dive into Condie's brave new world was v exciting for a u/dystopia-lover like me. Matched did not disappoint - it had a lot of chances to, but it didn't. I am sitting on thumbtacks waiting for the sequel. That said:

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Plot: wow
Welcome to the Society, where every aspect of life is controlled by the government. It's kind of like summer camp: you choose the activities you want to do, but the staff decide what you eat and when you do everything and if you live or die (kidding). Anyway, a big part of growing up in the society is the Matching. Every month, the government puts all eligible seventeen-year-olds' names into a big old sorting machine and draws names until every girl has a Match, the man she will marry. Cassia has just been Matched to none other than her best friend Xander. Cassia is psyched to start planning the rest of her life around marrying Xander, but when she checks her Match info card and sees a different boy's name: shy, mysterious Ky Markham. Seeing his name was just a fluke, she is told later. Ky is not her Match, in fact, he will never have a Match because of his (mysterious) social status. Cassia ought to just forget him, but she can't stay away. Ky is from another province in the Society, about which she slowly begins to learn as she grows closer to this boy who is not meant for her, a breach is protocol which is pretty much taboo in their case. The more she learns about the Society and the truth about where Ky grew up, she uncovers some dark secrets and finds herself falling into danger. Well, of course she does. This is a sci-fi utopian love story. Duhh.

It's common knowledge at this point that you can create the lamest utopian society ever and it'll still probably fascinate me. Condie's Society has all the aspects of a good one: lots of citizen obliviousness; complete control by ever-watchful, cheery-but-creepy government officials; and a good amount of scorn and smugness in the face of past societies (usually ours today) which were crazy-stupid and almost ruined everything. And, of course, lotsa propaganda! The problem with these kinds of books is that I'm usually stressed out by all the danger and running and betrayal and stuff, so I was glad to find that this book is pretty low on that kind of drama. I'm especially glad that it doesn't end in a frustrating, mind-bending cliffhanger. Sure there's a cliff, but I didn't close the book feeling like I was about to fall off it. I deeply appreciate when a writer takes time to cushion the blow of the Big Twist or Shocking Revelation, so thanks Condie. You saved me from at least one sleepless night.

Characters: ooh
I can respect Cassia as a leading lady. She's logical and straightforward like the Society itself, but also tries to think in the abstract like her grandfather with his forbidden poetry and "not going gentle". She's not exactly sympathetic - I'm never all that worried if she'll be okay, which is an odd change that I can't determine the cause of - but she is an easily believable member of her Society, all rooted in probability and efficiency. As the series progresses, we'll hopefully see her start to develop into her own person. Then I'll be more worried if she lives or dies.

I plain old liked Ky Markham from the start, but when I tried to think of reasons before I wrote this review I realized I didn't have any. I like the idea of Ky: how he's mysterious and an outsider and the only one who can write and how he tells his life story in fragments on the back of napkins. He knew all the secrets, so I wanted to know him. Much like Cassia did. And gahh I love the name Ky Markham. I really hope we see this guy again.

I don't get how Xander is supposed to be Cassia's best friend. Sure, their friendship is established at the beginning, but I never really saw it. They don't even seem to know each other or really like each other or have anything to talk about, at least not the way "best friends" do. Xander doesn't really get a chance to shine until the very end, I think. Much like Ky, once I found out Xander had a secret of his own, I really wanted to see more of him. I'm awful, haha.

Relationships: ooh
Cassia and Xander - I love how this book defies Rule #1 of YA (The First Guy always gets the girl), but that's only because of Rule #2 (Under no circumstances can best friends end up together) and Rule 2 Subsection A (This realization must always cause irreparable damage to said best friendship). Honestly, Caxander never stood a chance. I've already touched on how they were pretty lame besties, but they were an awkward couple, too. Glad Condie didn't try to smush these two together at the last minute, because things would have gotten ugly real fast.

Cassia and Ky - Despite the fact that these two are textbook Starcrossed Lovers, I can deal with reading about these two for a whole trilogy. Cassia's characters unfolds when she's around Ky - she's less numbers and rules and more ambition and rambunctiousness (yeah, I just used 'rambunctiousness' wihout irony). Ky is the quiet, subtle, boyish type of flirt, which is lovely to read about, especially when compared to Xander: the awkward, tenth-grade-boyfriend-type.

Special Features: ooh
So this books references the poem "Do not go gentle into that good night" by Dylan Thomas often, usually as a catalyst for non-conforming behavior. I'd never read this one before (I'm guilty of not being all that big on poetry), but I really loved how it worked with this story. That and I'm a sucker for a good line - you know, those lines that just make you close your eyes and you swear you can feel them - and this one has quite a few.

Parting Quote:
"Is falling in love with someone's story the same thing as falling in love with the person himself?"
Yeah...the one downside about this book is it isn't terribly quoteable. Major snark-drought in this one. But think on these words for awhile.

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