Cassia has grown up trusting the Society to make all of her choices for her – what to eat, what to wear, what her job will be, who she will love, and when she will die. On her 17th birthday, she is pleasantly surprised to be matched with her best friend, Xander, as ideal life mates. When she opens a file to learn more about mating guidelines and her match, Cassia sees the face of another person, a mysterious young man named Ky who is not supposed to be in the matching pool. This “glitch” increases Cassia’s curiosity and interest in Ky and opens her to the realization that the Society can and does make mistakes. When her grandfather’s 80th birthday arrives, the day in which the Society’s citizens die, she becomes aware of ways in which her family has secretly rebelled against the Society. As she explores her feelings for Ky and a poem left behind by her grandfather – a poem which is not one of the 100 poems allowed by the Society to be preserved and shared – she begins rebelling in her own ways while still questioning whether or not the Society is what is best for her and her family.
Fellow lovers of dystopias will find much familiar material in Matched – especially those who have read Lois Lowry’s The Giver. Dystopian lit is one of my favorite genres because the possibility of an increasingly oppressive future world is something that I truly fear. The trouble with Matched is that I don’t buy the Society as a possible future. Perhaps the world would have been more believable to me had more been explained, but I also appreciate that Ally Condie left plenty of room for dreaming up answers and possibilities. I enjoyed the way in which she introduced the world of the Society to the reader, little by little without explaining every last thing. That being said, there are some choices that Condie made in her world-building that I question. For example, if the Society was trying to rid its citizens of choice and creative expression, why would they save 100 poems rather than saving just a few or none at all? I also find it hard to believe that there wouldn’t be more frequent rebellions (both secret ones and ones for all to see). Perhaps we will learn more about these in the next two books?
Another thing that I wonder about is where are the people of color? From my memory of the book, no one is described as having features which would suggest that they are not White, so either the Society is racially homogenous or the Society has somehow erased the citizens’ ability to see race (the former seems more likely to me). Both of these scenarios would suggest that citizens are somehow unable to recall the history of race and civil rights struggles. This also makes me curious as to which artists made the cut in the 100 poems curation. Are June Jordan, Langston Hughes, Phillis Wheatley, Rabindranath Tagore, Pablo Neruda, etc., remembered or forgotten? And I wonder how homosexuality and disability are dealt with. Do the Society’s scientists prevent parents from giving birth to children who are differently abled (they have found a cure for color-blindness, what else have they found a “cure” for)? Are homosexual citizens forced to live a lie and/or are they left out of the match pool? Where do people outside of the norms of the Society fit in this world?
While reading I was constantly asking questions, trying to make sense of the Society, and this is what I like most about Matched. I also genuinely like most of the main characters (Cassia and her family, Ky and Xander) and Cassia’s evolution from Society-trusting to Society-rebelling young woman is written in a way that is believable and that helped me to feel a connection with her as the protagonist. While Matched offers yet another YA love triangle, I think most readers will find it hard to feel invested in Xander as a romantic option at this point in the series, even though he seems to be a sweet young man. Though, out of curiosity, I did a search for “Matched” and “Team Xander” (I am tired of teams, by the way) and found a few reviewers who are all about the Xand-man. I personally don’t feel any need for Cassia to end up with either Ky or Xander. They both seem like nice people, but should she really be limited to the two men who the Society made show up on her viewscreen? While I don’t feel a strong need to know what happens next, I am curious enough that I will likely pick up the next book in the series – perhaps even all three.
Em’s rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Author: Ally Condie
Publisher: Dutton Juvenile (Nov. 30, 2010)
ARC shared via We Love YA!, a young adult ARC tour site.