by Ally Condie
genre: dystopian YA, sci-fi
I wanted to give it five stars, I really did. The world building is excellent and characters realistic, but there was nothing to keep me hanging on each word, not wanting to pause. I recommend it for young adults.
Synopsis 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.
Matched is set in a society much like a mix between 1984 and Brave New World. Data and experiences are limited and dulled to keep people from becoming overwhelmed. Knowledge and information is controlled by the government and creativity is stifled. Words, art, and poetry have been cut down, burned or eliminated. Government, or in this case, The Society, are considered infallible; everything is based on probability, luck and chance are archaic and inappropriate words. People are not grown in test tubes, but are matched to partners based on the best chance of healthy, top performing children. Sorted into different roles from a very young age, Matched does not go as far as to label people Alpha-Epsilon, but the tone is there. Should you choose to marry, The Society dictates who it is to, when you are allowed to have children, and when you die. At least some of the citizens are brainwashed into thinking this is normal, “how things should be,” the Cassia puts it on her Grandfather’s Death Day, when it is clear to the reader that The Society poisons you on your 80th birthday. It controls what you eat, and how much, what you wear, and how much you’re allowed to exercise. Yes, exercise too much and you have to see a psychiatrist because you may be a masochist or anorexic.
One of the complaints I saw in a review that made me hesitant to read Matched was that the characters and relationships are superficial. While this assessment about the characters was true, it was a statement about the state of society and relationships built under the infrastructure of The Society rather than the author’s inability to write complex characters. Grow a watermelon in a square box (or however you do it) and you’re going to get a square watermelon. Brainwashed into thinking she’s living “the way things should be,” she starts out in a very different place as a character than Katniss from The Hunger Games almost as though Cassia grew up in The Capitol while Katniss grew up in an outer district. The lens through which they see the world is different. It’s almost as though she is Prince Derek from The Swan Princess, she must learn to like and love in her own time rather than being told, “this is your match.”
Frustratingly predictable. I get that Cassia is slowly coming out of the bubble of ignorance, so she’s slow to see the strings being pulled, the choices they want her to make. I just wish there had been even a little suspense, something to make me gasp instead of rolling my eyes and wanting to move along instead of listen to her work things out.
Despite that, some of it hits a little too close to home. When I read Brave New World and 1984, I shrugged them off. They were great reads and I enjoyed them, but neither felt like a cautionary tale for my lifetime. Something in Matched made me pause and wonder how close we will come to living in The Society before I die. What struck me most was that no one in The Society was allowed to create. Writing, the creation of letters was expressly forbidden. Typing is okay, but even then, Cassia was unable to come up with her own words and expressions.
Four out of five stars and a great read for book clubs, especially with younger readers. Themes for discussion include:
- Is it a good idea to rely solely on probability?
- How do you explain the contradiction between the quote, “technology fails, but knowledge doesn’t,” and The Society limiting the knowledge its citizens are allowed to have?
- In what ways does The Society have control over its citizens? In what ways does it not?