March 21, 2011

Monday Review: Matched by Ally Condie

I borrowed a copy of this book from my mom.

Reader Gut Reaction: Though it took a few chapters for this one to catch my interest, once narrator Cassia was presented with her dilemma, it got a lot more riveting. The setting was immediately intriguing to me—sometime in the far future, in a so-called ideal Society that neither acknowledges nor tolerates any independent thought, and leaves no room for nonconformity to its rules. In this Society, young people are Matched with future mates according to genetics and other factors, and Cassia's been matched with her childhood friend Xander...or has she? It's a rather sinister take on the idea of computer-matched dating profiles, made all the more sinister when you find out just how much control the Society has over its citizens.

Concerning Character: At first, Cassia is a character who lives life very much on the surface—just like every other good citizen, she doesn't question anything the Society tells her is right. As such, it was a bit of a challenge to identify with her enough to lose myself in the story, at least in the beginning. However, the author imbues her with relatable feelings of excitement, of attraction, of caring for her family and friends, and that gives the reader something to hold onto. As the book progresses, of course, Cassia begins to question what she's always been told, and her character deepens in a very satisfying way. Though we don't get to know her family very deeply, they are important foils for Cassia's character development, and the two love interests, Xander and Ky, are both appealing enough to give the Peeta-vs.-Gale conundrum a run for its money.

Recommended for Fans Of...: Dystopian fiction about breaking out of an all-seeing, all-controlling system, like Birthmarked by Caragh O'Brien, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, the Shadow Children series by Margaret Peterson Haddix, and 1984 by George Orwell.

Themes & Things: Besides the obvious dystopian-connected themes like learning to think for oneself in a society that is constantly telling you what to think, what to eat, how to live, who to marry, and when to die, this book is also a romance that highlights the differences between family love, friendly love and romantic love.

Authorial Asides: This is the first book I've read by Ally Condie, and I was very glad to see that the sequel will be out this November. Besides the MATCHED trilogy, she's written a handful of books for an LDS imprint (including the Yearbook trilogy). Check out the FAQ on her website for the story behind the story, or the author Q&A on the book's Amazon page.

You can find Matched at an independent bookstore near you!


Maegan Langer said...

The biggest thing I took away from this book was how blessed we are to have so many choices. Sometimes I think it would be easier if someone else would just decide for me what I eat, what I do for a living, and yes, even who I marry. Less pressure, right?

Nah. I'm glad I get to choose, even if I choose wrong. Even if the world we live in is not the clean, ordered world painted in so many dystopian stories because of our choices.

I was also impressed by the way Condie slowly opened up the severe reality of the book's world by dropping subtle details and then rolling right along with the plot while the reader is still catching their breath, going "Whaaaaaaa?"

Sarah Stevenson said...

That was definitely one of the big take-away themes for me, too. And of course, it also parallels the idea of growing up, and transitioning from a time in your life when your parents mostly make the decisions to young adulthood, when you really start making your own choices.

I also enjoyed the fact that the story and setting are reasonably detailed without being overwrought...I like elaborate dystopias, too, but sometimes I also like a good fast read. :)