What really drew me into this story was its calm. Not something that usually is said about a dystopian novel, I know. There are no agitators, no anger, no revolts, no secret symbols.
Many books in young adult fiction follow a certain formula: girl and boy are thrown together, they don’t like one another, then they are drawn to each other during some kind of conflict. It can be a powerful formula when the trimmings are unusual or new; it can be teeth-grindlingly horrible if not. There are plenty in the middle, too. On the surface, I have no problem with the formula; most people love it when couples triumph over the odds, fall in love; survive. The more unsuspecting and ordinary the person, the more we can relate. The quality of the writing, the pacing, the secondary characters, the main external forces in the novel, those are the things that can add depth and resonance to a work (if it’s good) and make you want to unlearn how to read (if it’s not).
Matched starts off pretty innocuously. Science in the future has figured out how to keep humans at their healthiest. Disease has been eradicated because each person’s health is strictly monitored. Well, really, just about everything is monitored, from the food that is eaten to the work people are chosen to do to what age everyone will die (80) and who each person is matched with for marriage. People only do the job chosen for them, so meals are delivered, someone else cleans the dishes and everyone wears the same clothes. On the surface, if a perfect, healthy existence with a perfect match in the perfect job is for you, you should be happy. On the surface, everyone seems happy.
It is the day of Cassia’s matching. It is also her seventeenth birthday, which makes it even more special. She has chosen a green dress that she gets to wear (but not keep) and she, the other matchees and their families all get to partake in a banquet that takes no calories into consideration. When it is Cassia’s turn to stand and be matched, she is shocked and pleased to find out that her match is her own very best friend, Xander. It is unusual for someone to know their match, but not unprecedented. What is unusual, however, is when she returns home to look at Xander’s photo on the microcard she is given. After Xander’s face shines on the screen, the face of Ky Markham, another friend, takes its place. Was she mismatched?
Cassia’s grandfather is turning 80, so it is time for his special banquet he has with his family before he dies. When Cassia has some alone time with him, she tells him about Ky and that an Official has already informed Cassia that it was a mistake. Ky is an abberration, unable to be matched at all. As they say goodbye, her grandfather shows her a secret place in the artifact that he gave to her. It was his mother’s compact and is officially registered with the Society. In the hidden space where, in the old writing, a piece of paper has been folded, two poems have been copied there, one on each side. Poems that are not a part of the Hundred Poems that “…Society chose to keep, back when they decided our culture was too cluttered.” He tells her: “I am giving you something you won’t understand, yet. But I think you will someday. You, more than the rest. And, remember. It’s all right to wonder.” She slowly starts to wonder if hers is a family that breaks the rules. Softly.
It’s what’s under the surface that drives Cassia to question the almighty rule of the Society. How not one person is given a choice about anything. The constant monitoring not only gives those in charge information to keep everyone at their best, but also alerts the Society if anyone tries to go outside the Society’s recommendations (rules). I think it is far, far scarier to be ruled by a benevolent dictator than a out-right brutal one. In this world, no one asks questions, no one asks “why?”
Rumors of problems in the Outer Provinces have started to circulate. Her family is relocated. And when her sorting capabilities are tested at the facility where Ky works, she unknowingly send many workers to certain doom. When her closeness to Ky threatens their relationship, her connection with Xander and the well-being of her entire family, Cassia must act. In a quiet rebellion, she is determined to step out of the Society’s demands and make her own decisions, starting with finding Ky.
4 of 5 Stars (Based on Ink and Page’s Rating System)
Genres: Young Adult Fiction Dystopian Romance
Ages: 12 and up
You might want to know: Nothing of note.
Matched by Ally Condie was published November 30, 2010 by Dutton Juvenile.