Review: Matched

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.–From Amazon

Growing up, Lois Lowry’s The Giver was one of my favorite books. I read it over and over, both for school and for pleasure. I read it again for a graduate school class in Children’s Literature, in which I wrote a paper about the loss of innocence in Lois Lowry’s books, and I recently had the opportunity to re-read it again when tutoring a group of 6th graders. If anything, my appreciation for the beauty and importance of the book has only grown over time.

When I first heard about Ally Condie’s Matched, I was excited because the book sounded like it had elements similar to The Giver and The Hunger Games Trilogy (another favorite set of dystopian books). I was also captivated by the gorgeous cover images and fonts, which were a little more sparkly than I would have liked in person, but still quite pretty. Thankfully, Condie’s book did not disappoint. In many ways the society of Matched reminded me of that in The Giver. In both societies, the ruling groups try to create equality for the betterment of all people, but in doing so, they eliminate choice and freedom.

In Matched, the Officials have eradicated a great deal of cultural information and artifacts that they believe will interfere with the peacefulness of the Society. They narrow art, literature, and history down to 100 Poems, 100 Paintings, and 100 History Lessons. Any more than that will only clutter peoples’ heads. They determine occupations and relationships based on statistical calculations. The Officials monitor people’s sleep, nutrition, exercise, clothing, recreation, etc. Using the data they obtain about everyone, they can predict what choices people will make. At their discretion, people can be relocated or otherwise punished. Ultimately, the Society ensures that everyone dies a peaceful death at the age of 80 if they have not died already, because nobody should have to die alone in uncertainty.

Cassia, like those before her, goes to her Matching banquet expecting to be matched with somebody from another province. She is surprised to find out that her match is in fact her best friend, Xander. However, when she puts her microchip with information about her match into her port to learn more about Xander, another face pops up–that of Ky Markham, a boy she barely knows who grew up in another province and has a mysterious past. Cassia truly cares about Xander, but she begins to wonder what life would be like if she could choose who she was with and what she does for a living. The more she learns about Ky, the more she wonders if he truly could be her match. Once Cassia begins to question this part of Society, things spiral out of control. We all know that dystopian officials do not like to be questioned.

The summaries of this book all made it sound like the love triangle is the key element, and certainly it is the largest part of the plot. I think, though, that the love triangle is primarily a representation of choice in the broader scheme of the society. Cassia’s burgeoning desire to make her own decisions is truly what this book is about. At its core, Matched explores the importance of Choice and Control. Like any seventeen-year-old, Cassia begins seeking autonomy, but she does so in much more extreme circumstances than most. Her desperate desire to choose who she will love and end up with is only the beginning; Cassia also begins to want literature, artifacts, the ability to write, a career of her choosing, a natural lifetime. She wants and wants and wants. But what will she end up with? And what will be taken away?

Condie’s writing is poetic and her story is beautiful and thought-provoking. I read somewhere that this is going to be a trilogy, which I am very thankful for, because the ending of this book definitely lacks resolution. I wish I had read that information before finishing the book and panicking over the ambiguity. I can’t quite put Matched up on the same pedestal as The Giver, but Lois Lowry will probably always remain in a league of her own in my eyes. We will see as this trilogy progresses if it can stand alongside Suzanne Collins’ series. I certainly will look forward to reading the sequel next year to find out what happens to Cassia next.

Quotable Quotes from Matched

Please note that these quotes come from an uncorrected advance reader’s copy and therefore may differ from the final bound copy.

  • “It is strange how we hold on to the pieces of the past while we wait for our futures.”
  • “The almost-snow reminds me of a line from a poem we studied this year in Language and Literacy: “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.” It is one of my favorites of all the Hundred Poems, the ones our Society chose to keep, back when they decided our culture was too cluttered. They created commissions to choose the hundred best of everything: Hundred Songs, Hundred Paintings, Hundred Stories, Hundred Poems. The rest were eliminated. Gone forever. For the best, the Society said, and everyone believed because it made sense. How can we appreciate anything fully when overwhelmed with too much?
  • “Every minute you spend with someone gives them a part of your life and takes part of theirs.”
  • “Things didn’t used to be this fair. In the old days, not everyone died at the same age and there were all kinds of problems and uncertainty. You could die anywhere—on the street, in a medical center as my grandmother did, even on an air train. You could die alone. No one should die alone.”
  • “That’s when I realize that the statistics the Officials give us do not matter to me. I know there are many people who are happy and I am glad for them. But this is Ky. If he is the one person who falls by the wayside while the other ninety-nine are happy and fulfilled, that is not right with me anymore.”
  • “We do not kiss. We do nothing but hold on and breathe, but still I know. I cannot go gently now.”
  • “They are giving us pieces of a real life instead of the whole thing. And I’ll tell her that I don’t want my life to be samples and scraps. A taste of everything but a meal of nothing.”
  • “They have perfected the art of giving us just enough freedom; just enough that when we are ready to snap, a little bone is offered and we roll over, belly up, comfortable and placated like a dog I saw once when we visited my grandparents in the Farmlands. They’ve had decades to perfect this; why am I surprised when it works on me again and again and again?”
  • “Later that night I realize that Ky did not give me any more of his story and I did not ask. Perhaps it is because now I live in his story. Now I am a part of his, and he of mine, and the part we write together sometimes feels like the only part that matters.”
  • “Our time together feels like a storm, like wild wind and rain, like something too big to handle, but too powerful to escape. It blows around me and tangles my hair, leaves water on my face, makes me know that I am alive, alive, alive. There are moments of calm and pause as there are in every storm, and moments when our words fork lightning, at least for each other.”
  • “Lying in bed, my body and soul bruised and tired, I realize that the Officials are right. Once you want something, everything changes. Now I want everything. More and more and more. I want to pick my work position. Marry who I choose. Eat pie for breakfast and run down a real street instead of a on a tracker. Go fast when I want and slow when I want. Decide which poems I want to read and what word I want to write. There is so much that I want. I feel is so much that I am water, a river of want, pooled in the shape of a girl named Cassia.”
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