Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Review: Matched by Ally Condie

Finished: November 14, 2011

Series: Matched (#1)

Synopsis: 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.

Read or listen to an excerpt from Matched at the book’s website.

Quote: “His lips move silently, and I know what he says: the words of a poem that only two people in the world know.” 

Thoughts: My relationship with Matched began last year before the book was released. I began to see the book cover floating around the blogging community and was very curious about it. I really liked the cover and immediately added the book to my to read list. I still really love the cover. Unfortunately, I don’t think that Matched’s contents live up to the expectations the cover created for me. On its surface Matched appears to be a beautiful package that cannot fail, but within the pages it fails to be great. It reaches “good” but kind of in the same way that you’d enjoy an ice cream flavor like vanilla if it weren’t your favorite. Sure, it’s good. It’s ice cream. Yet, it would be so much better if it were a nice scoop of that quirky Mint Chocolate Chip.

The ideas behind the story in Matched are not exactly new to the dystopian genre. In fact, as you will see a lot of reviews mentioning, the set up is very similar to the society in 1993’s The Giver. Cassia is living in a society that carefully controls various details of each community member’s life. What they eat, who they marry, even whether or not they have trees in their front yard. Personally, I think that a lot of novels with a dystopia setting are going to be similar to the earlier offerings of the genre, and I never mind a modern retelling. I just wish Condie had taken the idea and given a spin to it that would have made it shine as a story all its own.

The issue with this book certainly has nothing to do with entertainment value. Matched delivers a page turning story that is a surprisingly quick read. I finished it in a day. Looking back, I am not really sure what drew me to the novel. I would consider it literary candy; only slightly healthier. Condie’s writing never stands out, but it certainly isn’t bad or laughable in any way. Much like the rest of the components of the novel, Condie’s writing in Matched is good enough. It flows easily, but for the most part, isn’t all that memorable.

One enjoyable part of the novel was Cassia’s relationship with her grandfather and the poem he gave her.

"Do not go gentle into that good night, rage, rage against the dying of the light."

This is actually a poem by Dylan Thomas, which has been outlawed and destroyed (or so they thought) in Cassia’s society. I liked that Cassia’s rebellion was led by a poem, and her society’s choice to destroy all of the words that they thought might incite passion or cause chaos within the community. Because what is the point of living without passion? Without poetry? Are you really living? These are questions that Matched explores and it was a message I very much enjoyed.

Cassia as a narrator leaves a lot to be desired. Often, you wish she would stop letting life pass her by and instead reach out and grab it. I understand that she was raised in a society that does not allow for independence, but I do wish we had seen a little bit more fire in her earlier in the story. For example, why did she burn the poem? It had been kept hidden all of those years. Cassia never seemed like she had much of a backbone, so her inevitable rise against the oppressive society seemed forced and unrealistic.

It’s time to talk about the love triangle, isn’t it? I’m not sure that you can call it that when Xander is hardly given any development or page time; instead his character is left living in the shadow of Cassia’s doomed love affair with Ky, which is the bigger driving force behind her rebellion. There were moments of sweetness between Ky and Cassia that I enjoyed, but their affair was inevitably predictable from the moment Cassia saw him on the Matched chip. I think it would have been more interesting if she had fallen in love with Xander, and the novel explored what it meant for Cassia to accept that the society was right about certain things, but that accepting a life with Xander didn’t mean that she had to live on their terms. Ky seemed to be the obvious choice from the start and the tension remained notably absent. I am neither Team Xander or Team Ky. In fact, you could say I shipped Cassia with poetry most of all. I also loved Cassia’s relationship with her family members and found the ending to be rather heartwarming.

My hope is that Crossed provides more insight into the minds of Ky and Xander and finds its feet; perhaps throwing in some twists and turns and making Cassia, and the story itself, a little less predictable. In the end Matched seems like a book filled with easy predictions, predictions that the officials in Matched’s society itself could have made with a few simple tests.

Recommendation: I would recommend this book to hardcore fans of the genre or younger and reluctant readers. Like I said, I found the novel enjoyable, even if it was a bit vanilla.


Matched is on sale now in both hardcover and paperback. You can purchase it at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, The Book Depository, and other retailers. The sequel to Matched, Crossed, was released in hardcover November 1, 2011.

Extras: Want to check out some other perspectives on Matched? Read other reviews at Recovering Potter Addict and 365 Days of Reading.

Looking for other books similar to this one? You might also like Delirium, Uglies and Divergent.


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