While working at a book store that shall-not-be-named I was privy to a whole new world of reading for adults, YA. Mostly because I was working with a bunch of young twenty year- olds (I can say this, I’m almost thirty) who were still in college and eager to read any interesting story that came their way. I was introduced to YA and as I began a slow but steady foray into the genre I was excited by new story lines. And I admit, the pretty book covers. (Which were always a huge topic of conversation for us staff, all the teenagers seemed to be without faces, or heads for that matter).
I was told I just needed to read a new series that had hit the shelves by one of my co-workers Adrian, who blogs over at Addicted to your dictum. He told me about Matched the debut novel of Ally Condie a school teacher. The first book in a dystopian trilogy, Matched is the story of Cassia, a young girl growing up as part of Society where Officials decide everything for their constituents. They decide what clothes you wear, what songs you sing, and even who you are supposed to marry and love. Cassia is about to be “Matched”, where a huge banquet is given and each girl wears the prettiest dress she will ever wear to the event to find out who Society has paired her with for life. Then there is a regimented courtship as the pair learns about each other before they eventually marry. The system is flawless, based on scientific computations.
On the day of her Match Cassia’s soon to be husband flashes on the screen, it is her best friend, the boy next door Xander, whom she has know all of her life. Then, the unexplained happens and a second face flashes on the screen. Ky, an aberration who was reintegrated into Society. Ky, the lonely boy on the outskirts. Though she is told by and Official that it was all a mistake, Cassia wonders if the computer really was right after all. Maybe she is supposed to be with Ky instead. Then the two of them are put together during a summer program, and a fuse is lit. The lit fire between the two is fueled by a poem Cassie was given by her grandfather before his death, an illegal poem.
What I enjoyed about Matched was Ally Condie’s writing. It was beautiful, her imagery was amazing. I saw the story unfolding like a movie playing in my mind without any kind of focus on bringing the words the life, the leaped off the page. I can see this being made into a movie or TV series at some point, it really is quite beautiful. And the reason Nambo recommended it to me. I’m sure she was a great English teacher as her prose was delicious to consume. I also enjoyed the characters (mostly) and their development and the pacing of the novel was good. Little pieces of the past drifted into Cassia’s life which changes her life forever, and I never skipped ahead to find out what happened (OK, maybe once, but that’s like never for me) but enjoyed the ride.
I did have some problems with Cassia, as a role model, maybe not so much. At least not in this book (I’ll be reviewing Crossed soon, where I found Cassia’s growth to be such that she becomes a decent role model). She spends every waking thought about the two boys in her life and doesn’t see how this affects any one else, not even the boys. She is very caught up in herself, and I was a bit annoyed with her. But then, I find most 15 year-olds annoying, so that was really no surprise. I also didn’t realize that this YA novel was going to be such a romance novel. Most of the dystopian YA books I’ve read tend to have that as an afterthought and it is not the main plot line. This annoyance with Cassia feeds into my second problem with the book which is very spoilery, but I found her a bit of a spoiled brat, to be frank, and was annoyed at the end of the book that I was like, “Meh, It’s OK.” However, in retrospect, I see what Ms. Condie was doing and her pacing between Matched and Crossed was really well done. As a series, it is quite good, and that may mean being a bit annoyed for a while is all.
Matched was an excellent start, if full of annoying teenagers, for a well written series that I’m excited to finish. If you like beautifully written prose about teenagers in a dystopian society, give Matched a try. It is a quick and excellent read.