Thursday, November 03, 2011

[Book Review] MATCHED by Ally Condie

Science Fiction/Young Adult

Ashley reviews MATCHED by Ally Condie (Dutton Books, 2010)

Dystopian science fiction is huge in young adult literature right now, and Matched sits squarely in the middle of the genre. The first in a planned trilogy sets the scene: main character, high schooler Cassia, goes to her Matching ceremony, where she will be paired with a life mate chosen by the benevolent if distant leaders of her world - the Society. Matches are chosen based on genetics and a lifetime of statistics gathered through Big Brother-like cameras and instruments. Cassia is thrilled to be matched with her best friend, blonde and amiable Xander. However, when Cassia uploads his profile on to her Port at home, a picture of another boy pops up momentarily – Ky Markham, a quiet but intriguing member of her group of friends. Cassia’s curiosity about him grows, as does her attraction. Thus begins the dismantling of the Society’s carefully constructed world of studying, sorting, matching, and watching at the hands of teenagers (another trope of young adult dystopian lit).

Good dystopian novels always have elements that are identifiable in our own world but are tools of control in the book world. The electronic communication elements of Matched were very easy to recognize – tablets for writing, ports (or computers) for communication. The key to Condie’s imagination lies in what the characters do when they believe they aren’t being watched. Inhabitants of Cassia’s world do not know how to write, and can only do it illegally. Cassia grows as a character through secretly learning the alphabet in cursive, which Ky teaches her by writing on the ground with a stick in the few moments they are allowed time alone together in the woods. Some characters are lucky enough to contain Artifacts of a time before the Society – an unusable watch, a powder compact, a compass. The author’s use of artifacts, old poems and a style of writing that is fading out of use indicates that she believes the real soul of humanity is in the things that are becoming replaced by technology and homogeny.

Readers will figure out the ah-ha moments long before Cassia does, which leads to some frustration. The book is paced slowly, unlike its action jammed counterpart The Hunger Games, and lacks all of the delicious sensuality of its even closer sibling Delirium. Regardless, I was pulled into the plot, especially as it relates to two hidden poems that Cassia deliberates and eventually uses to learn to write. I liked that the author used Tennyson and Dylan Thomas to wake Cassia up to the coldness of the world around her. The author said in an interview that she wanted this book to be more about the decisions Cassia comes to through slow contemplation rather than a series of intense action scenes. This is certainly evident in the book and I often wondered if anything would ever actually happen. I wonder how the series will evolve, however, as the end of this book directly points to some possibly heavy action in the upcoming sequel Crossed.

Ashley Roach, Central Library

Compare Ashley's reading experience with a previous review from Hollye Ferguson

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