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Friday, December 3, 2010

Matched by Ally Condie

Matched
by Ally Condie 
To be released: November 30th, 2010

from Goodreads:
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.


[Warning: I'm not sure if this turned out to be a review or a philosophical discussion, or some freaky lovechild of the two.  Bear with me...]

Matched can be an enjoyable, engaging read, but it more often tends to be melodramatic and overwritten at times.  It's the type of story that definitely requires willing suspension of disbelief -- otherwise, you'll constantly be asking yourself how this world came to be, and wondering what happened to all of the rebellious spark and subversive traits that are so innate in human nature.  But if you're willing to go with it, Matched has some of those aspects that are the hallmark of a good dystopia, especially the most crucial and intriguing aspect inherent in dystopian works: the question of the trade-off.  Is it okay if the rules and lifestyle a society/government/ruler sets provides for the general well-being and/or happiness of most people, at the expense of personal freedoms and choices?

In the case of Matched, everything is so controlled and absolutely micromanaged by the Society that choice is nearly non-existent.  And this does not just apply to marriage and mating; people in the Society are told when and what to eat, what to wear, what jobs to perform, how many kids to have, and when to die.  But as a result, people are generally happy and healthy, prosperous, long-lived and fulfilled.  So the question is, what's so bad about having all choices made for you, if they are seemingly the right ones?  Of course, no one really wants to agree to this.  We are all controlling and need to feel we have power in our own lives.  And more than that, are you really living if you never make decisions, never make mistakes?

So all of that ↑↑ is going on in the back of your mind while you're reading Matched, and it adds this nice little layer of tension and doubt to the story that I really liked.  But at the same time, even though it raises some interesting questions, it's still the story of one girl and a choice between two boys -- potential Matches -- when there should be no choice (according to Society).  We've seen this formula before, sure.  And having it narrated by one person, and having a very finite number of people actually effected by the choices made for most of the story can cause a disconnect.  I sometimes felt myself questioning Cassia, and the idea of selfishness.  Things happen very quickly -- her entire turn-around is so quick and so total that it did threaten to break my WSOD.  But weirdly, at the same time, it sort of made it more realistic.  And I did like Cassia, for the most part.  And Xander and Ky, her Matches.  Ky's background and the handling of his character, especially, added a great element to the story, and aided my willingness to "go with it". 

But I think there are people that aren't going to be able to enter into and enjoy this story, and will see nothing more than a sometimes too melodramatic and formulaic typical teen dystopia, or a bland rip-off of some of the dystopian greats, like The Giver and A Brave New World. Also, even for those who do enjoy it, it may be the type of story to fade from mind quickly.  But for others, this is certainly going to be a fast favorite, and they will find themselves really invested in the fates of Cassia and her beaux.  As for me, I'm somewhere in the middle.  Someone in a discussion thread on Goodreads mentioned that it would have been more interesting if it were queer, and I have to say, YES, that would have been brilliant.  The dystopian element would have been much more powerful and meaningful in that case.  But as it was, I enjoyed it while I was in it, and I'll read book 2 for sure -- but I won't necessarily be waiting at the edge of my seat for it.



Here's my teaser for the book:



And here's a look at the book trailer:


*Please note: I read an ARC of Matched, so the final version may (and probably will) differ.
I received the ARC at ALA.

6 comments:

  1. I think this is a really great review of Matched. I like how you mention that Condie never points out how the world got that way. I'd also never really thought of the possibility of this being a queer story, but that would have been great if it had been the case.

    You're not the first person I've heard who's said that this is a rip off of The Giver (the other was Brent of The Naughty Book Kitties). I have The Giver on my shelf but have never read it--definitely going to do that now!

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  2. This is a great review! You mentioned a lot of what I thought, and I agree with your assessment that although the book will (and already is) a fast favorite of many, it's not really all that great... Enjoyable, yes. But great? No.

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  3. Great review! I've been thinking about reading this one and really appreciate your honest assessment. I'll stick check it out, but I love hearing what others think in a more critical sense before doing so. Thanks!

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  4. This is still in my -ALA ARCs I want to read- pile. @Ashley, I just read The Giver a few months ago. Hope you like it as much as I did :)

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  5. I agree, Ky was my favorite part of the story. His whole association with the outlands and the war? It gives you a taste that there's more going on that what there appears. I really hope that gets developed in book 2.

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  6. I think book 2 has the potential to be better, and to win me over more, which is why I will definitely read it. It should be interesting and make it all more real and dangerous if she goes to the outlands, not to mention that it will make the dystopian aspect stand out more -- it won't just be about her trying to decide between 2 guys who are both good and likeable -- not much drama or dystopia there...

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