Author: Ally Condie
Genre: Young Adult
Matched is the first book in a series (the next book will be published this fall). It is reminiscent of Lowry’s The Giver and Rand’s Anthem in that the characters live in a society in which they are taught to think and act a certain way, without question. While Matched’s government, called The Society, is not violent or even particularly scary, it is intriguing to see the level of mind control they have over their citizens and the ways in which the government has changed the way people live. Most people in Matched’s society are actually satisfied, since the government has groomed what is essentially the perfect race of people devoid of birth defects, disease, and any other undesirable traits. Any trace of our own civilization has been eliminated and as a result, people do not question The Society because they do not know about any other kind of life. (In fact, people can not even write, they only know how to type.) However, there is a sinister side to this situation, since people who question or challenge The Society are deported or have their status’ changed to render them Abberations (similar to untouchables).
In some ways, Matched could be loosely compared to Collins’ The Hunger Games (my absolute favorite series) because of the theme of government control. It garnered a lot of attention because of this connection, however, I want to make clear that the similarities between Matched and The Hunger Games ends at this theme. Matched is far less intense, as the government in control legitimately seeks to provide happiness and health for its citizens. Also, while I appreciate that the protagonist is female, Condie’s character development is less than stellar. In The Hunger Games, Collins takes careful attention in developing Katniss’ life and personality and therefore, her actions and motivations are perfectly in line with her character. Matched’s protagonist, Cassia, on the other hand, is far less developed. She begins as perfectly happy and accepting of The Society’s choices and never questions their motivations. After a mistake in which the photo of the wrong boy (named Ky,) face is included on her matching microcard (think of it as a dating profile, with the person’s government-assigned future spouse’s photo and information included,) she begins to question whether her assigned match, Xander is right for her. These thoughts occur to her for no real reason, since she was ecstatic about being matched with Xander in the first place. This, along with her grandfather’s gift of a Dylan Thomas poem – the inclusion of which I found to be borderline cheesy in its deliberate attempt at being profound, – cause her to become disillusioned. For someone who has obeyed The Society to the point of actually being happy with their choices, Cassia’s decent into rebellion is far too fast and almost illogical. In fact, she really does not disagree with much of what The Society stands for even after she begins to “rebel.” I can’t really blame her; I understand that Condie’s point is that free will is important, but The Society is never really made to seem all that bad, in direct opposition to Collins’ development of the Capital. Whereas Katniss develops into a rebel because of the pain the Capital has caused her, Cassia rebels simply because she wants to be with the bad boy, Ky, whom she barely knows and who is, SPOILER ALERT, an Abberation with a dark story to tell. It never appeared to me, as the reader, that Ky and Cassia are any more compatible than Cassia is with Xander, her true match. Sure, Ky causes her to think outside of what The Society tells her to think, but this only causes her to put her family and friends in danger and never really amounts to her discovering anything profound about her own psyche. Cassia is, in many ways, a stereotypical female character mooning over a boy and timidly disagreeing with people without saying much of anything out loud.
Despite her shortcomings in the character development department, Condie does an excellent job of creating the society in which the characters live. Everything – from caloric intake to leisure hours – are dictated by a system, which she describes thoroughly. I love when an author includes this level of detail, which is what drew me into the book. My issues with the book are only a reflection of my extreme love of The Hunger Games, rather than a dislike for Matched. I definitely plan on reading the other books in the series, in fact, I am excited for the next to come out and provide a resolution to Matched’s cliffhanger ending. The book is well-paced, descriptive, and engaging, as well as appropriate for younger age groups because of a lack of violence or anything risque. I would recommend this novel to anyone who enjoys young adult fiction, books about dystopian societies (which I happen to love) or stories of forbidden romance.