The Not-So-Perfect Match: A Review of Matched
Matched: Ally Condie
Review by Jacquelyn Phillips
For more info about the series: http://www.matched-book.com
“The hottest YA title to hit bookstores since The Hunger Games”—Entertainment Weekly
“Impressive writing that’s bound to captivate young minds.”—Los Angeles Times
In modern day society, relationships are all about love. With that love, a couple will discover friendship, companionship, romance, loyalty and commitment. It is not common for relationships to be pre-assigned using data entered into the computer by a higher group of individuals—and for those relationships to be the final decision. There’s no divorce. There’s no falling in love. There’s no room for personal preference. There are only two options: forever single or forever matched, and once the final decision is made, there’s no going back.
Ally Condie, author of the dystopian novel, Matched, has written a story full of remarkable characters, a bleak—yet unforgettable—setting, and a plot that will make the reader personally experience every up and down folded within the pages. The reader is forced to wonder what it would be like to live in this futuristic world, ruled by a group called The Society, where children are not allowed to run in public, where Officials are always present, where an individual cannot talk freely without worrying about being cited, where an individual’s last day of life is their eightieth birthday, and where eugenics (improving a human population by controlled breeding to increase the occurrence of desirable heritable characteristics) is considered a gift, producing the best genetics to rid the population of bad genes.
Condie’s writing is charming. She uses simple language, straying away from words foreign to everyday speech, which makes this an easy, but compelling, read. The book is told through the perspective of the female protagonist, Cassia Reyes. Condie’s language makes the seventeen-year-old voice believable, keeping the vocabulary and teenage thought processes consistent. This female protagonist is like every average teenager. She worries about how she looks physically, she focuses on work when it’s time to work, she goes to school, she hangs out with her friends whenever possible, she gets mad at her parents and locks herself in her room, and she bickers with her little brother. However, unlike many teenage girls, Cassia is not one to break the rules.
Rebellion is not allowed beneath the watchful eyes of The Society. This is a large group of individuals (Officials, all of a different rank) who keeps people in order. They gather data constantly and use that to decide whether or not a person is living “how they should.” The Society monitors food proportions, analyzes an individual’s dreams, decides when people stop living, and use the people of this world as pawns in their game of control.
I was pulled into the book almost instantly—it did start out a bit slow, but sped up about three chapters in—seeing this dystopian world through the eyes of a girl who knows nothing else than what The Society gives her. Readers might grow frustrated because of Cassia’s naivety and her unquestioned loyalty to The Officials, a group of leaders in The Society who watch over her nearly every hour of every day. However, they will grow to love Cassia as her emotions fight against her better judgment, making her question everything she’s ever grown to know and understand.
Cassia Reyes is also greatly influenced by her two best friends, Xander Carrow and Ky Markham. Xander is your typical stud muffin. He’s handsome, successful, tall, intelligent, and incredibly romantic—in ways that The Society deem appropriate, of course. Ky, on the other hand, could be considered good looking because he’s different from everyone around him. He’s quiet, only works hard enough to remain average—not wanting to be noticed anymore by The Society. He’s artistic, and holds secrets from a painful childhood. Both boys are ideal candidates for Cassia’s love, but The Society believes otherwise.
The book opens with a not-so-surprising scene, where Xander and Cassia are Matched, the combination of their genes crucial to the “perfect” society standards, where children do not have internal or external flaws, and are produced to make the finest individuals located in the City and the Borough. Initially, Cassia is beyond excited to be Matched with a boy who is her childhood friend. Cassia says:
“I can’t believe it. This is a dream. People turn their eyes on me and on the handsome boy in the dark suit and blue cravat. It doesn’t feel real until Xander smiles at me. I think, I know that smile, and suddenly I’m smiling, too, and the rush of applause and smell of lilies fully convince me that this is actually happening.”
The reader embraces Cassia’s emotions, flipping page after page expecting to find the stereotypical love story between best friends—but with a twist due to their dystopian surroundings.
The greatest part about this book is the twist thrown in when the reader grew comfortable, only thirty-nine pages in. There’s a microchip containing the picture, the history, and the favorites of each individual’s Match. In most situations, members are matched with people they did not originally know, so they must learn about their Match through the information given on the microcard—The Society approves this information. Although Cassia knows everything about Xander due to their childhood friendship, she humors herself and plugs in the microcard, interested in information she may not already know about her best friend. However, instead of finding Xander’s face, she finds that of Ky Markham. The card is supposed to contain the face of her Match, and it makes her question if Ky was supposed to be her Match, not Xander. It is in this pivotal moment when Cassia’s life is turned upside down, and she must decide to follow the rules of the Officials (by loving Xander) or by following her heart (by loving Ky).
Ally Condie weaves a tale perfect for people young and old alike. The last page of the novel will leave readers wanting more—which is why my copy of the second novel, Crossed, is currently in the mail en route to my apartment.
Ally Condie is the author of the MATCHED Trilogy, a #1 New York Times and international bestseller. MATCHED was chosen as one of YALSA’s 2011 Teens’ Top Ten and named as one of Publisher’s Weekly’s Best Children’s Books of 2010. The sequels, CROSSED and REACHED, were also critically acclaimed and received starred reviews, and all three books are available in 30+ languages. Disney has optioned the film rights for the series.
A former English teacher, she lives with her husband and four children outside of Salt Lake City, Utah. She loves reading, writing, running, and listening to her husband play guitar.