Matched by Ally Condie
Rating: PG-13; 4 ½ stars
Summary: Cassia lives in the future, in a time when people live relatively pain-free lives, but there are no choices. On her seventeenth birthday, Cassia is Matched with Xander, the boy she will marry one day. However, there's a hitch. When Cassia gets home and reviews her Matching materials, it isn't Xander's face she sees. It's that of her friend Ky. Although she is assured that it is merely a glitch, and that she is, indeed, matched with Xander, Cassia can't get Ky off her mind. The more she gets to know him, the more it seems that perhaps her society isn't as perfect as it seemed.
Opinions: I thought the premise of this book was really interesting. It seems to me that the current trend for YA dystopian fiction is that world has gone to pot and everyone is miserable (examples include Unwind by Neal Schusterman, The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan, and the as-yet unreleased Wither by Lauren DeStefano). Matched however, seems to go back to the trend of society seems perfect until the protagonist takes a closer look at it (the best example of which is The Giver by Lois Lowry).
As it turns out, Matched has a lot in common with The Giver. Looking at other reviews online, it seems that many readers looked at this negatively. I view it differently. The Giver is my favorite book of all time. Although there were many similarities between Matched's Society and The Giver's Community, the focus of the novels were completely different. And as far as this type of dystopian lit goes (where life seems perfect, but really isn't), there are only so many different options. Choice has to be taken away from people; emotions must be suppressed. Had the focus of the novels been the same, I might accuse Condie of plaigarism. However, the focus of Matched was entirely different from that of The Giver, both plot-wise and in what they tell the reader about so-called utopia.
I really enjoyed Matched. As I mentioned before, I thought that the premise was a good one. It is rare in a dystopian novel to find a character who does not seek to change their entire society at some point in the novel. And although that goal may come later on in the series (I believe this is set to be a trilogy), it hasn't shown up yet. Everything that Cassia does is motivated by her own interests and her love for the family and friends around her. This makes the novel feel a lot more personal. She's doing the same things that an ordinary teenager might do if placed in her world.
I liked the way the plot unfolded, too. Information was revealed bit by bit, so that the reader could sense something was wrong at the same time that Cassia realized it. There was only one point in the novel when I figured something out before Cassia did, and at the time I didn't think it was a big deal (I was later proven wrong, but that just means that I didn't get it all right). In general, the pacing was good. As it got towards the end, the book definitely reached “unputdownable” level, which was a problem because I was at the dentist at the time. I will say that the very end (meaning the last two chapters or so) was a bit disappointing, but I understand that Condie had to sort of let things down a bit for the next book.
I almost rating this book a PG. There is very little violence and no swearing or sexual content, but I feel like some of the concepts and ideas can be difficult, both to understand and to accept (meaning that they were cruel, not poorly explained). This novel was very good, hence the 4 ½ stars, but it was missing that final oomph that would push it into the 5 star range. However, I have a prediction that the series as a whole could be 5 star material. In general this was a very good book, and I can't wait for the next installment.