Monday, 22 November 2010

Book Review: Matched by Ally Condie.


Product details:
Publisher: Puffin.
Paperback, 304 pages.
Release date:  December 2nd 2010.
Rating: 3½ out of 5.
Ages: 13+
Source: Received from publisher for review.

In the Society, Officials decide. Who you love. Where you work. When you die.

Cassia has always trusted their choices. It’s barely any price to pay for a long life, the perfect job, the ideal mate. So when her best friend appears on the Matching screen, Cassia knows with complete certainty that he is the one . . . until she sees another face flash for an instant before the screen fades to black. Now Cassia is faced with impossible choices: between Xander and Ky, between the only life she’s known and a path no one else has ever dared follow—between perfection and passion.

Matched is a story for right now and storytelling with the resonance of a classic.


Dystopian fiction is having quite a moment right now, and Ally Condie’s Matched, in particular, is creating quite a lot of pre-publication buzz in the Young Adult sector. I will say, that for the most part, this is justified. Matched is a powerful tale set in an utterly harrowing future society. I’m not somebody who naturally gravitates towards dystopian fiction, it must be said. Good dystopian fiction always prompts a lot of questioning and discussion. It can be bleak, it can be draining and it can leave the reader feeling spent. Ultimately though, dystopian fiction, when executed correctly is really worthwhile, and it generally stays with you long after you’ve read it. That’s what Ally Condie’s Matched does. While it lacks the emotional punch and prowess of adult dystopia like Nineteen Eighty-Four or Never Let Me Go, it is a worthwhile read, and the start of a great new trilogy for young adult fans of the genre who’ve been left out in the wilderness with the conclusion of The Hunger Games trilogy.

We are introduced to Cassia as she prepares to attend her Match Banquet, a coming-of-age tradition in society where she will be matched with her perfect life partner. They will then go on to have a perfectly panned courtship and marriage, followed by perfectly planned children, all adding up to a perfectly planned life. But what if all does not go to plan? What if there’s a glitch in Cassia’s seemingly perfectly ordered society? What if her perfect match, her childhood friend and all round good guy, Xander, is not really the one for her after all? Everything is thrown into chaos for Cassia when a micro-card glitch reveals another face as her perfect match, that of another friend, the mysterious Ky Markham.

I really enjoyed this aspect of the storyline. I thought Condie’s world-building was fascinating and quite brilliantly done. I can have a little problem with being given orders, so I cannot imagine living in a totalitarian society where life is mapped out from birth and all choices are pre-determined by the white-coated Officials. Then, on the flipside, I can see how it could all be so much easier that way. How a person could just give in and conform to what that society expects of them. It takes courage to fight the system, and therein lies the beauty of the characters in this book. Even when all choice is taken away from them, they still have those primal instincts that make them fight for what is right.

There is mystery and romance here, and this develops as Cassia begins to question her society and her perfect match. At times the story moved a little slowly for me, but it’s understandable in a way when dealing with a book that takes place within such an organised, regimented society. The pacing also helps to build the ominous feeling that pervades throughout the book, and even though I found the plot line somewhat predictable, I still feared for Cassia and her family at every page turn. While I cared about the characters though, I can’t say I felt truly connected to any of them. The romance here is subtle and underplayed in keeping with the oppressed society which Condie has created, but I feel like maybe a little more intensity would have helped me connect further to the characters.

Ally Condie is a talented writer, and I enjoyed my first foray into the world of Matched. Often dystopian novels leave me feeling very dejected when I find that characters are mostly beaten down by society and just resigned to their fate. But Cassia has great hope. By the end of the novel her life has inexplicably changed, and yet, the mood is somehow uplifting. You know she is going to fight for what she believes in. She won’t be beaten down. I love that Condie has relayed that message through her writing, and with a lot more to discover and many unanswered questions, I’m looking forward the next instalment of this trilogy.

7 comments :

  1. I adored this book good to know you really liked it to

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  2. Hey! I just stumbled onto your amazing blog, and I'm definitely following for more reviews.

    I loved Matched too, just posted up my review. Yours is amazing, and it articulates everything I wanted to too.

    Anyway, I love your posts, and your awesome blog layout!

    Happy reading,
    Tina @ Book Couture

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  3. I'm looking forward to this one being released. Thanks for the reviews.

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  4. Thanks for the wonderful review! I will definitely give this a try.
    There are so many dystopian novels releasing next year too. I think I will read them all.

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  5. Thanks for your review. I'm glad to hear the end note is one of hope.

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  6. Wonderful review! I'm not great with being given orders either, so I automatically rebelled as soon as I started the story but was glad that Cassia wasn't afraid to question the rules once she found something to fight for. It's funny how the books we read on either side of our current read can affect how we feel about it, this one just got to me:)

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  7. I really, really cannot wait to read this book. I'm glad to hear that the hype was mostly justified even if you couldn't truly connect to the characters at times. I'm sure it will probably make me squirm (I'm not one who submits to authority very easily), but I'm sure it will be worth the read!

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