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Ally Condie – Matched

Book Cover

There’s a reason they didn’t keep this poem.

This poem tells you to fight.

Publisher: Razorbill (Penguin)
Pages: 364
Type: Fiction
Age: Young Adult
ISBN: 978-0-141-33305-2
First Published: 30th November 2010
Date Reviewed: 2nd January 2011
Rating: 5/5

It’s not every day I begin a review with a quote; in fact this is a first for me. But I can find no other way to introduce this novel.

Like all other members of her society, at 17 years of age Cassia goes to the city hall to find out who the Officials have paired her with for life. She finds herself matched to her best friend Xander and all her hopes in The Society are fulfilled, thinking those at the top really do know best. But a mistake in the information she is given about Xander leads to another person being matched to her. The Society don’t make mistakes, but is it possible they may have this time? And just how perfect is Cassia’s life, really?

Even with the summary on the back – which is nice and vague – you can’t really guess what the content will be like. What I find so brilliant about the world Condie has created is that it’s unlikely two readers will see it the same way (incidentally, as The Society like probabilities they would probably like this… and there goes another probability). In fact I’m sure I saw it as more visually stunning as Condie planned, but for me that was what worked in my head. Condie’s descriptions – as in the way she uses words – didn’t register at the time of reading but on looking back I realised just how skilled she is.

And yet there is nothing lustrous at all in the world Condie has created, if we are to speak literally. The world is the horrifying product of domination, a world in which a select group of individuals rule almost every aspect of every life – one that could possibly evolve in our own future if we aren’t careful. Condie has made technology very advanced but she hasn’t resorted to all of the usual futuristic elements – there are the odd heralds of our world today and history in the way that humans still run the show. In truth it’s partly this that makes it scary, the implementation of things we tend to agree with, such as recycling, as everything is so planned out. There are no chances, no random occurrences. To me Condie’s creation comes across much like The Sims, the game in which the player controls virtual life. The visuals in that are very cute, colourful, and represent perfection, which is what The Society of Matched are determined to exploit.

Of course with a book of this nature you cannot assume that the characters will be strong, nor can you really expect it, but Condie may surprise you here. Cassia takes a while to start realising how corrupt her world is and thus to a reader she can come across as annoying. It definitely makes you sit back and think because while you can plead her to take chances and run away, you have to remember that to her nothing is unusual. The way in which Cassia comes into her own while still believing certain things may seem difficult to understand, but it’s logical. Although Condie shows how weak The Society really is, she also shows how difficult it can be for a group of people to stand up for themselves when they know that to stay silent will result in an easy life. In this way her book is as much a commentary on our present time than a fly-on-the-wall look at a dystopian world.

I’m rather reluctant to talk about the other characters because a lot of my own enjoyment came from discovering their personalities and desires. I will simply say that both male leads are heroes and that there is little to make you prefer one to the other.

You may be wondering, as I did, how much similarity there is between Matched and the other young adult novels that have been released of late. The answer: a love triangle, and the general idea of a dystopian world. To be honest I’m not sure if I liked the fact that it is the love aspect of life is what’s focused on, I’d have preferred to have seen Cassia struggle for something a little more general, like complete freedom, but love triangles are what sells at the moment, it seems to be the key between a hit and a flop.

Towards the beginning I may have said that you don’t notice how good Condie’s descriptions of locations are while reading, but that’s not the same for the other elements of storytelling. Some lines jump from the page, such as the one I have quoted already. In that particular case it is as much the cause of the structure as the words.

Condie has exceeded my expectations. I could never have imagined such a story, such vivid description, would fill the pages.

Break the rules. Follow Cassia. Trust in Condie. Read this book.

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February 17, 2011, 1:12 am

I really do want to read this book! I keep reading about it but haven’t officially added it to my TBR list. It’s time to do so.

Charlie: Admittedly the reviews have been mixed (though I’ve only found negative ones since posting mine) but if you like dystopian I’d say you’re quite likely to enjoy it.

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