Book: Matched by Ally CondieLike many of you, I have been hearing a great deal about Ally Condie's debut novel, Matched. Everyone has been absolutely raving about this book and I was both eager and skeptical before I began reading it. Let me just say, Matched was one heck of a debut. But, I wasn't blown out of the water by it like so many other readers seem to have been.
Series or Stand-Alone: Series; Matched #1
Genre: Young Adult
Publication Date: November 30th, 2010
Description: Cassia has always trusted the Society to make the right choices for her: what to read, what to watch, what to believe. So when Xander's face appears on-screen at her Matching ceremony, Cassia knows with complete certainty that he is her ideal mate . . . until she sees Ky Markham's face flash for an instant before the screen fades to black. The Society tells her it's a glitch, a rare malfunction, and that she should focus on the happy life she's destined to lead with Xander. But Cassia can't stop thinking about Ky, and as they slowly fall in love, Cassia begins to doubt the Society's infallibility and is faced with an impossible choice: between Xander and Ky, between the only life she's known and a path that no one else has dared to follow.
I was instantly hooked by the concept - a life in which you never have to make decisions. Your spouse and your job are both chosen for you. You are also supposedly spared from pain, heartbreak and loss. There are no diseases and everyone dies on their 80th birthday. Like most dystopian stories, the main character, Cassia begins believing that the "Society" knows best. She only begins to question it when she is given her first choice. She is matched with her best friend Xander, but also with a mysterious boy, Ky, that she also recognizes. Nobody else knows of the second match and the wheels in Cassia's brain begin to turn. When she is given the opportunity to spend more time with Ky they quickly form a connection. Now Cassia has to decide if she should stick to the plan and stay with the safe choice of Xander or if she should throw caution to the wind and see where life takes her with Ky.
While on the surface, Matched seems rather predictable, the meat of the story is anything but. It is, essentially, a love story, but there is much more to it. Cassia's tale is one of personal agency, determination and courage. It is a story about questioning your life and having the nerve to take control of it.
Much of this is represented in Cassia's relationship with Ky, but it is also addressed in her relationship with her late Grandfather. When his 80th birthday arrives (his appointed day of death), he gives Cassia a precious and dangerous gift - a forbidden poem. The society selected a 100 poems (as well as songs) that they deemed to be "the best". The rest were destroyed. The poem that her grandfather gives her is the ever famous, "Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night" by Dylan Thomas. This becomes her anthem and is one of the driving forces behind the life changing decisions that she makes.
While I loved the overall idea of the story, for me, it wasn't without it's flaws. I was not exactly swept away with the Ky/Cassia relationship. I was hoping she would choose him - but there wasn't a whole lot of build up. I know that when something is forbidden, it is all the more exciting, but I still would have liked to see a bit more between them.
Also, the pacing was a bit off for me. There were a number of paragraphs and sometimes, even pages, that I had to resist the urge to skim. I understand that it was the first book in a trilogy, so there is going to be a lot of character introduction and build up; but honestly, that's not an excuse. There are plenty of series that produce action packed, eventful first books. To me, at the end of book one, Matched was still warming up.
Like I said, Matched certainly had its faults, but I feel like the complete work overall, allows you to overlook them. I loved the premise of the book and the characters; even if the romance was somewhat lacking. Plus, Condie gets mad kudos from me for incorporating Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night, which just happens to be one of my favorites. This was definitely a great start to the trilogy and a wonderful debut.