Thursday, November 18, 2010

Review: Matched by Ally Condie

Tags: YA, dystopian, romance, love triangle


Cassia's Society is perfect. The Society's Officials calculate all the data and give you what's best for you: your job, your food intake, and most especially your Match, the person with whom you'd be perfect and raise a family.

At Cassia's Matching ceremony, she feels glad when her best friend Xander's image appears as her ideal mate. However, a glitch in the software reveals another's image: Ky, a reserved boy in her neighborhood with an unusual history. Cassia can't help but feel all the more attracted to Ky as she learns more about him. With things starting to crumble all around them--tense, missing Officials, mistakes that should not have been made--what does the future hold for Cassia and the two most important boys in her life?


MATCHED is quite possibly the most highly anticipated YA novel of late 2010, what with its incredible 7-figure book deal announced earlier this year. So it is to be expected that readers will come into story with high expectations. While MATCHED does not quite live up to all its hype, it is still a relatively powerful dystopian work that will keep you up late reading.

The most stunning part of this book, the thing that made me want to give this book a 5-star rating right off the bat, is its world-building. It is all too easy to do a half-assed job of creating a frightening believable future world. Thankfully, Ally Condie is no fool, and the world of the Society is one that thrums with realistically nervous energy. The world is laid out for us from the first chapter, told with an almost hypnotic narration. I don't think I've seen kind of dystopian worldbuilding this convincing since Lois Lowry's The Giver. (The world in The Hunger Games, of course, is excellent, but it is a low-tech kind of world, whereas the worlds in both MATCHED and The Giver are more high-tech, which involves a different kind of world-building.)

While the writing was fantastic, I felt like there were pieces missing from the characterization and plot. I enjoyed Cassia's relatable wavering between being the perfectly obedient citizen, the way she's been her whole life, and daring to question and doubt. However, I found that I wasn't able to connect with the developing romance between Cassia and Ky the way I wanted to, the way the story needs readers to in order for everything to be justified. Ky is an interesting character, to be sure, but neither of them did much throughout the story. I understand that under such a heavily surveillanced Society, it would be almost impossible for Cassia and Ky to develop love the way we know it, but still. That was what the story needed to do in order for everything else to fall into place, whether it's near impossible or not, and unfortunately that aspect didn't pull through for me.

MATCHED is a highly accomplished work of literature. Ally Condie quite obviously has a wonderful way with words, though the story part feels slightly lacking. I will hope that future installments in this series up the stakes in order to grab on hard to me and never let me go.

Writing: 4/5
Characters: 3/5
Plot: 3/5

Overall Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Cover discussion: 4 out of 5 - It is breathtaking. Shiny and simple and straightforward, both beautiful and creepy, like Cassia's world.

Penguin / Nov. 30, 2010 / Hardcover / 384pp. / $17.99

ARC picked up at BEA.


  1. I agree she did a wonderful job at creating the world in Matched! Thanks for the review.

    Brandi from Blkosiner’s Book Blog

  2. I was waiting for you to review this one!! I've heard such mixed things about it. I've heard that it seems to be lacking something as you said but I also heard that it seems a lot like The Giver. Did you feel that way?

  3. I've been seeing a ton of mixed reviews for Matched. Like, I still plan on reading it while I am on work vacation, but my expectations are lowered. Hopefully those low expectations means I'll find it to be amazing, lol.

  4. I wasn't planning on liking this book. I still haven't fully converted myself into this genre just yet. (Yep, still haven't read Hunger Games.) I ended up loving the book, but I can see your points at the romance aspect of it.

  5. I'm glad to have finally found a non-hardcore gushing about this book. All the five star reviews have just been raising and raising my expectations, which means when I finally read it, I probably would not have liked it. Thanks so much for your honest review!

  6. I actually found I had some logistical issues with the world-building in Matched. For me, it was a bunch of small things that made me wonder throughout the book that added up to a larger issue for me.

    I agree with you, though, that Condie's writing style and way with words is gorgeous, and I definitely think it helped keep me going when I had plot/character issues.


    For example, Cassia's inability to write. I think this is my first grade teacher self coming out, but I had issue with this. A of all, do I remember correct that some people *could* write? If so (and I may be misremembering), I had a hard time believing that that would be a controllable function. B of all, much of our fine motor control is learned as we progress through school and higher amounts of paper-and-pencil work strengethen the muscle group in our hands and fingers. Without this, I can't help but imagine the people of Society are running around unable to pull two Lego pieces apart.

    Another issue I had was with what existed outside of Cassia's immediate realm. We get glimpses of it through Ky and other parts of the book, but those glimpses gave me the sense that ONLY those glimpses had been imagine and I was getting all the author had, rather than a glimpse of what already felt like a full imagined world.

  7. I love your honest, intelligent reviews. And yep, I felt the same way about this book. The world was great, but I was never drawn in the way I'd hoped to be--thier relationship just wasn't as compelling or developed as I wanted. I keep waiting for a dystopian romance that can totally sweep me up, but haven't found it yet.

  8. I agree with Heather, I, too, love your honest, intelligent reviews.

    I look forward to reading Condie's world building, which when done well is something to get excited about...


  9. This is one of my 2010 favourite so far, I absolutely loved it. Like you, I think the series will get better with each instalment!

  10. I'm like Jenny - I liked this a lot more, but mostly because I felt like the world and the situations were logical from Cassia's perspective. The lack of colorful culture made it harder for her to practice defiance and courtship with Ky as well, and they were virtually unable to really talk otherwise. Not to mention it's a heavily secure Society for being so 'perfect'.

    Ky and Cassia did rush the love a little, but I thought it was well enough. Her other Match was bland, though, and that made me sad. Would have preferred a different situation. Condie definitely will up the anty with book two. I can tell. Great review, as always!

    @Sara *Spoilers - ye be warned*

    Not that I can recall. I believe they typed. If they did write, it was block letters like they typed. Not cursive, which is an 'art'. Ditto with painting. They 'painted' but it was erased and electronically. So the fundamental actions were there, but not the artistic and cultural points. With all of this typing and movement and whatnot, I would imagine they have more strength than you project.

    Again, Cassia's perspective is limited. She had to assume what was going on - Condie couldn't go out of character to explain what was going on, because how would Cassia, the secluded girl she is, know anything concrete? Just my interpretation.

  11. I've heard a lot about this one, mostly good things. I've also heard that if you read it then you'll find yourself comparing it to Delirium a lot. I've already read Delirium, so I think I will pass on this one. Thanks for the review though :)

  12. ahh, i love it when hype is smashed sow a little. i'm not expecting brilliant things from this - more just an entertaining read. i was initially hoping for a good go at the love triangle thing - i could very easily get sucked into that kind of thing - but it hasn;t happened to me in the YA scene yet :)

    really thoughtful review, thanks :)

  13. great review! i'll have to add this to my reading list =)

  14. Great review, Steph Su. This is a book I would very much like to read but it is good that my expectations are lowered a bit so I might be pleasantly surprised.

  15. Been following Matched reviews because I do like Dystopian YA, and this one has me so interested...and it does seem good

  16. FINALLY a review that isn't "5 out of 5 stars!" for this book. I liked it but it wasn't amazing. I don't understand why it's been getting so much praise. The world building WAS amazing but I felt like she focused on the world building more than the actual story line.


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