Thursday, November 18, 2010
Review: Matched by Ally Condie
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.
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.