Matched by Ally Condie

I went into Matched with almost no expectations. I’ve read a couple of blogger reviews in which the reviewer was disappointed because the book didn’t live up to the hype. I think this is completely unfair criticism; hype is generated by a marketing machine which has very little connection to the actual product. It’s a strange world we live in when books are hyped for a year or more before their release: it would be difficult for any book to stand up to that kind of expectation.
I’m really glad I avoided expectation because I was quite happy with what I read. Matched is a book with potential broad appeal, the kind of story that will get readers talking and excited for the subsequent books. The story centers around Cassia, a seventeen-year-old girl who lives in a futuristic society in which young people get “matched” with a mate chosen for them in order to ensure a healthy gene pool. But, there’s a complication and Cassia is left wondering who her match should be: lifelong friend Xander or quiet outsider Ky.

Cassia is a likable narrator who evolves in a satisfying way through the course of the book. Matched has definite shades of The Giver (more than The Hunger Games, in my opinion)—both Matched and The Giver center around a young protagonist living happily and obliviously in a very controlled universe until they learn their carefully choreographed world has a darker underbelly. I’m a fan of this storytelling device; it’s such an efficient metaphor for growing up, which makes it particularly well-suited to YA.
Don’t expect this to be an action-packed, heart-racing dystopian. Comparisons to The Hunger Games might get people into the bookstore, but these readers may be disappointed with how domestic and slow-paced Matched may seem in comparison. It’s a story of emotional and thought-driven drama, not action. I tend to enjoy quiet books more than action-driven books, so this didn’t detract from my enjoyment of Matched.
A big draw for young readers will surely be the romantic storyline. Again, I think this book has been misrepresented in that aspect; some of the marketing hype I’ve heard has revolved around talk of Team Xander vs. Team Ky. This is completely counter to what actually occurs in the book. By the end, there is no ambiguity about whom Cassia loves—she’s made up her mind and the other guy’s not even in the running. I found Cassia’s surety pretty refreshing. I have a big problem with the increase in “Team” books in YA literature of late. Yes, the participatory aspect of this is fun, but I also think it’s dangerously reductive. A protagonist’s identity should never depend on a romantic attachment (cough—Twilight—cough). In real life, if a girl had that much difficulty figuring out what she wanted, she shouldn’t be in a relationship at all; she needs time to herself to mature and decide who she wants to be, not who her boyfriend should be. I appreciated that, by the end of Matched, Cassia knew her own mind, knew what she wanted, and was prepared to fight for it.
I’m still trying to sort out Matched’s message. Maybe it’s a little too early to tell; Matched is the first in a projected trilogy. I am definitely a little wary of a book in which a young girl basically comes of age as a result of her relationship with a boy. However, the end of the book has Cassia acting on her own and, even though her main objective is to be with the boy she loves, she’s fairly proactive and independent. Cassia has the potential to become a fighter—she might not be Katniss Everdeen yet, but she has the definite potential to evolve to a Katniss-level of fierceness by the conclusion of the series.
In general, I think this was a fine first installment of a series that has the potential to be great. The subsequent books in the series could really go in any direction; I know where I hope the author takes us, and where I pray she doesn’t. This is the kind of broad book that will appeal to a diversity of readers and, as a result, will probably not satisfy everyone. I very much enjoyed this first installment and am really hopeful for the forthcoming books in the series.
Thanks to the Talk is Cheapbook blog for the contest in which I won my copy of Matched!
Now I’m passing my copy on to one of you! Check back tomorrow for a contest to win my copy of Matched!