Thursday, December 23, 2010

REVIEW: Matched by @allycondie: Your match banquet has been scheduled!

Condie, A.  (2010).  Matched.  New York:  Dutton Books.

366 pages.

Appetizer:  Set in the future after the world as we know it has ended, seventeen-year-old Cassia is celebrating her birthday AND her Match Banquet, when she'll learn the name of the boy she is to be matched with for the rest of her life.

Her Match is unusual because she is paired with one of her close friends, Xander, a rarity throughout the Society.  But then things get even stranger when she reviews the chip on her match at home and she sees another boy's face appear on the screen, another boy she knows.  But the other boy, Ky, is an Aberration, someone not allowed to be matched.  Has someone played a horrible trick on Cassia or could it be possible that the Society has made a mistake?

Cassia's world is highly regulated.  Their daily intake of nutrients are monitored, her and her family's dreams tracked.  Seventeen-year-olds are matched to produce the strongest children, the most likely to survive.  They are told when their lives must end (at 80, a reality Cassia's grandfather now faces).  Cancer has been wiped out.  There are almost no areas of wilderness left.  Everyone carries around three drug capsules:  The green to calm you, the blue to keep you healthy and the red...well, nobody knows what the red one does.  All for the Society's survival.  But what does it mean if the society has made a mistake in Cassia's Match?  What other mistakes could exist in their Society?

I first head talk of this book aaaaaaaall the way back in the summer.  And from the first mention of it, I've wanted to read this book (the beginning of a trilogy...that already has a movie deal.  Of course!).  And since then, I've had to read rave review after rave review.  Few but dear readers, it was soooo hard to be a good little patient reader.

As I started reading, Matched reminded me strongly of Lois Lowry's The Giver in terms of how regulated the dystopian world is and in terms of how the teens are given specific responsibilities as they age.  Except I feel like Ally Condie must have constantly been consuming sugar to express how cheerful and protected the society is.  Seriously, the cheerful exchanges early on in the book, when the world seemed to be a utopia, practically gave me a cavity.  I had to call The Dentist-Father to make an appointment.

Then, as I kept reading Matched I was reminded of 1984 (one of my all-time, forever and EVER favorite books).  I think it was the way that Ky and Cassia felt most comfortable talking in nature.  But I wasn't the only one to make the connection.  Someone on Twitter (I didn't pay attention to who, oopsie) tweeted something to the effect that Matched was the 1984 for people born after 1984.  Well said.

As I read, I couldn't help but think that the story really showed that Condie used to be a high school English teacher.  She incorporates a lot of excellent poetry into the story and who else but an English teacher would create characters who treasure being able to write in cursive?

The Society Condie has created is great and could start a lot of wonderful conversations in a classroom.  For example, nobody in the Society creates, they're forever restricted to the 100 poems, 100 songs 100 sculptures that were allowed to continue to exist.  I can just picture groups of students trying to pick the 100 poems to represent the human experience (And let's hope that many of those groups would come to the conclusion that more works of art are needed to share all of the human experience, emotions and world).

I have to say, despite all of the hype, I didn't find Matched to be the page-turner that I was expecting.  I found it to be more of a slow build of tensions as Cassia begins to doubt the perfection of her family, her match, the officials and the Society.  As she begins to question some of the rules and the realize that the people in the Society never fight for anything, I found myself wishing to know more of the consequences for misbehaving, to see the dark underbelly of the world, to have more of a sense of the danger.  But then, I do like my dystopians to be dark.

So, I tried looking at Matched as a romance first and a dystopian novel second.  It was interesting, because the tension for Cassia comes down to wanting to choose who to love and choosing between, Xander, the boy next door that she has always known and Ky, the more mysterious boy (who also happens to live just down the street) who has a dark and mysterious past.  (Does poor Xander even stand a chance?!)

I would  definitely recommend this book.  I think it's particularly fitting for middle grade readers who don't know what to pick after loving The Giver or for readers who are a bit weary of dark dystopian novels.

Dinner Conversation:

"I've waited so long for this:  for my Match Banquet.  Where I'll see, for the first time, the face of the boy who will be my Match.  It will be the first time I hear his name" (pp. 3-4).

"I watch and wait, determined that he girl my Match will see on the screen in his City Hall somewhere out there in Society will be poised and calm and lvoely, the very best image of Cassia Maria Reyes that I can present.
But nothing happens.
I stand and look at the screen, and, as the seconds go by, it is all I can do to stay still, all I can do to keep smiling.  Whispers start around me.  Out of the corner of my eye, I see my mother move her hand as if to take mine again, but then she pulls it back.
A girl in a green dress stands waiting, her heart pounding.  Me.
The screen is dark, and it stays dark.
That can only mean one thing" (pp. 13-14).

"I reach up to touch the words Courtship Guidelines on the screen but before I do Xander's face darkens and then disappears.  The postscreen beeps and the voice says again, "Cassia Reyes, the Society is pleased to present you with your Match."
My heart stops, and I can't believe what I see.  A face comes back into view on the port in front of me.
It is not Xander" (pp. 34-35).

"I try to pull my thoughts from the boy who is an Aberration.  I should be thinking about how wonderful it is that everything is back in order.  But instead I think about Ky--how sorry I feel for him, how I wish I didn't have to know this about him and could have gone on thinking he had chosen to be a Single.
"I don't need to remind you to keep the information about Ky Markham confidential, do I?" she asks mildly, but I hear the iron in her voice.  "The only reason I shared it with you was so that you could know without a doubt that he was never intended to be your Match."
"Of course.  I won't say anything to anyone" (p. 47).

"I wanted to know more about this boy who lives among us, but who never truly speaks.  More about what happened before.  I wanted to know more about my mistaken Match.  But now I feel like finding out about him is one of the ways I find out about myself.  I did not expect to love his words.  I did not expect to find myself in them.
Is falling in love with someone's story the same thing as falling in love with the person himself?" (p. 196).

Tasty Rating:  !!!!  (4.5 explanation points, if I could make a .5 explanation point.  A .?  !!!!.)

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