Book Review: Matched
By: Ally Condie
Published By: Penguin Young Readers Group
Release Date: November 2010
Buy it at Amazon
I would like to begin this review by saying that I totally understand how much goes into writing a book. Authors pour their hearts and souls into the characters and words. It always pains me to have to write a less than stellar review because I know how I would feel if the words were being spoken over something I had crafted. I actually struggled with whether I even wanted to write this review, but in the end I truly feel that my job as a book blogger is to give my honest opinions - both good and bad. With all of that being said, this book just wasn't for me. That does not mean it has no merits or that other readers won't love it. Not every book can appeal to every reader. Many of my friends love this book, but it just didn't have any sparks for me.
I was extremely excited to read this, but after finishing it this afternoon I just felt hollow. Typically I am filled with the urge to talk to someone immediately when I finish a great book. (Poor Tev, right?) But today I honestly wasn't sure what I wanted to do after finishing Matched. The first thought that went through my brain was "Well, glad I didn't actually buy this one." I suppose that's the great thing about libraries - no book buyer remorse.
For me to love a book or even really like it I have to find some sort of connection with a character. This connection often comes with the main character, but I have been known to gravitate towards minor characters as well. In Matched, I didn't really feel like I had a choice because everything was so dominated by Cassia that few other characters were given a chance to thrive. I also have to admit that I wasn't too fond of Cassia. I found her to be somewhat annoying; there was nothing about her that interested me or made me care about her and her fate. I disagreed with almost every choice she made. Cassia was stale - she lacked passion and drive. There were only two positive things about her in the whole book. One, I love green so I was excited that she chose a green dress for her match banquet. Two, I did like how much she cared about her younger brother, Bram. Other than those two things I thought she was bit selfish. She didn't seem to think about anything other than her own wants and desires - even when it would put those she cared about in danger. I loathed the way she treated Xander after the mistake on her video card. It really went downhill for me from that point forward.
The book revolved around the Society which makes decisions for all of its residents. Everything is decided for you from your clothes, your perfect match, your food, your career, and even the date of your death. The Society strives to match people using their genetics in order to ensure that future generations will be the strongest and healthiest possible. Cassia blindly follows the rules of the Society and truly believes that they have her best interest at heart. She dreams about her match banquet and finding the boy the Society has chosen for her. The evening is one of surprises when Cassia's match is none other than her childhood best friend, Xander. The probability of being matched with someone you know is extremely small so everyone is interested in this particular match. The matching process does not allow people to choose the ones they want to love and marry. Being matched is a commitment that cannot be broken.
However, Cassia soon learns that the Society can make mistakes. While viewing Xander's profile on the video card she was given at the match banquet, his face is replaced with that of another childhood friend, Ky. Cassia is soon thrust into a life she never would have chosen for herself as she seeks to understand the Society. She soon goes from being the timid follower to being someone who is brave enough to break the rules and question the motives of the Society.
I see this book as a statement against so many of the things that exist in our culture today. There is inequality, disease, and violence. The Society has erased those from the lives of most of their citizens. Many people in the Society never stop to question why they continue to follow the directions of the officials, but just accept that this is how things are supposed to be. However, an underground resistance movement is brewing in the outer provinces. What will this mean for Cassia, those she loves, and the Society?
I think this book would have been more enjoyable for me personally if I had gotten more from the other characters. I wanted to get inside Xander and Ky's brains. This was hard to do when everything was from Cassia's perspective. I also think because this was written in first person narrative and I didn't connect with the main character it made it truly hard for me to enjoy the book. Perhaps if it had been written in a different point of view that would have helped. I also think elements of the plot such as the love triangle have just been in too many books lately. They don't bother me as much when they aren't quite so predictable. I had figured out who Cassia was going to choose fairly quickly. I would have liked the book more if there had been more surprises.
I did enjoy the concept behind the story, but there was nothing about it that made it special and unique for me. There are other books with similar concepts that are much more engaging. I also have to admit that there were numerous times where I was just plain bored. It has been quite some time that I honestly would have rather been doing something other than reading, but there were several times where I just put this down and walked away. The pacing felt sluggish and the writing style was just mediocre. The entire book felt like a lukewarm bath - it was serviceable, but not enjoyable. Again, I think all of this links to two main issues for me. One, I just couldn't connect with Cassia. I am extremely character driven when I read so this made the book hard for me to enjoy. Second, I am not a huge fan of dystopian novels. I am trying to be more open minded in the genres I read. Perhaps I should have waited a bit longer to give this one a try.
At this point, I am not even sure I would read the other books coming out in the future. I can probably guess how the series is going to end based on the choices Cassia made in Matched. If I'm right, I can guarantee I won't like it.
One Last Gripe: I don't think it was every truly explained well enough what Ky's father did to make him an aberration. I feel like I have a million questions and was given no answers.
My Favorite Thing About This Book: The Dylan Thomas poems
First Sentence: Now that I've found the way to fly, which direction should I go into the night?
Favorite Character: Bram
Least Favorite Character: Cassia
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.