Monday, March 7, 2011

Matched by Ally Condie

Posted by Simcha 5:20 PM, under | 11 comments

My introduction to dystopian fiction through forced readings in high school of Brave New World and 1984, convinced me that this was not the genre for me. But reading The Hunger Games last year was an eye-opening experience that suddenly had me eager to read all of the dystopian books that I could get my hands on, both YA and adult. Since then I have discovered some other wonderful treasures in this genre, though I’ve also sifted through quite a bit of junk. With the recent popularity of these books there is now an onslaught of stories featuring teenagers in controlling futuristic societies fighting against some kind of government injustice, and the books that stand out are those that add a really unique element to this formula.

Unfortunately Matched doesn’t succeed in doing this and if you are a regular reader of dystopian fiction then many of the details in this book will probably already be familiar to you

The story takes places in a future where every aspect of a person’s life is fully controlled by the governing party, referred to as the Society. From the moment of birth to the hour of their death, not a single activity of an individual's life is left to chance or choice. Obviously this also includes marriage, and at the age of 16 each teenager is notified of the person who they will one day marry, at a special celebratory dinner.

Cassie is excited about her Matching Ceremony and can’t wait to find out who the Society has chosen as her perfect match. When her best friend, Xander, is announced Cassie is thrilled. But later her euphoria turns into confusion when Ky Markham’s face flashes onto her screen as her match, as well. Cassie has never paid too much attention to Ky but suddenly she can’t stop thinking about him. And after receiving a forbidden piece of poetry from her grandfather, urging her to to “rage against the dying of the light" Cassie also finds herself questioning if she should be raging against all of the Society’s restrictive rules that she had always passively accepted.

While many of the concepts in the book are not original the story could still have succeeded if it hadn't been so narrowly focused on Cassie’s romantic dilemmas. Should Cassie choose Xander or Ky? Xander is nice and handsome but Ky is exciting and different. Frankly, I got tired of Cassie’s “difficult” romantic predicaments and wished the story would have explored some other elements of this world instead. While Cassie’s parents have a very happy marriage, what about other matched couple? How has this system worked out for other families? And how did this society develop and who governs it? When I finished reading Matched I had more questions than answers and I really wished the book had focused on some of these other aspects, rather than giving the whole story over to Cassie agonizing over which boy to choose.

The story also lacks the tension and turbulence of many other dystopian books, making it a rather bland reading experience. While I could imagine how unpleasant it would be to live in a society where every aspect of my life is controlled, the world that Cassie lives in doesn’t really seem that bad. Cassie has a happy family, good friends, a wonderful boyfriend and fantastic employment opportunities. So what exactly is she raging against? Through Ky we get a brief glimpse at what life is like for those less fortunate than Cassie, but that glimpse is so brief and uninformative that it doesn’t leave much of an impression.

Young adults who are new to dytopian fiction might find Matched to be enjoyable and exciting story; a gentle introduction to the genre. But for anyone who has already read some of the fantastic YA dystopian books available, such as The Giver, The Hunger Games or The Knife of Never Letting Go, Matched will have little to offer.

11 comments:

I felt almost exactly the same about Matched, it wasn´t a bad book, just not exceptional or particulary enjoyable for me.
I thought I was the only one not loving it and not beeing all excited about it, I´m glad I´m not the only one after all :) Nice review!

I used to think I didn't like dystopian fiction too -- after reading those same books and hating them! -- but The Knife of Never Letting Go changed my mind. I wish dozens of books like it existed, which is why I do not altogether loathe the new trend of dystopian YA fiction. Even when some of it is mediocre.

hi simcha! thanks for the review. i'm tempted to buy this one just to have in my collection (since it's so popular) but most of the reviews seem to say the same thing: that it's not very good or it's a blah book. even those who usually LOVE every single book they read don't LOVE this one. huh.

hope you had a great monday! happy rest of the week :)

Well-stated Simcha. I thought the book was a pleasant read, but it was definitely lacking in tension that could have made it a much more riveting read. I did pass it on to my 13 year old daughter though. I think she'll enjoy the dystopian-lite!

Seesen: I know what that's like. I'm frequently unimpressed with books that everyone else seems to love. But many of the reviews I read on Goodread seemed to echo my own feelings about Matched, so in this case we aren't so alone ;)

Jenny: Same here. Because the of the wonderful YA books that I have read I'm pretty open to trying any other YA dystopian books as well, though many of them are pretty disappointing. Even those, like The Maze Runner, that received such high acclaim from reviewers.

chelleyreads: Sometimes I also get books just to see what everyone is talking about, even if I doubt that I will really enjoy it.

Eden: I think your daughter is probably at the right age to enjoy this book. It's a pretty good place to start reading dystopian fiction.

Little to offer :( Oh well, at least I still have Mockingjay to read one day

Thanks for this review as I really learned a lot about the book here that I didn't know before. :) I'm not sure its one I would want to read as it sounds more about love than anything else. I kind of like the fight for you life theme more. :)

Thanks!

While I love the reference to Dylan Thomas, the story doesn't seem to match the poetry's splendor and possibilities.

Gosh, I really loved this book. I read it in conjunction with a reread of Fahrenheit 451 and liked it so much I made a special post rather than just discussing it in the review of books that I read in January. Perhaps you will enjoy it more when the trilogy is complete?

Stephanie: No. As one reviewer commented, that poem is the only passionate thing about the book,

G in Berlin: Hmm, I'm not sure if I feel strongly enough to read the rest of this series. I'll have to go over and see your post about Matched because what it is that you found to be so appealing about it, especially comparing it to Fahrenheit 451

Melissa: Yes, the main focus was the romance, and I also find love triangles really annoying, which didn't help matters.

Blodeuedd: You still haven't read Mockingjay? I quite liked that book, more than most other reviewers.

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