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.