Book Review: Matched by Ally Condie

Synopsis: On her seventeenth birthday, Cassia meets her Match. Society dictates he is her perfect partner for life. Except he's not. In Cassia's society, Officials decide who people love. How many children then have. Where they work. When they die. But as Cassia finds herself falling in love with another boy, she is determined to make some choices of her own. And that's when her whole world beings to unravel…

Pages: 366

Rating: 5/10

Overall Thoughts: An enjoyable read, but rather slow-paced. The plot was disappointing. The world that Condie creates is perhaps the best bit, with the ominous faceless presence of the Society giving you a persistent undercurrent of the heebie jeebies.
Matched (Matched, #1)

The Matched series has been one that I've heard about and had sitting on my bookshelf for a while, before I finally picked it up.

The basic premise is that the protagonist, Cassia, is Matched but falls in love with someone else. In Cassia's society I suppose it's similar to being betrothed to some young heir and falling for the servant boy.

For me, the most interesting part of this book was the building of this Society. The Society, this faceless entity, has an extremely sinister feel to it. It is definitely an Orwellian, Big Brother type of society. They  literally control every aspect of their citizens' lives. Everything from what clothes they wear, how long they can exercise for and how, what food they eat and who they love. Free will is practically foreign concept.

Obviously, as the reader, we can see the problems with this society, and how they are being brainwashed that everything is perfect, how it should be, how it is so much better than the past. They are fed propaganda in the form of films and 'data' that apparently back up why they exert the strict control over their lives.
"They control the food; they control us. Some people know how to grow food, some know how to harvest it, some know how to harvest it; others know how to cook it. But none of us know how to do all of it. We could never survive on our own."
As the book progresses, and Cassia reveals more and more about her life and how the Society controls it, the sinister feeling intensifies.

One of the most memorable scenes was the day of Cassia's Grandfather's death. Society essentially mandates that you die on your 80th birthday, regardless of how fit and healthy you may or may not be. I found it rather morbid, and mildly horrifying as Cassia's family basically waited for Grandfather to die. It also struck me as strangely reminiscent of Nearly Headless Nick's Deathday party in Harry Potter…

But on the other hand, this scene is supposed to be memorable, as it is one of the flash points for Cassia's journey of questioning and discovery.

Generations ago, the Society decided to only keep one hundred works of creativity. So they have one hundred poems, paintings, songs, books... While we don't actually know which poems they keep, it is rather obvious that they will have chosen only poems or paintings that do not reveal anything deemed unsuitable. An unsubtle hint to us readers that the Society wants to keep their people ignorant and thus less questioning of authority.

I also just really disliked the concept of having to destroy all that art, written, painted or otherwise. Can you imagine only have 100 books to choose from or 100 songs? Doesn't bear thinking about…

Anyway, Grandfather has a poem. And one that isn't in the Hundred poems. This is Cassia's initial dilemma. Why did Grandfather give her an 'illegal' poem? What does it mean? What does he want her to do with it? It is the beginning of Cassia's change in mindset. It opens her eyes to the possibility of things beyond what Society wants her to see.

I thought it was telling that although Cassia begins to question things around her, I felt like she was asking the wrong questions. Cassia immediately thinks that there is something wrong with her, or something she has done. It seems obvious to us that she needs to be questioning the Society. But, of course, that is part of Cassia's journey. She has to change her view of a world she grew up in.

Unlike other dystopian series like The Hunger Games or Divergent, the inherent wrongness of their society doesn't seem to occur to Cassia very quickly. At the outset, she is perfectly happy with the way things are, and is excited to attend her Match Banquet. It is a slow realisation over the course of most of the book that people should have control over their own lives, that they should have a choice over what happens to them. So, as a book, it does not have the punch that those other series have. While I appreciated it, because I understood that it would take a while for Cassia to overcome years of thought processes, it sometimes felt like you were waiting for the penny to drop, and the story to getting going.

Onto the love story part. Initially, the set up of Cassia being Matched with her childhood BFF, Xander, but falling for the quiet neighbour, Ky felt rather reminiscent of the love triangle in The Hunger Games. But there was less of the 'who will she choose?' stuff in Matched, even if Cassia does struggle with her feelings for both of them.

I can definitely get on board with Ky and Cassia. Ky felt like the character that knew what was happening was strange and unsettling, but he is also quite mysterious and only reveals his story in small doses. In fact, even by the end of the book, we still know only snippets. His status as an Aberration also adds an interesting twist to the tale of forbidden love.

I did feel like I wanted to see more of Cassia's relationship with Xander, and why the Society had decided they were perfectly matched. It would have made the internal struggle about her feelings for both the boys a bit more… justified, maybe?

In short, I did enjoy Matched, and I am definitely going to read the rest of the series, but it doesn't have the gripping-ness of The Hunger Games or Divergent.

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