Thursday, December 30, 2010

HBIC Review: Matched (Emily @ What Book is That?)

MatchedTitle: Matched
Author: Ally Condie
Page Count:  384 pages
Publisher: Dutton Juvenile
Genre: young adult, dystopian, romance
Copy for review was purchased by me

50 words or less:  Sometimes one simple decision or event can change everything.  Cassia's life was calm and simple, with every detailed preplanned by the Society.  When an unexpected twist sends her heart and her mind in a different direction, she learns that calm and simple might not be the way she'd want to live- if she had a choice.

I admit it- I was really, really nervous about reading Matched.  My love of dystopian novels, my love of good romance novels, and my wariness of anything that's had the crap hyped out of it combined into a stew of unease.  After finishing the story, I find myself with a different reaction than the one I thought I would have, in both good and not so good ways.

First of all, I completely agree with Rachel's assessment that comparing this book to one like The Hunger Games isn't really accurate or fair- Matched and The Hunger Games are like apples and oranges.  While both deal with a relatively similar theme, that being asserting individuality and freedom of choice and expression in the face of an oppressive totalitarian society, The Hunger Games is the story of a society that the heroine already knows to be dysfunctional and oppressive, gritty in its violence, while Matched revolves around a heroine who's fully integrated into society realizing that the shiny perfection that surrounds here is nothing more than a facade.  Is either approach bad? Certainly not, but reading one when you're in the mood for the other would not really be all that satisfying.  Ye be warned.

Anyway, the book opens on Cassia's Matching ceremony, where she finds out the name of the young man that she'll be Matched to, which means wooed by, married to, and have children with.  He's her ultimate in compatibility, everything she could possibly want in a mate, and it's a surprise to everyone when her Match turns out to be Xander, her best friend.  She's happy, Xander's happy, their families are happy, and that could have been the end of it, except when Cassia goes to look at the card with all of her Match's information on it, there's another boy's face on it- Ky, another boy in her city, but who never should have been included in the poll of candidates to be Matched.  Cassia is captivated by Ky and finds herself falling in love with him, even though that means questioning everything she's ever known about the Society and how things work.

Regarding the worldbuilding in this story, it wasn't as vivid as I would have liked, and I felt like the realism was...strange, like I was looking at the world of the book through a screen.  In a way it kind of mirrored what Cassia herself was feeling- as she fell deeper in love with Ky she noticed how elements of life she'd always taken at face value were much more restrictive than she thought.  The Society monitors what you throw in the garbage in your own house!  The Society has one hundred poems, one hundred songs, and one hundred paintings, and bully for you if you don't like that!  You don't get to pick your mate, your job, where you live, or even what you wear.  Not even your dreams are private!  The world of the Society had moments where the rules and levels of monitoring just chafed on me, but I didn't really get the sense that Cassia was truly as outraged as she justifiably should have been.

Regarding Cassia herself, I think the shining moments of this story revolved around her blossoming love for and with Ky, and in the depth of loyalty and emotion that she feels for people she cares about.  The scenes where she and Ky have stolen time together- him teaching her to write her name, her learning about his life in the Outer Provinces, them hiking in the woods together, those were the moments when I was engrossed in the story.  As a couple these two really work; it will be interesting to see how things with Xander work out in the next two books.

I think the issues that arose from this book stem from it being the first in a planned trilogy.  Because there are two more books, time and pages could be spent focusing on Cassia fretting over her feelings for Xander and Ky, fretting over work and school, fretting over her family, and so on.  Apparently there's a war going on in this world and we don't really hear anything about it until pretty much the end of the book.  Likewise, a lot of elements are introduced- lifespan, health issues, family roles, job roles, politics, and the true motives of the Society, but they don't get a lot of explanation and presumably that's because there are two more books in the trilogy.  I found myself wanting more details about many things, but not out of anticipation- because they were mentioned and then left alone in favor of discussion about something else.

Was this a bad book? Not at all.  I enjoyed reading it, I finished it, and I'll probably read the next two books as well.  I don't think it lived up to the hype surrounding it, but in a way I'm not sure any book could have.

Overall Grade: B
BWB Rating: 2/4