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.
Ally Condie’s Matched is a poetic and sweet light dystopian read. The writing is lyrical and beautiful, at times distracting me from lulls in the plot. Matched takes a familiar intricately regimented society, governmental control being a traditional trope in dystopian fiction, but doesn’t give the reader much of the cost of this ordered and compliant society… at least not in this volume.
Matched is primarily a story of forbidden love between Cassia and Ky. There are a lot of critical reviews of a love triangle between Cassia, Ky, and Xander, but Xander feels more like a third wheel in Cassia and Ky’s story. The book opens with Cassia being officially matched with Ky (they are deemed to be an ideal match from the Society and they are childhood best friends), but due to a glitch in the system, Cassia is given a glimpse of another boy, whom she also knows, Ky. Is he actually supposed to be her match (is he a statistically better match for her than Xander)? Was it a mistake? A prank? An experiment? This does get answered by the end of the book, but I won’t spoil it for you here.
Throughout the book, Cassia develops a natural and heathy relationship with Ky. He is her rebellion from conformity and compliance, and she doesn’t simply jump right in, but gradually evolves to question the seemingly utopian society she’s been born into. Xander was always there, but Cassia is not oscillating between the two boys like a typical love triangle would suggest. Xander serves more as a society approved obstacle than a love interest. I appreciate Cassia and Ky’s relationship doesn’t fall prey to insta-love, which is so prevalent in YA fiction.
The order and efficiency of the Society, along with the profession of sorting, feels very much like lean thinking (Toyota Production Systems) on steroids. The sorter’s job is to spot and identify inefficiencies, for which Cassia seems to have a natural aptitude. I found this interesting since I currently work at a lean company. This is a good example that every good thing can be taken too far and ultimately become its opposite. The only lean thing missing from Cassia’s world is having everything meticulously labeled (and maybe it is and just isn’t described for us).
The biggest complaint I have with Matched is how slow it moves. True, the lyrical prose oftentimes made me forget that in the moment, but looking back on the book as a whole, it becomes apparent what little happened within the pages. Also, the overall opposing force is the Society, but there is no true personified antagonist. The closest thing the book has to a true antagonist is the official who speaks with Cassia about the glitch with Ky, but all she does is occasionally show up and talk. It doesn’t feel like the story even gets started until about halfway through, and the climax feels like the start of the true adventure.
Although Matched is a well written book, I hoped for more action, drama, and intrigue from a YA dystopian story, even with it primarily being a love story (a love story still strives on conflict even though it ends with a HEA). I wanted some glimpse into what had made the Society this way. I hoped the war/rebellion would play a more significant role in this story. I wanted a real fight from somebody. Something… Maybe the rest of the trilogy will kick the story into high gear, ratcheting the tension and conflict to an unbelievable and satisfying crescendo of a climax. But I expect it will be more of the same level and calm storytelling that will keep me yearning for something more.
Have you read Matched? What are your thoughts?