I feel like I am in an interesting situation in terms of my reading preferences. I read lots of young adult books, and love the genre, but at the same time I tend to stay away from the overall themes of said genre. When bookstores set up tables of “If You Like Harry Potter Read This” and “Books Like The Hunger Games” I tend not to be too interested. I am a huge Harry Potter fan, and I love The Hunger Games. I even read some Twilight. But I never really got into the other “boy wizard” books or other paranormal fantasies that were out there. And now everything is dystopian.
I started reading Divergent a couple of months ago, but I felt like I had to put it down because the world wasn’t real enough for me. I couldn’t see how people lived like that. I understand that that is the point of a dystopian novel – an overpowering society that ultimately falls apart in the end, but I just couldn’t buy it for that book. So I had my doubts about Matched as well.
I bought Matched one day where I was at the bookstore and didn’t know what I wanted to get. The paperback edition had just come out, and it wasn’t too expensive. I had also heard a lot about this book from colleagues and the internet, and I figured it was something I should probably read so that I could have an opinion on it. If I hated it, oh well, not much would change.
I also might add that I am very cynical about the whole love triangle situation that seems to be a staple in Young Adult fiction right now. (I’m blaming Twilight for that one). I have talked before about how I like strong female protagonists who can stand on their own two feet, and love triangles do not always lend themselves to such characters. So I had my doubts going in, but I wanted to read something light and fun after the two dense historical novels that I have been reading.
A little background on Matched: Cassia lives in a world where The Society makes choices for her. She goes to school, works as a sorter, and either listens to music, plays games, or watches a movie in her free time with her friends. Most importantly, The Society chooses who she marries through the Matching Ceremony that every seventeen year old attends. It is the highlight of The Society’s success. Cassia is happy to be matched with her best friend Xander, but when she goes home to look at the microchip with Xander’s information on it, another boy’s face pops up instead.
There you go. Classic love triangle. I found some of the love triangle plot to be pretty predictable, but at the same time there were other twists in the plot that kept me reading. I was happy to see that the love triangle is not necessarily the main focus of the book, but rather an avenue that allows other themes and issues to appear. Since it is dystopian, it is pretty clear that The Society is going to come apart, but the questions are how and why? The author, Ally Condie, uses the love triangle to introduce the idea of choice into Cassia’s life – something that she has never had before. I was more interested in seeing how Cassia deals with this idea of choice, and overcomes the obstacles The Society throws in her way, more than I was in Team Xander or Team Ky.
The dystopian society was more akin to The Giver than it was to The Hunger Games, I thought. Condie still did manage to make it her own though, which can be hard with such a formulaic and saturated topic.
Songs and poetry also play a pretty important role in the book. The Society has the 100 Songs, 100 Paintings, and 100 Stories that are stamped with The Society seal of approval and remembered through the generations. Cassia has an interest in poetry and the idea of creation – she has always had things handed to her, never created anything herself. I liked how poetry was used to fuel creation. Yay literature!
Matched is a pretty quick read – I think I finished it in about 2 days (started it at night). There were times where I thought that some ideas could be implied more than stated in writing to make the book a little more subtle, but by stating things outright Condie can reach out to a younger reader demographic without alienating older readers. YA after all, is targeted at younger readers, despite the fact that it’s readers are 50/50 teens and adults. Maybe that’s why I find the genre to be so interesting.
Anyway, I am now on the third book in the Matched trilogy, reviews to come, and overall I have been pleasantly surprised by the series. It is a fun read. That being said, I am still looking forward to the day where having a love triangle in the plot is no longer a requirement for Young Adult fiction. What will be next?