In the Society, Officials decide. Who you love. Where you work. When you die.
Cassia has always trusted their choices. It’s barely any price to pay for a long life, the perfect job, the ideal mate. So when her best friend appears on the Matching screen, Cassia knows with complete certainty that he is the one . . . until she sees another face flash for an instant before the screen fades to black. Now Cassia is faced with impossible choices: between Xander and Ky, between the only life she’s known and a path no one else has ever dared follow—between perfection and passion. (from goodreads.com)
Ally Condie’s debut novel, Matched, has had a massive amount of hype in recent months and like many others I really got caught up in all the excitement. When it became available on Uk Book Tours I eagerly signed up. And this was one of those times when I wasn’t disappointed; I loved every word of this book and devoured it in a single sitting.
The book starts on the evening of Cassia’s 17th birthday and the night she will be Matched with the person deemed by officials to be her perfect life partner. Immediately Condie creates a vivid and sinister world where on the surface everything seems perfect. Most diseases and conditions have been eradicated due to genetic matching and Cassia’s own loving parents are testament to how successful it can be. She has no reason to question the system and fully believes in it. From my point of view it sent shivers down my spine, the naivety with which people go along like sheep and being dictated to who they should spend their lives with really creeped me out.
When the other face flashes up on her Matching card, Cassia is shocked. This shouldn’t happen, especially when it turns out that the other boy is one deemed by The Society as less than perfect. Cassia starts to wonder if the Matching system really is as perfect as it seems…and this opens a whole can of worms as the other flaws in The Society become clear to her. I really liked Cassia. She isn’t willing anymore to just accept things. She wants more. She wants a choice.
Matched takes the concept of choice away from it’s characters. Everything is controlled from the food you eat, the exercise you take, what you learn, the job you do, who you marry and when you die. Of course this takes away what it actually is to be human, to learn and make mistakes, choosing our own destiny. My life span may end up being shorter than those living in The Society, but I know which I’d prefer. Yet I did get a little uneasy feeling at times. Last year there was a big furore at my daughters school when lists of banned lunchbox items where sent out to parents, with healthy lunchbox stickers now being stuck on the ones that pass the test. Part of me is outraged that I can’t decide what I put in my child’s lunch box and if I want to put a small chocolate bar in now and then, I should be able to. But then the other part doesn’t want to be judged as a bad parent in any way, so I conform. Ok, so compared to the themes brought up in this book that’s a really small scale example but it got me thinking about how many steps we could be away from complete control in the future. There are other little things that rang alarm bells in my mind too and made the world Ally Condie created chillingly believable. I got why people went along with the officials and didn’t step out of line.
I loved Cassia, the way she developes throughout the book from naïve and accepting to a strong, fighter against a system that reduces humans to little more than robots. I thought the way the flaws within The Society dawn on her ever so slowly and subtly was fantastic and built a steady tension that kept me hooked throughout. Ky absolutely stole my heart, vulnerable and strong in equal measures these two characters give each other the strength and courage to dare to want more from life and had a gentle chemistry. The relationship between Cassia and her grandfather is particularly touching. In The Society anything deemed unnecessary has been destroyed, and only 100 each of paintings, historical stories and poetry etc have been preserved. Yet it’s with the poetic words of Dylan Thomas that Cassia’s grandfather makes his greatest gift to her. This was beautiful and I adored how words still had the power to affect and inspire Cassia. Her Grandfathers story is particularly horrifying, as I realised just what was happening I felt sick. And very angry.
Matched absolutely lived up to my expectations. It’s a quietly powerful book that will have you thinking endlessly afterwards. Condie’s writing grips you and moves you along effortlessly at an alarming pace. I started reading this book on a train journey and almost missed my stop not once but twice, so engrossed I was in this sinister and completely believable world. With characters that will capture your heart and soul and a stunning romance to completely sweep you away, Matched is an amazing, thought provoking book and one that I won’t forget in a hurry. My one complaint is that I can’t wait to read more. With the scene fully set for a sequel at the end I’m left anxious to follow Cassia’s story. I thought I’d read my book of the year already, now I have a tie on my hands!