December 16, 2010

Matched: In A Nutshell

Cassia is set to enjoy everything about her Match Banquet: her green silk dress, the delectable food, the excitement of it all. Her only worry is exactly who the Society will pair her with. When it turns out to be her best friend Xander, she couldn't be happier.

That is, until she inserts her microcard into her port to find out more about her Match...and there's a different boy's face on the screen. Someone she knows. Ky Markham.

Is it all a mistake? Or is there something else going on? Distraught, Cassia begins to question...and soon enough she has much more serious worries.

Matched by Ally Condie

One sentence sum-up: the story of a girl struggling to find her place in a society determined to find it for her.

My reaction: The hype around Matched was huge and I was definitely really excited for it. While it wasn't quite what I expected (what highly anticipated book ever is?), it was still a beautifully written novel. I was a little lost at the very beginning, but soon enough I started to get a feel for the Society and Cassia's life there. It is written all in present tense, which is not my favorite format, but Condie's prose is gorgeous and powerful, and you get the sense that she thought carefully about every single sentence she crafted. Even some of the smallest scenes are imbued with symbolic meaning.

At first I wasn't too sure how well I would connect with the main character, partly because the writing style is distancing; Cassia thinks about herself almost as though she's outside looking in. While normally this would make me say, "Show, don't tell," I realized that for a dystopian novel, this approach could work. It's like we can see the effect of being brought up in the Society through Cassia's style of contemplation. Her personality at the start is muted, her worries defined by the confines of the life she has always known. But she grows throughout the novel, her emotions awakening as her relationship with Ky blossoms and she starts to think more critically about everything she once took for granted.

I've heard some remarks that Matched was too close to The Giver, and certainly I can see some similarities. But that's to be expected with any dystopian, I think. Matched also made me think of Fahrenheit 451, Brave New World, 1984, and We (although not all at the same time!) So what? It's still its own story. I really enjoyed the fact that Condie creates a society that at first glance doesn't seem all that bad. Indeed, at one point I distinctly remember thinking, "Well, it kind of makes sense that they do it this way, what's so terrible about that?" The point is later driven home, however, that it's the very nature of such a society - controlling with the illusion of choice - that is so dangerous.

Best aspect: The romance. For more spoilery specifics, highlight the white text:

The sweetly illicit love between Cassia and Ky. Condie didn't need any steamy elements to create a relationship that feels true, and she conveys quite a lot with only glances and brief touches. I loved that Cassia and Ky connected intellectually and emotionally, that they had things in common: their enjoyment of hiking, their appreciation of poetry. It felt like a perfect fit. I really liked Ky's character. He nicely balanced strength and vulnerability, and he is the trigger for Cassia's growth. Plus, he managed to pull off remarkably romantic lines without sounding sappy. (Team Xander? What's that? In my mind there really wasn't any love triangle. You can tell from the beginning who Cassia is truly drawn to.)

Also, just generally the characters were very mature in this novel, which is a nice change. They're teens, but because of the way they've been brought up, they don't angst nearly so much as you find in many YA novels. (There is still some angst because of the uncertain nature of particular relationships, of course.) They have jobs and they're Matched at seventeen, so they seemed to understand responsibility more.

If I could change something... Well, I was expecting more action in Matched. For a dystopian novel, it grows gradually and subtly, and the end of the book is really only the beginning for Cassia. I'm sure there'll be lots more to come in Crossed, because I got the feeling that Condie has planned this series thoughtfully. She's laid all the groundwork in Matched for a bigger story, but Matched itself focuses more on the characters, their relationships and introducing readers to the Society than it does on plot. This being the case, a lot of time is spent on Cassia's budding awareness of her world and worry about her future, so that did get somewhat repetitive.

Also, some of the messages were a bit too obvious and overstated for me (though I might have noticed this less when I was a teen), and I thought Cassia came to a few of her realizations rather suddenly. Still, these are fairly minor quibbles.

Hopes for the sequel? More Ky! More action! Also, answers to lots of spoilery questions (highlight to read): What happened in the past that no one but Xander can remember? Who put Ky in the matching pool and why? Who is the "Enemy" and how did this war start?


I could pull practically any line from this book and it would make a good quote. But here's one I quite liked:

For what is the point of having something lovely if you never share it?

It would be like having a poem, a beautiful wild poem that no one else has, and burning it.

After a moment, I open my eyes and glance over at Ky. He doesn't look back, but I know he knows I'm watching. The music is soft, slow. His chest rises and falls. His lashes are black, impossibly long, the exact color of his hair.

Ky is right. I will never hear this song the same way again.

Recommend for: anyone who falls for a tale of two people trying to be together despite the odds. Especially when the Society claims they can predict those odds.

Final verdict: 4.5 shooting stars.

Author's website:


  1. I just got Matched out my school library yesterday so this was good timing! You've explained your thoughts really well here. Your description of who you would reccommend it for really fits me, classic romance against the odds stories nearly always go down well. I read the first chapter and loved it so I'm really looking forward to reading it after Christmas!

  2. Fabulous review, Danya! I completely agree with your assessment. I think writing this book from the present tense is quite appropriate for this book. Society is all that Cassia knows and she doesn't see what's wrong with it. Honestly, I didn't either at first, but I think that's what makes the book powerful. Glad you enjoyed it as much as I did! :)

  3. Still haven't read this yet. Your comment about there being not a whole lot of action seems to be a common one from the reviews I've read but hopefully, like you said, there will be much more to come in Crossed now that she's given us the background.

  4. Danya! Beautiful review I honestly could not agree with you more, we are very much of the same mind on this one! I didn't relate to Cassia at first and then as she learned to relate to Ky, I started connecting to her. And their relationship I thought was beautifully executed, so understated but certainly not lacking in any emotional power. Can't wait for book 2!

  5. Great review. I enjoyed reading your thoughts on the writing style. I've heard it is beautifully written, but you really dug into that aspect. Appreciated.

  6. I haven't read Matched yet but it seems the amount of world building is a repetitive theme in reviews for Matched. I'm going to get around to reading it sometime in the future, but here's to hoping there will be more action in the sequel.

  7. Great review! I actually really liked that Matched wasn't particularly action-packed. That's a great point that Condie has laid the groundwork for the sequel. Ky is pretty awesome, and her writing was gorgeous. I really felt for the characters and the tension built through tiny glances or the brush of a hand is always better than any real resolution (to me at least).


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