Author: Ally Condie
Publisher: Dutton Juvenile
Publication Year: 2010
Read: April, 2013
Dys-miss or Dys-hit: Dys-miss. **
The Quick and Dirty:
Tired dystopian clichés make the background for a typical YA love triangle. Attempts to make the book "deep" (i.e. quoting poetry) merely irritate me.
The Wordy Version:
Tolstoy’s famous quote is that every happy family is alike but every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. If only this could be applied to futuristic novels in addition to families. As far as I can tell, almost every unhappy future envisioned by novelists is unhappy for the same reason of having a fundamentally flawed socialist government taking away people’s individual freedom.
Matched is the latest YA dystopian book that I’ve read, though I could say that I’ve seen most of its ideas before in The Giver, Brave New World, and the play, Futura. Cassia is seventeen, which means that life is finally starting for her—she’s to receive her government-appointed “match” (selected for the greatest likelihood of success in marriage and co-parenting) and she’s ready to take her qualification test for her future work in the “sorting” industry. Cassia’s ready to follow this path until an official admits that another boy would be a better possible match for her if he weren’t ineligible for his birth father’s politics. As Cassia draws closer to her would-be match, she learns that her society’s seeming prosperity and happiness comes at a price for a large segment of the population, and that her society is about to face military conflict.
I found Cassia to be an insipid character, and neither of her matches to be particularly interesting. Presumably they’re all very smart—Cassia is a patterns whiz-kid, Xander is a master of games, and Ky is possibly more brilliant than both of the others—but their dialogue is dull as dirt, and Cassia’s narration is no more vivid.
Author Ally Condie tries to infuse life into the book by making Cassia and Ky memorize Dylan Thomas’s “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night,” but the poem is reduced to its title, and stripped of almost all of its emotion. I don’t know how many readers take the time to look up the complete poem (which is three-times as long as the quoted section), or “Crossing the Bar” by Tennyson, which is cited and then ignored, but if you read them fully, it’s bizarre that Condie lets Casssia’s interpretation be so limited. Seriously, what Cassia gets from the two poems her grandfather leaves her as a deathday present is an appreciation for the beauty of words (evidently the 100 surviving poems from the world don’t use evocative language?) and the idea that she should fight the establishment. She doesn’t even consider mortality as a result of reading them. Not that this presents a problem to most readers, because any mention of death from these poems is somehow not in the book.
The only thing the poetry manages to do in the context of the novel is show, very clearly, how much more quality can be found in the written word than what Cassia thinks. And this just makes me annoyed again at hoping to get more out of the book than the same tired futuristic socialist vision it promised.