Matched by Ally Condie

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A few pages into reading Ally Condie’s novel (the first in a planned trilogy), I felt like I had stepped into The Giver. Seriously, I kept waiting for Jonas to appear at Cassia’s breakfast table. And that was the problem for me. But, let’s back up…

I enjoyed reading Matched, the story of a seventeen-year-old girl who lives in a society in which every need is anticipated and met – food, health, employment, and of course, your “match” – the person with whom you will spend the rest of your life, and is presumably your soulmate. In fact, at the beginning of the novel Cassia is preparing for her matching ceremony. Condie uses technology in really cool ways. At her ceremony, Cassia is given a microchip which shows her the person she will marry. That’s where things begin to go wrong. Cassia is matched with her best friend, Xander, but when she puts her microchip in the computer to learn more about him, a different boy’s face appears. After that, things begin to unravel.  As cracks begin to appear in her society, her questions felt like the ones a seventeen-year-old would ask. Particularly believable to me was Cassia’s obsession about the two “boys” in her life. She was totally consumed by her situation in a way that felt genuine for someone that age.

I had a few problems with the novel. Most of all, the similarities to Lois Lowry’s book, The Giver, were distracting. I know that dystopian novels share many of the same qualities, but this one felt too derivative.  Secondly, I have questions about the matching ceremony.  The ceremony matches girls to boys.  I wondered how that might make a young gay reader feel.  In fact, many details about the “society” are vague. Who are the officials? Have they made genetic changes to human beings that would account for their ability to know someone’s sexual preference? Was there a specific event that led to this control over human lives? Who made the decisions about the 100 books and 100 paintings to save? The more I think about it, the more this feels like a mixed bag.  Matched is an entertaining novel. I can think of a few middle school students who might enjoy it. Condie raises interesting questions – for example, it would be fun to make a list of 100 books, songs and paintings to save. That being said, as curious as I am about how Cassia resolves her romantic triangle, I probably won’t rush out to buy the next installment right away.

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