Margo Berendsen's Reviews > Matched

Matched by Ally Condie
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's review
Jul 14, 2010

really liked it
bookshelves: 2012-my-reads, ya-science-fiction, young-adult, dystopia, science-fiction
Read from May 10 to 15, 2012

This is a literary, young adult science fiction book addressing ethical issues - lines that we don't cross now (at least not openly) but ones that could easily be crossed in the future. It is NOT your typical fast-paced, lots-of-action YA dystopian. It's slow and thoughtful and beautiful in a spare, sad way, and yet there is certainly enough to keep you turning the pages: micro-tension is used effectively to keep you riveted. Not to mention the life-or-death, freedom-or-slave stakes that are always running deep beneath the surface.

The title "Matched" has more than its obvious meaning.

Obvious meaning: this futuristic Society finds perfect genetic Matches for marriage. They allow some margin of freedom: if you don't want to marry the person you're matched to, you can elect to remain a Single for the rest of your life. The mystery is, why did they match Cassia to two different young men?

Less obvious meaning - would be a spoiler, but I think I can give this hint: one of the things that the main character, Cassia, works at for hours everyday is sorting things. This is a Society that sorts EVERYTHING.

I loved the poetry. There is actually very little poetry: only 3 fragments of poems, to be precise (only 100 poems have been approved by the Society. And only 100 songs. Only 100 paintings. Only 100 histories). But the implications of those few verses, and the way they are woven into the theme, is masterfully done.

My hands sweat a little as I pull off the clothes that smell of forest and put them in the laundry receptacle. Then, in my other plainclothes, stripped of everything that might look or smell like poetry, I leave my room.

There is a very under-stated love triangle in this story; you can hardly even call it a love triangle. Don't expect any declarations of love (or lust) that will set off a romantic buzz- but the beautiful prose has its own minor-key touch of romance:

Ky says, "Cassia," and closes his eyes, and I close mine too so that I can meet him in the dark.

And another one that made me catch my breath:

His lips move silently, and I know what he says: the words of a poem that only two people in the world know.

This book adheres to particular literary style, very similar to Jodi Picoult's books, where almost every scene ends with a symbolic thought. For instance, one scene is with Ky and Cassia riding together on an air train. "We reach his stop first. He climbs off without looking back." This isn't a statement of his personality or attitude: it is symbolic of the difference in their classes that separates them socially.

Used too much, I find these symbolic scene closures too heavy-handed. But this book avoids using them too much. Instead, they add to the overall pensive tone.


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