Tina's Reviews > Matched

Matched by Ally Condie
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's review
Feb 02, 2012

liked it
Read in February, 2012

I have a huge soft spot for young adult dystopian novels, but I was pretty disappointed with this one. It's not that it's horrible -- it's just that it's not that good either. It's very average, very bland. I didn't connect to the characters and I wasn't invested in them and the story. In fact, if you asked me to describe each character, I'd find it pretty hard to come up with a clear picture of any one of them. They're underdeveloped characters with little substance. All I know of them is what the author TELLS me. That's probably the main problem with this book: the author tells but does not show. She'll tell us Xander is intelligent, which is fine, but she doesn't proceed to show it with his actions. She'll tell us Cassia is falling in love, but the events leading up to it don't convince me of this fact. It really came out of nowhere and I nearly choked from laughter because it all felt so unrealistic. Not unrealistic in the sense that "oh this could never happen in real life but i'll suspend disbelief and go with it because it's good fiction" but unrealistic in the sense that "logic is being stomped upon and things don't connect and the author is trying to force pieces of a puzzle together that don't fit" ..

There are no flaws with any of the characters. I used to get so fired up about character flaws in other books because it would cause the characters to think ignorantly, or do incredibly stupid things sometimes that made me want to reach through the pages and shake some sense into them, etc etc, but after reading Matched, I now realize I took that for granted, and I am now more aware than ever that those flaws that evoke such emotions in me are absolutely necessary for a good novel with interesting, three-dimensional characters. I never got emotionally worked up in this novel, and I was truly just ambivalent throughout the whole thing. The only real emotion I had, and it was but a fleeting thought now and then at that, was "Poor Xander. He's portrayed as this perfect guy and he's totally getting gypped." None of the characters, not even the Officials who are supposed to be the "villains," were unlikable nor likable nor did they do anything particularly interesting.

Ally Condie writes fine (it was simple and easy to get through), but her writing gets melodramatic and forced sometimes. Not in a way that super annoyed me, but I'd notice she was trying too hard to make her words sound pretty. It didn't feel effortless and naturally-flowing the way good novels do. She'd force in unnecessary "deep" metaphors and try to end each chapter with something masquerading as something very deep and philosophical but really isn't if given a few seconds of reflection. Also, small complaint but ... I don't think teenage girls think or talk this way. Cassia is too perceptive of everyone else's motives and thoughts -- not in a way where you admire her for being so aware and able to read ppl so well, but in a way where it feels like the author, the creator of the characters, is talking instead of our main character narrator. Cassia jumps to correct conclusions about everyone's actions as soon as she sees them. She's never confused and never taken aback for long because she figures it out so fast. It's uncanny and unrealistic. She's been given knowledge only the author should have access to, so it felt like I was reading someone trying to tell a story, rather than just reading a story and becoming immersed in its world.

There wasn't much of a plot either. Nothing really happened until the last 50 pages or so. The only thing that surprised me was an event that took place around those 50 pages where (view spoiler). Most of "Matched" was just a sort-of-not-really love triangle, and not a very good one at that. There was no doubt who Cassia was going after and how she felt about each respective guy. And I didn't find Ky and Cassia's love believable in the slightest. I would believe infatuation -- that doesn't require anything more than physical attraction and surface characteristics. But love? They didn't really go through anything together and their relationship wasn't explored very well. It felt like they fell for each other for no real reason -- just (view spoiler)

This gets three stars because well .. 3 is pretty average right? Average to represent an average novel? And I didn't hate it. I never got worked up enough to feel any emotion that strong. But I did enjoy reading about their world and how different it is from ours. I enjoyed how it made me think about how freedom and choice is so important, when faced with the conflicting ideals of controlled perfection vs autonomy. I mean, is a good life still a good life, is it still fulfilling, if you played no part in bringing it about? If you don't succeed or fail on your own terms? If you never really lived on your own terms? It's a subtle message, but it made me think, so that's something.

I know all this complaining makes me sound like I hate this novel but I really didn't. It's just that I was so ambivalent and I cared so little about everything that happened, and I think maybe that in itself is worse than hate. Indifference is the opposite of love, not hate, no?

Okay, actually, looking back at it more, some parts were entertaining. I liked reading about the pills, particularly the intriguing red ones, the scenes with Grandfather, I liked the sibling relationship between Cassia and Bram (possibly because I have a little brother I love dearly as well so I can relate) ...

Maybe my expectations were too high, because the premise sounded so promising. I hear Crossed is much better, so I think I'll give it a chance and see how things turn out in Cassia's world. I mean, there is so much hinted at but left unexplored in Matched. The border wars, the Aberrations and Anomalies, all the covered-up atrocities committed by the Society? All of it has so much potential, and I AM curious to see where the author is going with all of it.
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