In the Society, Officials decide. Who you love. Where you work. When you die.
Cassia has always trusted the Society to make the right choices for her: what to read, what to watch, what to believe. So when Xander's face appears on-screen at her Matching ceremony, Cassia knows with complete certainty that he is her ideal mate . . . until she sees Ky Markham's face flash for an instant before the screen fades to black.
The Society tells her it's a glitch, a rare malfunction, and that she should focus on the happy life she's destined to lead with Xander. But Cassia can't stop thinking about Ky, and as they slowly fall in love, Cassia begins to doubt the Society's infallibility and is faced with an impossible choice: between Xander and Ky, between the only life she's known and a path that no one else has dared to follow.
I finally read this book.
I'm not going to lie; I was interested in reading it partially because this book sold for seven figures. That's, well, that's a lot of money. I was also interested in reading it because of the mixed reviews I'd read.
But really, if we're being honest here, the real reason I finally bought this was the gorgeous cover. I truly doubt this would've sold half as many copies if it weren't for the stunning cover work.
But to the book.
I'm going to do as I did in another review of mine and list the things I didn't like first, so I can get those over with. Then I can talk about what I liked.
I didn't . . . connect. Am I saying I disliked Cassia? No. Not at all. There were actually only a few times where I got upset/annoyed with her. My main problem with her is that she was just nothing special. Nothing memorable. She's not one of those MC's who you remember years after reading them.
The next bit is both praise and criticism. First, I must praise Condie on being able to make both boys in a love triangle likable, not being heavy-handed and making one such a terrible option that the outcome is entirely obvious, even though the outcome was entirely obvious. But on the other hand, while I liked both Ky and Xander, especially Ky, I didn't love them. They're kind of like Cassia in the sense that there's really nothing wrong with them, they're just not especially memorable, to me.
Most of the other side characters don't stick in my mind, either. Two I did like were her grandfather and Bram. I felt like they were characterized much better than Cassia herself.
On the one hand, I did get that . . . that feel you should get from a dystopian, the very distinct feeling that you are not in your world as you know it.
But on the other hand, I was never really able to picture the setting. I just couldn't picture it, the air trains, the City Hall, even the Burroughs. I didn't feel like I got a good sense of the layout of this Province, or, for that matter, the layout of the Society. Which continent is it on? Because since it doesn't seem to be separated by an ocean, it must be all on one continent. What are the other Province's names? How many are there? How big are they in comparison to the Outer Provinces?
I was too confused with this. Honestly, I finished this book still feeling confused on some things. I feel like Condie tried to add too much to her futuristic, choice-free society, and was unable to readily explain all her elements.
Also, I can't ignore how painfully similar some of this is to The Giver. While The Giver was more middle grade than YA and was narrated by a young boy, and while his society was less dramatic and more horrific than the one Cassia lives in, there are dozens of similarities one can draw between the two dystopians, and that's a bit upsetting.
Um . . . what?
In the last, like, fifty pages, as they're taking Ky away, his uncle suddenly speaks of this Enemy the Society is fighting and losing a battle against. What Enemy? Why have we not heard one single mention of this Enemy before, and why is Cassia not surprised to hear about it considering she's never heard about it before?
That really confused me. I hope this is explained more in the following books.
I'd expect a book that sold for as much as this did to be just about flawless in the grammar department. This wasn't. I caught several typos, and there were numerous cases of incorrect punctuation, usually involving semi-colons and commas.
Also, this is a bit of a nitpick, but Cassia "teased" people way too much. There have to be words for this action other than "teased" and "joked."
Sometimes Cassia would take these big leaps and leave me wondering how she got from Point A to Point B. Like, she'd be thinking about one thing and suddenly, conveniently remember/think of something else. Like when she was sorting Ky, and suddenly, out of the blue asked herself why they hadn't been allowed to share from Grandfather's plate after not wondering this since the beginning of the book. While it might seem logical looking back, I'm pretty sure the average person would not have made that connection.
Sometimes the dialogue was very sweet, sometimes it was beautiful, sometimes it was powerful, but never did it feel realistic to me. I tried saying some of the things they said out loud and I sounded absolutely ridiculous. Sometimes their dialogue read so much like narration that I almost felt like Condie had just accidentally put quotation marks around it. Also, for a while it seemed like they were talking a bit differently than we do, with few to no contractions and a different sort of . . . style, for lack of a better word. But then the speak became just like we would talk today, when they weren't talking like the narrator.
And then Cassia's inner thoughts . . . I just felt like that was Condie speaking directly to the reader and trying to make us think things, because there is just no way someone would think in the way she does. Often people's thoughts are just random, disjointed sentences, so when thoughts start reading like a narrator telling a story, you know there's a problem.h
Ky and Cassia. Now, I'm not going to go ahead and say that they didn't have chemistry, because they did. I could see how they fell for each other. But I feel like I didn't actually see them falling for each other. I'm having a hard time putting how I feel into words. It's just--I felt like one moment they were just sort-of distant friends who'd suddenly realized there was more to the other than they knew, and then boom, insta-love. While in the technical timeline of events they grew to love each other over at least a month, the way it happened in the book, it felt way too quick for me.
Why Cassia suddenly started wishing for change. Why she wanted her whole world to change.
So she could be with a guy.
I know, I know. Matched is a dystopian love story. I get that. But I feel like all it really came down to was Ky. That's the reason she wanted to overthrow society's rules. Before she knew more about the darker aspects of the Society, she wanted to overthrow it not because it was oppressive or to give everyone a better life, but because she wanted to be with a guy that wasn't her Match.
Also, something I usually like in these sort of stories is seeing the main character slowly realize how flawed their society is, and I didn't feel that with Cassia. I felt like I just flipped the page and suddenly she thought the Society was terrible and evil, after thinking it was perfect for so long. I didn't really see that development, and for a long time I didn't get that emotional depth of everything you've ever believed in being false.
My last big problem that I can remember at the moment is that there were some scenes that I thought should have been more suspenseful, more important, and they weren't. It sometimes felt like big events were treated like the expected.
Now that we're done with the bad, I'm just gonna talk about the good for a while. But I warn you, I'm tired, so this might be a lot shorter and more ramble-y than the above section.
The poetry. I loved how Condie used poetry to help show Cassia what she was missing, and as a way to connect her to Ky. Her love for language and her desire to write made her more relatable to me than really anything else, because I myself am a writer. It was also the cause for a number of really powerful moments that I loved.
I loved Ky telling his story to Cassia. Even though I can't imagine most people, especially guys, actually writing what he did, it was still a great plot device and when we find out what happened to his parents, his worlds literally gave me chills.
The writing itself. I've seen this compared to Delirium more times than I can count, and something I've heard a lot is "similar concept, but Delirium is better written." While I can't say I've read Delirium, I can say with confidence that I really love Condie's style. She has a beautiful way with words, and has that innate ability to make certain descriptions and certain scenes really magical. She also is a killer at beginning and ending scenes/chapters. It always bugs me when an author cuts off scenes or chapters at a really bad spot, but that is not something to worry about with Matched. Her endings were spot-on.
The repeated motif of do not go gently. I feel like that's so appropriate for a dystopian that, as most dystopians do, involves rebellion. Do not go gently.
Her parents' love. While this is startlingly similar to The Giver in some aspects, one thing that is very different is the family relationships. In The Giver, families feel nothing for one another. But here, Cassia's parents truly loved each other, and their children, and their children loved them, and they all loved Grandfather. And it was really nice to see their family united like that even amidst the chaos.
I debated between a three star and a four star, but as you can see, I settled with four. Some might be confused; my list of things I disliked is much longer than that of the things I liked. But frankly, it's much easier to talk about things you don't like than things you do, and I'm tired.
I'd recommend this read for dystopian lovers, but if you're not a fan of romance, stay away, because make no mistake, the bare bones of this are not dystopia; this is a romance in a dystopian setting.