"The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid." — Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Matched by Ally Condie

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Summary: Cassie is assigned to marry her best friend, but suddenly imagines her life with someone else. 

I love dystopian fiction. I love young adult novels. I love strong female characters. This book had all of it, but I didn't love this book. It was only okay.

Cassie is excited to learn that her government-approved Match is none other than her best friend Xander. But when Cassie takes the data box home, she sees another boy's face inside - that of Ky Markham, also a school friend from her neighborhood.

Cassie's life is so carefully monitored that she is relieved when an Official comes to talk to her about the mix-up with her Matching box. Then Cassie and Ky are assigned to exercise together, and they start a romance. Cassie is torn between the expected duty of marrying Xander, her dear friend, and the excitement of kissing Ky, the man she actually got to choose.

Then we come to find out that Cassie was deliberately thrown together with Ky as a test. Could she follow the rules or was she dangerous to Society?

The Society was reminiscent of 1984, with bits of The Declaration and some of Gattaca. Every action in life is governed, with sleep tags, exercise tags, meals carefully monitored to provide optimum nutrition for people. The Society had Officials choose the 100 Paintings, 100 Songs, 100 Poems worth saving, since too many choices made people upset. People are also assigned to die at age eighty, since that was determined to be the optimum age.

I was disappointed in this book, likely because so many people recommended it so highly. This is definitely a typical Young Adult novel, but it spent too much time on explanations and took too long to get to the plot. That Cassie and Ky's love was engineered by Officials was also predictable. To be fair, there were some interesting questions in here: If you're allowed to choose who you love, can you ever have love in an arranged marriage? Or maybe scientists do have a point when they make Matches for optimum health and smooth running of Society.  I would and could discuss the Society with others since it does present some interesting moral and health issues. The author deliberately left the ending open for a sequel, so I expect others will read this series as well, but I'm done.

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