It’s about time someone wrote a dystopian novel for our generation. Ally Condie’s first novel of her planned series, “Matched,” certainly fills that void. For you avid classic literature readers out there, this book is “Twilight” meets Ayn Rand’s “Anthem.” You’ve got the typical “perfect” society created by an oppressive government, except a new ingredient has been added to the established recipe: a teenage love triangle reminiscent of Edward versus Jacob.
Cassia lives in a world where there is no danger. No one is overweight thanks to the uniform nutritional and tasteless meals provided by the government. No one is violent due to the fear of being abolished from society. Diseases like cancer have been eradicated by careful genetic manipulation. And life spans have increased by bounds, but overpopulation is no concern because the officials poison the oldest members of society after a certain number of years. This may sound a bit twisted, but no one in the city seems to recognize the absurdity of not having any choices in life. Jobs are chosen based on skill level, daily activities are planned for all, and the officials monitor all behavior, even brain activity during sleep. The biggest catch, however, is that the government also selects mates for its citizens.
This certainly sounds bizarre too, but most teenagers in this society spend their years daydreaming about their “match banquet,” the ceremony where their genetically compatible spouse is selected for them. This is where the story begins. It is revealed that Cassia has been matched with her very best friend, Xander, which is a highly unusual but very comfortable situation. Cassia is satisfied to know her life partner will be someone she already loves and trusts until she sees another face on the matching screen that isn’t Xander. Surprisingly, this person is not a stranger either, but it is impossible that he could be her destiny. The face she sees belong to Ky, a casual friend of hers who is an aberration, or a partial outcast, because of the “crimes” of his parents. Aberrations are never allowed to marry; yet Cassia is transfixed by the idea that Ky could be meant for her.
Being an outsider means that Ky is different from the others. He actually knows how to write letters, a skill that is forbidden to learn in the society. Instead, everyone types into their datapods and other computer devices. Ky has experienced life in other lands; he has seen war, he has seen pain, but he has also seen freedom. This perspective is fascinating to Cassia. However, falling in love with Ky is a dangerous option. So which should Cassia choose: the safe, relatively happy life with kind and dependable Xander, or will she follow the rocky and unbeaten path to be with Ky?
This story is perfect for young adult readers, especially those looking for a new series to fall in love with. It’s exciting, it’s understandable, but it’s also eye opening. It’s not hard to imagine our very own society treading down this road, especially when it is explained that this new world was created after the past generation destroyed itself with its limitless possibilities. Could we see a day when we would need to be restricted and controlled in this manner? And would it be worth losing our ability to make our own decisions in order to have peaceful, healthy and mediocre lives for everyone?
Have you read “Matched?” Discuss your thoughts on the book below.