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“IN THE SOCIETY, OFFICIALS DECIDE.
WHO YOU LOVE. WHERE YOU WORK. WHEN YOU DIE.
Cassia has always trusted their choices. It’s hardly any price to pay for a long life, the perfect job, the ideal mate. So when her best friend appears on the Matching screen, Cassia knows with complete certainty that he is the one…until she sees another face flash for an instant before the background fades to black. Now Cassia is faced with impossible choices: between Xander and Ky, between the only life she’s known and a path no one else has ever dared to follow – between perfection and passion.”
Where do I begin? Matched is about a young girl, two different boys, their every move strictly calculated by a government system called the Society that defines and confines each individual in their world. Everything – culture, technology, music, education, careers, activities, knowledge – has been pared down because an overabundance of choices leads to misery and failure. Every thought, emotion and intention is closely monitored and no one questions it because that’s the way it’s always been. People are told exactly what to do. Any deviation and an individual can be classified into a different part of society. For the most part, it appears that people are content and the Society is viewed as a just and fair organization providing all their necessary needs in a structured and orderly manner. But then they don’t know any other way.
It is with this backdrop that Cassia slowly awakens to realize that this supposed utopia may not be all that ideal. Because of a simple error at the Matching ceremony when she is paired up first with her best friend, Xander and then sees that she is also paired with Ky, a boy she barely knows, Cassia begins to question the rules she has always obeyed. She begins to wonder what’s real and what’s pre-determined by the Society. The budding friendship between Cassia and Ky is the catalyst that propels her into the unknown where she has to come to grips with the dilemma she faces – do what has been chosen for her and conform or risk everything to create her own life.
Cassia is an impressive protagonist who emerges into her own. She’s reserved, a characteristic that’s expected of everyone who lives in this society. She’s not a rule breaker and is genuinely happy to have Xander be chosen as her future mate. However, as she gets to know Ky, she becomes slightly unhinged to learn that there's a different world beyond theirs that she's been oblivious too all this while. Ky’s definitely not the archetypal bad boy. Unlike everyone else in this particular “province”, he came from one of the outer provinces where circumstances were the opposite for him. Before his aunt and uncle adopted him, his early life was marred by misfortune – something he's not supposed to talk about. He has revealed little of himself and his past until Cassia becomes more important to him. Although he's a smart kid with great potential, he has his own motives and prefers to be perceived as average in order to stay under the radar while he quietly bends the rules.
Cassia and Ky’s growing bond would certainly meet with disapproval so they must be careful about how they conduct themselves publicly. Despite the physical constraints it’s amazing how Ally Condie manages to make the simple gesture of a smile or a hand on the arm be so sensual. I can't believe I'm saying this because I myself love a good make-out session in a story but the minimal physical intimacy here is a good thing. Without that distraction you can actually witness the beauty of Cassia and Ky falling in love. Their precious few stolen moments during regulated activities are opportunities for them to be authentic. Their personal revelations come bare and their language is so simple. Each discovery they make about each other has such a profound impact on them. I was so drawn to these characters and their emotional depth that I even started to feel nervous and protective of them.
I feel Ally Condie has done something so remarkable here. She's written a beautiful love story about two people who are not only discovering the power of their own individuality but also their purpose amid a disturbing political setting. Now that they have dared to question, the fight begins. Look for Crossed, the second in the trilogy that comes out November 1.
P.S. I was listening to this song in the car after I finished the book and somehow made this Cassia and Ky's theme song. I tend to do this with books I read where I produce a soundtrack in my mind. In this particular case, I think the lyrics for the most part speak for them. In fact, I don't think this song would mean as much to me if it weren't for them.