You wake up in the morning and dress in the same outfit you wear every day. You come downstairs to find your family dressed identically, in a house identical to all of your neighbors. As you exchange good mornings, your breakfast arrives in a slot near your kitchen. Each meal has the name of the family member to whom it belongs. The calories have been counted carefully, the nutritional value balanced so that you may stay healthy, fit, and strong. After your meal you grab your pill container. It’s small, holding just three tiny pills.
Blue, you have been told, will help you survive for three days should you run out of food and water. Green helps calm you down if you are feeling anxious. Finally, Red, the mysterious final pill which no one seems to ever remember taking. It is rumored to bring death. But why would The Society want to do that?
With your pills safe at hand, you head out the door to an air train station where you meet all of your friends, with whom you head to school. Your classes are carefully prepared and planned, all containing the same curriculum: the 100’s. 100 poems, 100 songs, 100 paintings, 100 books. All have been pre-selected by the origins of society as the only works needed. As you work and play you are being watched. Always watched.
This is life for Cassia, a teen growing up in Oria under the restrictive rule of The Society, the ruling party in Ally Condie’s dystopic novel Matched. Everything is decided for Cassia. Her every move is recorded by The Officials so that The Society might find her the perfect Match. The Matching Ceremony is the most important of all functions of The Society, as it makes the rest of one’s life possible.
For her matching ceremony Cassia wears a spring green dress and carries a valuable and prized possession, an artifact. It’s a silver compact that once belonged to her grandmother in the times before The Society. Such things are rare in Cassia’s world. Sameness is not only encouraged, but demanded. The Matching Ceremony is the only occasion where it is appropriate for citizens to dress elegantly, so Cassia’s bright green dress is in sharp contrast to her parent’s plain clothes.
The Matching Ceremony is truly a special occasion. Boys and girls from all over the country gather in halls fitted with large screens to await their match. The screens give the first glimpses of the person they are to spend the rest of their lives with. Once your match is revealed, you receive a micro card with all of the data you need to know about your match. Everything from physical appearance to favorite color. Then come the chaperoned digital meetings, carefully planned by The Officials, until finally, you meet in person. All of this excites Cassia as she nervously awaits her match.
As the screen pulls up the face of her match, she is shocked to see her very best friend Xander staring back at her. It is a statistical improbability to not only know your match, but to already be so close. After the shock, Cassia is happy that The Society has made such a perfect choice for her and she can hardly wait to get home and look at the micro card to see if there’s anything she doesn’t already know about her beloved friend. But as she puts his card into her computer port, a very odd and unexpected thing happens. The face of another boy, Ky, pops up on her screen. Ky Markham also lives in her town, and also attends school with Cassia. Could there be a mistake? Is Ky her match? Can the Society even make mistakes? And thus Cassia begins to do the very thing The Society never wants; she begins to question.
She seeks out Ky Markham, gets to know him, and finds out all she can about him. She realizes just how much they have in common, how happy she is when they are together, and how much she wishes that she had the power to choose.
In Matched ( the first book in the trilogy), Ally Condie sets up a world we all hope will never exist. A world where computers and data dictate our every move. A world where the illusion of free will is being passed off as the real thing. Together, Cassia, Ky, and Xander begin to question the world they have grown up in, in the hopes of finding others who are doing the same.
I really enjoyed the concept of this book. It is dystopia at its most extreme. As readers we are introduced to a world that seems to function perfectly on the surface. So long as the citizens never question, never wonder “what if,” it all proceeds smoothly. Once that seed of doubt is planted though, everything begins to unravel in an exciting way!
I also have to say, as a girly girl at heart, I was a complete sucker for the romance aspects. It was sweet, innocent, and completely heartwarming. If you’re interested in a healthy dose of teen romance with your dystopia, Matched is your book! And if you’re anything like me you’ll be happy to know that there is no need to worry about waiting for the next two to come out! All three books (Book 2 is Crossed and book 3 is Reached) in the trilogy have been released.
5 out of 5 Stars
Matched by Ally Condie
Penguin Group (2011)
Paperback: 400 pages