by Ally Condie
Nothing is left to chance in Cassia’s world; civilization has mastered the art of planning down to the finest detail. Everything is predetermined by the Society Officials, the planners who will decide what Cassia eats each day, what her future job will be, and who she will marry. At the Match Banquet, Cassia is thrilled when it is announced that her best friend Xander is her future husband and perfect Match. But later, when she plugs into her Match microchip, it isn’t Xander’s face that she sees. Although the Society assures Cassia that the other face was a mistake, she is now left wondering, over and over: What if? What if Xander isn’t my perfect Match? What if the Society is wrong?
I really, really liked Matched. It’s not just another mediocre teen romance; instead, Matched forces its readers to stop and think about the value of choice. In this world, choices are bad things. For example, in the past, a committee (Cassia’s great-grandmother was one of its members) chose the best examples of art and culture to be celebrated and remembered by the Society. Lists were formed: the Hundred Poems, Hundred Songs, Hundred Paintings, and so on. If a painting or book didn’t make it onto the proper list, it was forgotten. Destroyed. Gone. The excess cultural clutter was no more, and this was a good thing, the Society claimed, because how can true art be appreciated when viewers are overwhelmed with excess choice?
But there are benefits to the elimination of choice, too. Cassia doesn’t have to worry about finding her purpose or whether she’ll find true love; everything’s already decided, after all! The Society knows her so well, and will always provide the best: the job best suited to her personality, the best food to keep her healthy and strong, the best Match for a husband. Think of all the stress that alleviates! Why would she need choice when she has confidence that she’s getting the best result anyway?
One of the scenes that really stuck with me was the death of Cassia’s grandfather. In the Society, eighty years has been determined as the optimum age. A person who doesn’t make it to eighty hasn’t lived a full life, but if they live past that age the quality of life suffers because the human body begins to deteriorate. So on your eightieth birthday, a Final Banquet is held, and your family is gathered to celebrate your life. That evening, you die. Isn’t it nice? No one dies alone. No one dies of horrible disease. You simply drift away. It reminded me of that disturbing scene in Soylent Green when Sol Roth “goes home” watching images of nature and listening to classical music.
Fans of Scott Westerfeld’s Uglies series will definitely enjoy Matched and its upcoming sequels. (The next book, Crossed, comes out this fall.) I’ve seen the book compared with The Giver (which I’ve never read, so I can’t confirm) and even George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four. It’s a lot of fun – check it out!
4.5 out of 5 stars