17 November 2011

Matched by Allie Condie

Allie Condie
(Allyson Braithwaite Condie)
Dutton Books

Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl – the women who wrote Beautiful Creatures and Beautiful Darkness – claim that this book is “a brave new world that readers from Twilight to The Hunger Games will claim as their own” (from Matched book jacket).  Now, I’m not sure if the words “a brave new world” are bolded to make reference to Aldus Huxley’s book, but if so, I have to whole heartedly disagree.  This book is pretty darn good, but it is not, in any way, the “new” form of A Brave New World.  However, it is a book that will appeal to both crowds that loved Twilight and The Hunger Games (the movie is on its way people!  Get excited!!).  In fact, I’d go as far as saying that Cassia really is Katniss stuck in Bella’s world…or...maybe the other way around.
Cassia lives in a world where all decisions are determined by “Officials” – where you will live, what job you will have, how much food you get, etc.  The book starts out with Cassia attending her Match banquet – the celebration where she, and many other teens her age, will find out who they are to be “matched” with.  Shockingly, Cassia is not only matched with someone she knows, she’s matched to her best and lifelong friend Xander.  It’s very rare to be matched with someone you know.  The next day when Cassia tries to view all the information about her match (even though she already knows him so well), something strange happens.  She sees someone else.  Someone else she knows.  Ky lives in her neighborhood and she, Ky and Xander have grown up together and spend much of their recreation time together.  Now she must figure out which of the two boys is her “true” match, and as she deals with her feelings for both boys, she learns that her perfect society is far from it.
Cassia is much like Bella in that she must choose between two “matches” that are both good for her – one is safer, one fits her better.  She doesn’t want to hurt either of them, in fact she tries very hard to protect both of them.  She’s also like Bella in that she doesn’t know her own strength (I know there are many people out there who would completely disagree with me that Bella is a very strong female character, but whatever, she is).  The difference is that Cassia is taught and encouraged to be strong – by her society and her grandfather.  Bella just doesn’t think or know how strong she is.  However, the difference between Bella and Cassia is that Bella is drawn to Edward for reasons she doesn’t understand.  The idea of Ky is put into her mind by the mixed up match.
Initially, the correlation between Cassia and Katniss was difficult for me to see.  From the get-go Katniss knows that Panem is massively defective, and Panem is designed to keep people down.  The Society in which Cassia lives tries to convince the citizens of its perfection and goodness.  Katniss is a rebel from day one, whereas in Matched, Cassia fights against her initial feelings of rebellion and consistently tries to be a “good citizen”.  However, as the book goes on, I can totally see the correlation between the two young women.  Both understand that they are, more or less, pawns in their respective societies.  Both are forced to put on “shows”, both are forced to do things in order to keep their loved ones safe, and both make choices that classify them as “rebels” simply because they want to protect others.
And now that I’ve compared the crap out of these three heroines, let’s just talk about Matched for a second.  It really is an excellent YA novel.  It has the action, internal struggle, rebellion and cute boys that are required of any good YA novel.  It’s definitely a girl book – the romance plays too much a part in the story for most male readers to get into it.
I don’t know that it will have the same adult-reader appeal that Hunger Games and Twilight did (though I still scratch my head at the adult appeal of Twilight.  Yes, I’m an adult who loved it, but...hello…I’m a YA Librarian.  It’s kinda my job).  This might stem from my current state of the blahs about YA lit.  However, I also think the romance-strand of the book is a little too teenage girl for adults to be able to identify with.  Or, I might be a complete romantic cynic (probably).  In any case, I look forward to purchasing the book for my school library, but won’t necessarily be passing it on to my adult friends.

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