November 8, 2010

Matched by Ally Condie

9 of 10: This dystopian novel was just begging me to like it. The Giver plus romance? Sign me up. Matched turned out to be even better than I'd expected.

I joined The Giver party late - I didn't read it until I was nineteen. I had no idea what to expect from it (I'm sorry, people, but it really does have a ludicrously terrible cover, I'm afraid). But when I finally did read it, I loved it. It was one of the first dystopian books I'd read, and I fell in love with the genre mainly because of this book.

So when I received an advance copy of this book and the letter that went along with it said it was similar to The Giver, but aimed at young adults and had a romantic story line, well, you know I was sold. I read it within a week of it arriving.

Cassia is called up for her Match Banquet the day of her seventeenth birthday. In the Society, everyone who wishes to be married is matched with their future spouse sometime between their seventeenth and eighteenth birthday.

Cassia is nervous, of course (my personal idea of purgatory, actually, might be seeing the face of the person I was supposed to marry in front of my friends and all my family for the first time. Ugh), but she's excited too.

And then, she ends up being completely shocked when the person she is matched with is one of her closest friends, Xander. They've known each other all their lives and he's handsome and funny and smart and nice. She is thrilled. (Also, being matched with someone that you know is extremely rare, so it's kind of a big deal).

Each person is given a silver box with a microcard that contains information about their match and Cassia gets one too, even though she knows Xander personally and doesn't need to know how many siblings he has, what his favorite color is, or when his birthday falls on the calendar. Still, she is curious about what kind of information might be on there, and so the next day, when she is home alone, she plugs the card into the computer to read up on him.

Except the face that appears on the screen is not Xander. It's another boy, named Ky.

And she knows him too. He was adopted by the Markham family (who live just down the street) years earlier when the Markham's son was murdered in a rare occurrence of crime in the Society. Ky, who is the Markham's nephew and lived in the Outer Provinces (read "Hicksville"), had lost his parents and so was sent to the Markhams to be raised as their son.

Ky was a nice kid although somewhat quiet and he has already left school and been placed in his occupation, which is food disposal, a very low-end job, which came as a surprise to everyone since he seemed bright enough.

Cassia is a little ill over the whole thing because it's so strange. Why did a different person show up on her microcard? Who was she supposed to be matched with? When an official pulls her aside during free time the next day to assure her it was a mistake and they're trying to find out who placed Ky's information on her card, Cassia is relieved that she's still matched with Xander and she can move forward with her life.

Except now she's curious about Ky. Especially after the Official dropped a few clues about Ky's rather mysterious past. It's like when someone tells you that so and so likes you - you suddenly notice them a lot more. 

And there are other things going on - the increased scrutiny by the Officials, her grandfather's secretive gift to her of Dylan Thomas' "Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night" poem (a poem which she's never heard, since the Society chose 100 poems to keep and destroyed the rest), her mother's increasing travel for work - that cause Cassia some unease. Is this because she's, for the first time, breaking a few rules or is something bigger going on? She doesn't know.

I'll admit, at first I thought, "Eek, is this too much like The Giver? Is it just a knock off?" And yes, there are many similarities - the arranged marriages, the assigned jobs, the pills - but it is very much its own story and goes its own direction, which thrilled me to no end.

One of my own personal standards for quality of a book is how I tell Bart about it; if I suddenly find myself spending thirty minutes telling him all the details of the book, getting excited all over again about the characters and the setting and the plot, I know it's a winner. This book was one of those - after telling him about it, I was all anxious to go read it again (Bart refuses to read it because Matched is the first of a trilogy and he does not like to read a book where he has to wait years for it to be concluded). 

This book is . . . really good, one I see myself passing around to friends and recommending when someone needs a book title. I've read a tremendous amount of lousy books this year - so many of the new YA titles have been very disappointing - but even in a good year, this book would have been a standout.

And now I'm desperately waiting for the next installment. Maybe Bart's method is better after all.

ARC received from Penguin/Dutton

17 comments:

  1. I DO prefer to put off reading a book until the whole series has been published. I hate waiting for other books to come out. But that means that I generally end up reading long after everyone else has, and that's no fun! There's just no happy medium here!

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  2. Ooh, this sounds good - I love "The Giver." Adding it to my list now!

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  3. I'm really looking forward to reading this one!

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  4. Thanks!

    I'm buying it now for a christmas gift. You always have the best recommendations!

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  5. Darn you for making me want to read these great books which probably won't show up in this Indy library until I have moved!

    But thanks for the heads up. I'll put it on my list.

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  6. Stop reviewing such amazing sounding books. I've already got a library stack a mile high by my bedside, all books recommended by you by the way. :)

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  7. Wow, that sounds really good! I'm kind of loving the cover, based on the description you gave too.

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  8. oh, i'm excited to read this. i was just saying i was in a "giver" book mood. thanks!

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  9. Sounds like another good one that will probably never be in our library.

    Uh, so you judge a book by its cover, do you? (teasing!) No matter how many times we are told not to judge, the cover does make that important first impression. Personally, I'd rather have a plain cover than one that is horrible or has nothing to to do with the book.

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  10. Before I say anything else, I'm wondering...do you know Ally Condie? Just curious.

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  11. I loved this one! I didn't think it would be as good as it was, for some reason.

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  12. I have to admit something to you- I skip most of the reviews. I'm not an avid book person. And I totally judge a book by its cover. I read this review because the book cover was so pretty! I realize that makes me sound retarded.

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  13. Another book to add to my list. Ok, stupid question....I've never read "The Giver". Who's the author?

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  14. Want! I'm sure my new tiny library won't have this.

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  15. Fabulous review. I hadn't heard of it as "The Giver + Romance", but I can see the parallel. I really need to pick this one up. It sounds like a lot of fun.

    Thanks again for a great review. :)

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  16. It sounds wonderful and I'll have to add it to my wish list. I love how it is in the retelling to Bart that the book love comes out!

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  17. Hi, I'm a blog stalker. I don't even remember how I found it but I loved the book reviews so I continue to read. I read this book on your recommendation and LOVED it! I'm excited to read more. Such an interesting concept and a good, thrilling story. Thanks for the reviews. PS. I think Ella is so cute and I loved the "pen names" you have given her. From some of my favorite books!

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