To celebrate the release of the Hunger Games movie, I decided to read another dystopian novel I've been hearing a lot about. I've seen ads in all sorts of magazines and in book stores for the book Matched by Ally Condie. One of my friends, Ashley, told me that Ally Condie was a Utah author. This peaked my interest because it's so great that Utah writers are gaining recognition like this. It's inspiring to people like me, who want to write.
The book begins very beautifully:
"Now that I've found the way to fly, which direction should I go into the night? My wings aren't white or feathered; they're green, made of green silk, which shudders in the wind and bends when I move- first in a circle then in a line, finally in a shape of my own invention. The black behind me doesn't worry me; neither do the stars ahead."
This who section examines the thoughts of the main character as opposed to legitimate actions of Cassia, the main subject of the story. This book takes place in a future society, I presume in America, that is run by an entity known as the Society. They have officials who monitor the provinces and the outer regions surrounding the main lands. Most of this society is extremely technologically advanced and we begin the book with one of the new policies in the society. At the age of seventeen, everyone is matched with their future husband or wife. The process is based on science and compatibility and matches are made to promote optimal results for the marriage, as well as for the children. Through this matching process, many of the horrible diseases that plague our society have been eradicated such as cancer and brain disorders because of the near perfect genes we all have.
In addition to the matching process, the Society even controls meal portions and exercise. Each person gets exactly the calories necessary for their existence and exercises at the right pace to reach the maximum heart rate for their size and age. So really, all freedom of choice is mostly gone. Sure you get to choose how you exercise... but you have to do it. And you only get cake on special occasions. Not whenever you crave it. Ew.
Cassia is matched with her best friend Xander, which is rare seeing as matches rarely live in the same town. Another shock comes when Cassia looks at the microcard provided to her to learn about Xander (this is like a USB flashdrive full of information about your new boyfriend). As the microcard is closing down, another face appears on the screen. She also knows this boy, Ky Markham, a person who also lives in her neighborhood. Ky's family has for some reason offended the Society and as punishment, Ky isn't allowed to marry, making this even stranger of an ordeal. When told to forget she saw the face by an Official, of course Cassia can't do that. She has to find out who she really loves.
Overall, I wasn't a massive fan of this book. I was really expecting to like it a lot and I was a bit disappointed as I kept pressing on in the book. I ran into the same problem I did when I read Twilight years ago; I felt like the book had NO action or plot. In Twilight, they sat in biology and almost touched for about 400 pages, until finally something happened. In this book, I felt the same thing happening. All Cassia and Ky did was hike for about 300 pages, until a little thing happened. I never dreaded reading the book like I did with Twilight, I was just surprised when I realized I had thirty pages left and nothing had happened yet.
The book also got repetitive a lot and that was hard to deal with. Every time I turned a page, it said the same thing. "Blah blah I love Xander but KY is so dangerous and I have to know... I have to know blah blah but the society blah." Love triangles have gotten harder because of other books and it's hard to reinvent them, I get it. I was only sad because I didn't feel like I really knew any of the characters at all. Cassia likes words, Xander is a good friend, Ky is sexy and dangerous. That's about all I got. Pretty archetypal Twilight.
There was a great subplot about poetry and the importance of creating words that I really enjoyed... Only it happened at the beginning for a few pages, and then it seemed to lose a bit of its importance.
A little background. In this society, people are allowed to keep one "token" from their family past and the time before the society. Cassia has a compact that belonged to her grandparents. When they go over to her grandfather's house on the day of his death (oh yeah... the Society has decided that everyone dies when they are 80 because that is the optimal age to die. Anywhoooo....) her grandfather shows her a piece of poetry on real paper. This poem is not one that Cassia is familiar with. The Society has also decided to keep only one hundred songs, one hundred books, one hundred poems, art pieces, and movies and so on and destroyed all the rest of them, thinking that it was much too much stimulation and competition to deal with. This poem is a big deal then, especially because it is hand written, so old, and clearly illegal.
When this subplot was introduced, I thought it was very cool. A hidden poem with a deep history, SIGN ME UP! But then, the poem drifted away and we never finished the story of how it was important. I'm assuming it will be finished in the follow up books but... eh.
What I did really enjoy about this book and the author's writing was the society she created. It was a very together society for being dystopian and covering up a war. Everyone seemed very... ok with how things were, which is an entirely different spin than say, The Hunger Games. It was also very technological. Cassia reveals that she doesn't know how to write as now they only teach people how to type. All of the meals are delivered to them at the correct time for eating, everyone has a personal reader like a Nook or a Kindle, and video port screens work as phones. I don't know how much I buy THAT amount of technological advancement, just knowing a war had to occur in order for this society to evolve but it's still awesome. And sad. Who what's just 100 books? NOBODY EVER.
The author also had wonderful little bits of philosophy throughout the book. She really is a beautiful writer, I just felt that the plot nor the characters were quite developed enough. But really, she is a wonderful writer. Her words are amazing. Get a taste of this gem:
"The government has computers that can do sorts much faster than we can, of course, but we're still important. You never know when technology might fail.... There's a difference between knowledge and technology. Knowledge doesn't fail us."
...Right? So good. And so applicable and important to know. In the age we are in where technology is taking over everything, maybe we need to think about slowing down. Try surviving in a power outage when everything you own needs charging. YIKES.
Or this gem:
"Every minute you spend with someone gives them a part of your life and takes part of theirs."
Awesome. She also consistently made me feel unsafe about the Society by constantly pairing the words "choice" and "danger." This is such a controlled society. At first glance it seems great, but then you realize how trapped and scared you are, then it's less fun. Kinda like being an adult. WOOF.
All in all, I'd give this book a 2.5 out of 5 stars. It's a decent read for writers but by way of plot, I wasn't a fan. Kinda my fault for being such a megafan of The Hunger Games and comparing the two but hey, that book set a high bar. If any of you have read this book, I'd love to hear your thoughts as well!
Until next time, happy reading! Send me your book recommendations if you have them, I'd be happy to check them out and review them all! Leave any comments below; I'd love to hear them!