A Match Made in…Government?
Author: Ally Condie
Is there anything as grand as true love in the eyes of a 17-year-old girl? I think not. Especially a first love. Or a forbidden love! Oh, the tragedy, the ecstasy, the everlasting drama. Now imagine if that love were truly forbidden. Not by parents but by the whole of a rigid society. That’s right, Romeo and Juliette, you have company and that company lives in the YA novel Matched.
No, I’m not comparing Matched author Ally Condie to Shakespeare – only pointing out the eternal appeal of the basic tale of two young lovers torn apart by circumstances beyond their control. In the case of Matched we get a healthy mixture of social commentary with our wistful yearnings.
Cassia Reyes lives in the Society. We never know it as anything else. She lives in the city and as the book opens is preparing for her seventeenth birthday and her Match Banquet. What might that be? Well, young people in the Society have some choices to make when it comes to their life paths. They can choose to remain Singles or they can be Matched. The Society does the matching and you marry your Match and make no more than two babies, do the job the Officials determine is most suited to your abilities and then die when you’re told. Everyone is happy, healthy, safe and productive.
Cassia is ready for that life – she embraces the Society and all it offers. Her Match turns out to be a little unconventional, but not in a way that makes her unhappy. Not at first. It turns out, however, that being Matched – and being a good, docile citizen of the Society – may not be in the cards for Cassia. Her Match has competition for her heart – a heart she didn’t realize she had. As always, it’s tough being a teenager.
Condie creates a fairly typical Big Brother type society in Matched. Everything is controlled, everyone is watched, everything is planned and implemented by a governing body whose secrets are many and whose motives are suspect. It’s a quick, easy read – heavy on the romance without ever ignoring the many forms social oppression takes in the Society and just how little freedom of thought and action the citizens have in exchange for the promise of safety and security.
There’s nothing here we haven’t seen before in the likes of 1984 or Lois Lawry’s The Giver or even the recent Hunger Games trilogy. It’s closest in nature to The Giver, but the characters have less sophistication and depth. In exchange, Condie has made Cassia and her dilemma far more accessible to an audience that gobbles up romance like it was candy. The Giver is a great book, but it isn’t going to reach nearly as wide an audience as Twilight. Matched tries to bridge that gap and is reasonably successful in doing so. It isn’t a great book – the characters are a little slight and the romance a little heavy – but it is a good one. Recommended for teens (especially girls) as well as adults looking for a quick read with some basic social commentary and a penchant for YA novels.
— S. Millinocket