Cassia has always been comfortable with the decisions that the Society makes — where to live, what to eat, whom to marry, when to have children, what job to do, and when to die.  Cassia is seventeen years old and on her way to the Match Banquet, where she will learn the identity of the boy who has been chosen as her Match.  Almost all of the seventeen-year-olds are Matched with people who are complete strangers, but Cassia is lucky enough to be Matched with her best friend, Xander.  Only later, when she examines the microcard that is supposed to contain the data on the boy that she will marry at age twenty-one, she sees not one but two different faces on the screen.  The first face is Xander’s, and the second face is Ky’s.

So begins Matched by Ally Condie, one of the most intriguing science fiction stories for teens since The Hunger Games trilogy.  Lest you look at the cover and immediately categorize this book as “chick lit,” I should add that this story combines elements from many old and new science fiction stories.  There’s dystopian romance like in Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games.  There’s the disparity between “official” and “unofficial” society like in Scott Westerfeld’s Uglies series.  There’s constant governmental supervision like in George Orwell’s 1984.  There’s the issue of the past and future of literacy like in Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451.  There’s a society that chooses to suppress much of its history, like in Lois Lowry’s The Giver.  There’s a job that feels like a game but which actually manipulates people’s lives like in Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game.  And there’s the hope that young people can try to fix (or at least break) a flawed society like in Jeanne DuPrau’s The City of Ember.

Cassia is a well-drawn and empathetic heroine, and readers will be drawn into her mind as she starts questioning the Society’s rules for the first time and starts making atypical (and dangerous) decisions.  Readers will root for her as she tries to figure out whether or not she is brave enough to veer from the timeline that the Society has set for her, or if the Society had anticipated her decisions all along.  And here’s where I want to add that while my favorite thing about this book was the character of Cassia, that the Society itself came in as a very close second.  Condie put a lot of thought into designing this world, and the finished result was well worth the effort.  As we read more and more about the place where all citizens are required to carry a red pill, a blue pill, and a green pill at all times, where a whole family can be relocated at a moment’s notice, and where people are guaranteed to die at age 80, we get more and more worried for Cassia’s future. 

Matched promises to generate as much buzz as The Hunger Games, and readers will be clamoring for the sequel to find out what happens next.  According to the author, they’ll have to wait until November 2011, which is when the second book, Crossed, is going to be released.  This will be followed by the third book in the trilogy, which will be released in November 2012.

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