Thursday, March 29, 2012

Review: Matched by Ally Condie

I love dystopian fiction. Anyone who has followed me here at I Write, I Read, I Review likely knows this came as a surprise to me last summer when I reluctantly picked up The Hunger Games and ended up completely blown away. Anyone new to my blog can see my passion for the genre in my book selections and the reviews that tend to follow them.

Matched was one of the first books that caught my interest when I started selecting books to read and review on my blog, but it took me ages to get to it. It did not make the first batch of books I ordered because I had over-budgeted a little. And even when I did pick it up on a shopping trip with my mom in September it remained on my shelf, forgotten in favor of other things that jumped out at me.

Perhaps, somewhere deep down, some part of me knew that there was going to be a lack of connection. It is always an unfortunate thing to me when I can't click with a book; especially one that I was really eager to sit down and read. Let me tell you what I thought of Matched, but as always, remember that my reaction will not necessarily be yours.

The Plot: (Summary from GoodReads)
Cassia has always trusted the Society to make the right choices for her: what to read, what to watch, what to believe. So when Xander's face appears on-screen at her Matching ceremony, Cassia knows with complete certainty that he is her ideal mate... until she sees Ky Markham's face flash for an instant before the screen fades to black.

The Society tells her it's a glitch, a rare malfunction, and that she should focus on the happy life she's destined to lead with Xander. But Cassia can't stop thinking about Ky, and as they slowly fall in love, Cassia begins to doubt the Society's infallibility and is faced with an impossible choice: between Xander and Ky, between the only life she's known and a path that no one else has dared to follow.

The idea of the society and the matching ceremony really appealed to me, and I did enjoy reading about the actual ceremony in the book. Ally Condie has a very lovely style of writing which allows things to be very vividly described. I could almost feel the gown, almost taste the food. And with the fact that these things were temporary, or special, within Cassia's life that form of description become all the more valuable, carried all the more weight. 

But I felt that much of what happened as the story continued really bogged it down. The Society's rigid structure seemed to paint corners in how things could be plotted and presented, at least in my opinion. While Ally did take advantage of this sometimes, at the same time I feel that it sometimes took advantage of her story and characters in ways she might not have expected or intended. 

I never felt a real enough sense of true danger or fear as I read this book. For a while I was curious about what the pills did, but as the story moved along that got pushed aside and this really became one of those 'oatmeal books' I sometimes talk about, where I knew I wanted to finish the thing but I started feeling more like I was battling the pages rather then living inside of them. 

I don't quite know what Ally could have done to give this book the shot in the arm I felt it needed, but I know that for me, personally, the pacing was off and that dampened my enjoyment. I expect to be hooked when I am reading a dystopian. To not be able to put it down, whether the intrigue comes from immediate danger (like The Hunger Games) or from a situation that is vividly detailed and completely soul crushing in its "that's not right!" response (like Wither). 

The Characters:

I liked Cassia, but I didn't *love* Cassia. I didn't want to *be* Cassia. And in many ways, I do not feel that I understood Cassia. She goes to her Matching banquet, she ends up paired with her best friend, and all is good until she sees another person she knows (Ky) in the box she receives when she goes to look at it. From this, and what she learns about Ky from a member of the Society, she becomes torn over who she should be with. I could not get on board here. I could not buy into it. If she was from our world she would likely already know who she wanted to be with and would be fighting for her choice tooth and nail. If she had shown me she was against the ways of her world, rather then being totally thrilled to be at her banquet, etc. maybe I would have bought into her moral dilemma more easily. But as it stood, her 'conflict' to face in Matched did not line up with her character for me.

It also did not help that neither of the guys really grabbed my attention. Xander seems like a good solid person who has his life together and who is comfortable living in the world that he inhabits. It seems he is handsome and smart, and he and Cassia have been friends for a very long time. So in a world where others pick who you marry, you'd think this would be an ideal setup. And I saw nothing of not in Xander's character which would lead me to question that. 

As for Ky, perhaps I would have bought into him more if we had met him before being told things about him. Since it was done in reverse, the information I was given about him might have meant something to Cassia, but it meant nothing to me. And the fact that we see him shortly after did nothing to change that. Instead of presenting an interesting alternative to Xander, I ultimately felt that Ky's image being shown only caused confusion for Cassia and damaged what should have been happy and good, based on what was presented.

I have often said that being unable to form a connection to the characters in a work is the kiss of death for me, and that was definitely the case here. This had absolutely nothing to do with Ally's skill as a writer or whether her story was "good" and everything to do with me as a reader and the type of story which I had come to hear. Sometimes we get something different then we bargained for and it ends up being an alternate but equally interesting tale, or perhaps even a better one. But sometimes, the lines just don't connect and we never really hook into what we are reading. Unfortunately, for me Matched fell into the latter category.

The Romance: 

I had a very hard time buying into the romance here. I think a big part of the reason came from Cassia telling us that now (after the banquet) she could feel a certain way about Xander. That is not how love works in our society, so this felt very strange and foreign to me. At the same time, any feelings she had for Ky, which were her own, I had to question whether she would believably be capable of having from living in the environment and culture that she lived in. (Oh, and I thought she and Xander matched well so perhaps I was a bit biased?) 

I think that this is one of those areas where the society painted a corner, as I was talking about in the plot section. I could not buy into this. I could not suspend my disbelief enough to think a girl could or would let others tell her when she could feel about someone, and at the same time be capable of feeling of her own choosing. And not question it prior to the realization. Cassia seemed completely content with everything that happened right up until she saw that image and that just did not sit right with me.

In General:

Like most things in life, you win a few you lose a few. Matched was simply not my book. I know I am in trouble when I am fighting to get through something, rather then wandering around inside of it. But I kept going, hoping something would draw me in and grab my interest. As always, don't just take my word for it. If Matched sounds like something you might like to try, give it a shot. It did not work for me, but that doesn't not necessarily meant it won't work for you. 


  1. You've more or less stated my sentiments exactly in this review - unfortunately I felt very underwhelmed by this one.

    Great review though!

  2. I liked your summary of Wither, I think I felt the same way. I haven't read this series but I keep wanting to pick it up. I think danger and fear are such a big part of Dystopian that it can be underwhelming if it's not there.


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