Series: Matched #1
Summary: Cassia Reyes lives in a Society where everything is decided for her—what clothes she wears, what food she eats, and even what man she marries. The Society informs Cassia that the computer system has chosen her childhood friend Xander as her future spouse, but when she views the digital card containing his personal information, another face flashes onto the screen: her mysterious neighbor Ky. Torn between her love for Xander and her newfound love for Ky, Cassia begins to question a life without choices and to dream of a future where she has the freedom to express herself.
Review: Even as the young adult market sees an increasing number of dystopian novels hit the shelves, Matched feels refreshing and unique. Its setting does not immediately strike the reader, or the characters, as a society gone wrong. Rather, like the culture in Lois Lowry’s The Giver, the society portrayed is supposed to be ideal. Humanity has eliminated sickness; provided everyone with jobs; and ensured that all citizens have food, clothing, and shelter. Pain has essentially been eliminated. Since citizens no longer have choices, they cannot make mistakes. They cannot marry someone with whom they are not compatible and they cannot go into a profession at which they will not excel. Society has even attempted to eliminate the suffering of aging and death by mandating that all citizens at a certain age take poison. Theoretically, if everyone knows the exact day of their deaths and of their families’, the pain generated by the surprise loss of a loved one disappears. As Cassia comes to understand the limitations imposed upon her and her society, however, she begins to wonder whether pain not be a risk worth taking in exchange for freedom.
Matched, however, may considered more properly a romance than a dystopian. Cassia only begins to question the Society when it steps between her and the boy she wants to pursue. She accepts almost unthinkingly all other aspects of the Society: its restriction on entertainment, its destruction of art and literature, its mandate that her grandfather die. Concern about such actions forms only a sidenote in her thoughts. Presumably, if the Society were to allow her to choose her own future spouse, Cassia would stop worrying about these other issues altogether. She is literally consumed by thoughts of boys and romance, and is prepared to sacrifice almost anything to be with the boy with whom she is infatuated.
Since Cassia is only seventeen, I understand such a portrayal of her thoughts is rather realistic. She admires the qualities in two different boys, dreams about them both, and consequently orders her world around them. It is not unheard of, even if many people find it sad and rather unfulfilling. Once Cassia chooses one of the boys, her obsession naturally only worsens. She wants to be with her crush all the time and the danger surrounding their relationship only increases her infatuation. One wonders whether Cassia is in love with the boy, or simply the world of possibilities and intrigue he represents. Either way, female readers can relate with Cassia’s desire to love and be loved, no matter the cost. The story only becomes completely unbelievable when other characters start to condone Cassia’s actions.
Most of the characters in the book realize, even if only in a small way, that the Society can and does perform evil, and that the Society wants, more than anything, control. Most of them seem to repress or deny these thoughts so they can survive. However, once Cassia’s obsession with a boy not approved by the Society becomes apparent, all the characters attach undue significance to the fact. They labor under the delusion that if Cassia can be with the boy she wants, regardless of whether or not the Society chose him, freedom will have been achieved and all will be well. A few of them actively encourage Cassia to pursue the boy, and even give her the means of doing so. They seem to forget that the Society is still in charge and that a few stolen moments change nothing. Anything more than a few stolen moments will mean punishment and the affair will end.
Matched has a lot of potential to speak about freedom, choice, love, pain, and loss, but fails to follow up on most of these themes. Instead, the story strives to convince readers that romantic love solves all problems and covers a world of sins—a highly unbelievable and unsatisfying message. The book will please readers in search of a romance, but will probably fail to impress those in search of a true or thoughtful dystopia.
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