Series: Matched #3
Now members of the Rising, Cassia, Ky, and Xander wait for the final push against the Society to begin. They do not know when or how it will occur, but their trust in the Pilot keeps them blindly following orders. Then Plague strikes and even the Rising does not have the capability to combat it. Love has carried the three this far, but can it triumph over death?
The Matched trilogy previously left me feeling conflicted. Although its identity as a dystopian series implies a desire to comment on government, authority and choice, its focus always remained on the love life of Cassia Reyes. The novels never convincingly demonstrated that Cassia fully understood the magnitude of the atrocities committed by the Society or decided to rebel against it for reasons other than a desire to make out with a man not chosen for her by someone else. Sometimes, like Xander, I wondered if Cassia even really loved Ky, or simply wanted him because he was forbidden.
I was able to take Reached more seriously as a dystopian novel because it broadens its focus from the personal journey of Cassia to encompass not only the journeys of Ky and Xander but also the fate of the Society as a whole. Previously Condie expected me to believe that stealing kisses in the forest was a noble act of rebellion and not simply teenage hormones. Now she illustrates the infrastructure of the Society crumbling under the pressure of plague and civil unrest. Even though the tactics of the Rising never made real sense to me, I found watching them attempt to take power much more interesting than watching Cassia moon over her crush.
Despite the broadened focus, however, the other characters continue to attach undue importance to the actions of Cassia and her love interests. While reading Matched, I found myself baffled by the willingness of Cassia’s family and friends to risk their lives in order to allow her to continue meeting her crush in secret; everyone seemed honestly convinced that conducting a forbidden love affair was the first step in taking down the government. While reading Reached, I found myself baffled by the interest of the Pilot in Cassia and her friends. Even though, as the leader of an uprising, he must have men and women under him who can look into suspect activities, he chooses to investigate Cassia personally. He then chooses Cassia and her friends for a top secret mission (on which the whole fate of the Rising happens to hinge) even though one would assume that, of all the people who follow him, there must exist some more qualified for this sort of thing than three teenagers.
Reached also fails to fulfill promises to explore more in depth the nature of government, authority, and rebellion. Condie has hinted before in the trilogy that the Rising might not be what it appears. Events in Reached suggest that, indeed, the Rising possesses elements of corruption. Events furthermore suggest the dangers of idolizing any one figure or movement. The characters, however, seem unfazed by these revelations, never really questioning their involvement in the Rising or learning any lessons about placing complete trust in people they barely know. I suppose it is to their credit that they continue to believe in the inherent goodness of people and to hope for a better future, but Condie obliquely acknowledges their danger of repeating past mistakes and erecting a new Society instead of staging a true revolution.
Reached proves a fast-paced novel filled with enough action and danger to make it the most exciting book in the trilogy. Fans will find their eyes glued to the pages as they follow Cassia, Xander, and Ky through a new adventure and see how the three grow in maturity as they are forced to go their separate ways. An exciting plot and good character development cannot, however, completely obscure the flaws in the trilogy, and I find myself wondering what the books could have been like had they been more fleshed out and made more sense.