Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Death, Rebirth, and a Book Club Recommendation: Matched, by Ally Condie

My computer died! Life came briefly to an end; I was bereft; I was useless. But all turned out well in the end, because I have an automated backup program. My life was returned to me, intact, with a new hard drive and all the same ridiculously unorganized data I can't seem to live without. It's a little scary how dependent I am on this screen with the little icons lined up at the bottom. (And if Google wants to take over the world, I don't think it would be very hard: we're all little Google slaves already!)

Speaking of taking over the world, I recently read Matched. Apparently it's now on bestseller lists, so it doesn't exactly need my recommendation. However, the other day I was a bit intimidated to discover that someone's book club was looking to my blog for a new book recommendation. (I hope they all like The Lost Conspiracy!) (I hope they can find enough copies; there are a couple in my local library, but that might be a bit far to come!) Considering books for a book club is a quite different matter than recommending to individual readers: you want something that appeals to a wide range of tastes and sensitivities, and something meaty enough to generate discussion (other than "she should have picked the other guy"!).

Given those criteria, I would have to suggest Matched as an excellent book club choice. It's science fiction in so far as it's a dystopian vision of the future, but it's a quiet, introverted kind of dystopian novel. The anti-Hunger Games, if you will. And it's a love story, of course. (The theme song could be from Muse: "Love is our resistance.")

Condie creates a perfect world where every decision--what to eat, what to wear, what job to choose, who to marry--is made by the Society. There is no violent repression or coercion: everyone willingly participates because they believe this is the best way to be happy. At least, that's what Cassia thinks. Her doubts about the beneficence of the Society begin when she Matched to her best friend, Xander, but her information packet shows her the face of Ky. Is Xander the one she is meant to be with, or is it Ky?

I thought it was brilliant of Condie to present this society to us from Cassia's point of view: as a teenager who has grown up in this peaceful, controlled world, she takes it for granted and is invested in its continuation. This is what life is like, and it works, and there's no reason to question it, is there? The subtle and obvious ways she is manipulated are all the more horrifying to the reader because Cassia thinks they're normal. Cassia wants nothing more than to take her place as a contributing adult in her society, but her growing relationships with Xander, Ky and her family start her wondering, and once she starts to question, there is no going back.

Matched is not an action-packed violence-fest. The suspense is quiet but constant and the conflict is almost entirely internal. The critical moments are not so much Cassia's actions as her decisions.  I loved that her first rebellion was over poetry. The actions are all so small, but the decisions they represent are huge. Holding a scrap of paper can be terrifying. Each decision Cassia makes leads to a slightly larger action with wider repercussions, until she makes a life-changing mistake. There is a sequel, due Fall 2011. I won't say it's a cliffhanger ending, exactly, but I am quite anxious to read the next one!

Matched is like salted caramel ice cream: a smooth, quiet surface with surprising hidden piquancy.

I'll leave you with a friendly reminder: when was the last time you backed up your hard drive?

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the review, Kim! I've never tried salted caramel ice cream, but it sounds really good. And so is Matched! I like the idea of subtle rebellions. Thank you for the rec. :)