Matched by Ally Condie

September 2011 Jenna Hathaway

Matched is one of the many recently published dystopian young adult novels following the success of The Hunger Games. The exciting part about discovering a new dystopian novel is, of course, to find out what kind of world the characters live in. In Matched, the world is so neat and so orderly that, in fact, I was rather tempted to actually live in it. Of course, it isn’t without its flaws. Like any other dystopian world, it is even downright terrifying sometimes. But its scary layers are very well hidden, probably better than any other I’ve read, and even regardless of its flaws, still the kind of world I think I would like to live in most compared to the others.

Cassia Reyes is our heroine in this novel, and in her world, everything is controlled and determined by The Society, the government running the country. The Society takes all the difficult decisions into their hands in order to make sure everyone has the best possible lives and that all they need to do to enjoy it is to simply follow the rules and pointers they’ve been given. If they do, then they’re guaranteed a long, healthy, and reasonably happy life without any hardships. But The Society controls even the smallest details and the things that define us in our world now: where we live, where we work and what kind of work we do, what we eat and how much, how we spend our waking hours, who we’ll marry, how many children we’ll have, and when we’ll die.

Yes, every single detail in citizens’ lives is already planned out for them. This means that they don’t have to worry about a thing. No more desperately searching for Mr. Right. No more worrying about finding the perfect home. No more scrambling around trying to find a job that they can tolerate and will sustain their life. Basically, The Society is… well… sort of the God. Only they’re the kind of God who takes free will completely out of the equation. This is both good and bad. Good because it makes life easy. Imagine knowing everything in your life for certain, including when you’ll die. Bad because you might as well be a robot without your own mind, just going around blindly following orders whether you like it or not.

The part that The Society controls that becomes a focus in Matched is the part of finding your other half. Your partner in life. Of course, they control that too. Basically in this case, they’re your regular matchmakers. Once a teenager reaches the age of seventeen, they will attend their Match Banquet, where their Match will be announced to them. More often than not, it’s someone from another district, someone the person has never laid eyes on before until that night. It’s ancient arranged marriage at its best. According to The Society, the goal of Matching is to “provide the healthiest possible future citizens for our Society and to provide the best chance for interested citizens to experience successful Family Life.” So, once again, it’s all for the citizens’ own good, just like everything else The Society does.

At first Cassia was more than happy to go along with her own Match. After all, this was the life that she’d known since ever, so why should she question it? But when a glitch in the system showed her someone else’s face for a split second before she saw her actual Match, a spark was ignited within her, just like how every other rebellion began, and, as you might have guessed, things snowballed from there. But just like in any other dystopian world, the government is always watching, and nothing is as it seems. Without spoiling too much, I will say that Matched is full of its own twists, though I managed to see most of it coming. But they’re interesting enough to not be cliché. The twists were pretty brave and brought the conflict to a whole new level, layered with even more gray areas.

I find the world particularly interesting and thought-provoking. It’s the kind of world you’d be half-tempted to live in… and be terrified of at the same time. It’s the kind of society that makes us wonder about what’s right and wrong. I quite enjoyed my experience reading this book, though not so much about the romance unfortunately—just like about any other dystopian book, it isn’t the most interesting part even if it’s meant to play an integral part in this series in particular. But read it for everything else, because it’s pretty good, and while not as epic as The Hunger Games and wouldn’t even come close to rival it, it’s still one of the better dystopian series that recently came out.