Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Matched by Ally Condie


One of my current reading projects is going through books I really enjoyed when I was young and revisiting them to see how well they hold up as an adult. Part of that is a low-key flex ("look what amazing taste I had!") and part of that is morbid curiosity. What we like as kids doesn't always hold up to adulthood. I think any of us who have sampled Dunkaroos or Capri Sun in a moment of weakness know that. What once tasted like the nectar of the gods now tastes like sugar water and tainted memories. Oh, woe.

MATCHED is one of those dystopian books that came out on the coattails of THE HUNGER GAMES. It reads like someone decided to write a crossover fanfic between THE GIVER and TWILIGHT, which I am weirdly okay with. Maybe it's because I really love romance novels, the trashier the better. And this book is pretty trashy. It takes place in a highly regimented futuristic society where people are Matched by the government, and most of history has been systematically destroyed. 100 History lessons, 100 Songs, 100 Poems, etc. were preserved because the thinking went that if there were fewer things around, what you had would be easier to appreciate. But we know that's not really why. Because they also don't write, either.

Also, everyone dies by age 80 in a ritualistic ceremony called The Final Banquet, which is ominous as fuck, so kudos to the author for coming up with that. It definitely has Logan's Run vibes.

On the day of Cassia's Match, though, the unthinkable happens-- she sees not one, but TWO boys. Faster than you can say "love triangle" Cassia begins wringing her hands over her true match, childhood friend and steadfast follower to the rules, Xander, and the dangerous bad boy who came from The Place Where Bad People Live who is classified as something called an Aberration, Ky. I'll give you three guesses who Cassia really likes.

I read this book for the first time in college. I thought it was really fun when I read it and I think I initially gave it five stars. When you're crushing out term papers and spending late-nights studying for final exams, you don't really want heavy reading, so books like this were really fun for me. It's easy to read, with clean, fluid prose, and there isn't really a lot of depth to the world-building so it isn't that hard to follow. So you know, the same things that would make it a good book for young readers also make it an easy read for stressed-out college students, which I was.

I think if you pick this up expecting Orwell or Huxley, you're going to be mad. But if you read this as a YA soap opera, it's kind of fun escapist reading. I didn't actually think it was that bad, but I also enjoyed other similarly maligned dystopians, like THE FOREST OF HANDS AND TEETH and WITHER, and I think what happened to this book probably happened to those books, too: oversaturation of the market. They came out when people were already deciding that they were done with dystopians and moving on to The Next Big Thing, which I believe was toxic New Adult romances, if I recall correctly. What keeps this book from being too tedious, though, are the sinister moments, like the Final Banquet, and other little hints into the darker aspects of this world. I kind of wish there had been more of those.

In short: pick this book up if you love yourself some trashy teen drama, a la the CW.

3 to 3.5 out of 5 stars

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