Review of “Matched” by Ally Condie

If one were to mix 60% of The Giver with 40% Hunger Games, one might end up with Matched. The main protagonist and narrator is Cassia instead of Katniss (both names for plants), and the “teams” are Xander and Ky (Peeta and Gale, respectively), and we’re livin’ La Vida Dystopia.

Cassia, Xander and Ky live in a future society in which every single aspect of life is managed, and unpleasantness is vanished by little colored pills (which are especially needed, in my opinion, since there is no dessert except at life-milestone celebrations). Once a month, all those who have turned seventeen come together for a Match Banquet, in which they learn who has been selected to be their mates. (On one’s eightieth birthday, one gets a Final Banquet, and then peacefully dies.)

When Cassia finally gets to go to her Match Banquet, she is amazed to learn that her match will be Xander, a boy with whom she practically grew up! This is quite rare; usually matches don’t know one another.

Each participant receives a microcard with the specs on the match so they can find out about one another. Although Cassia knows Xander well, she decides to read his card just for fun. She is astounded to see that after the program shows Xander’s face, the screen darkens and then comes back with a different match, with yet someone else she knows: Ky Markham. And this is unheard of! The ominipresent Officials advise Cassia that this was an error and she should forget all about it, but she can’t. She talks to her grandfather about it just before his Death Banquet and by way of response, he hands her a secret poem.

Only one hundred poems, songs, stories, etc. have been retained from the old ways: Society decided culture was “too cluttered.” No one reads or learns or sees anything he or she doesn’t need to, in order not to be too distracted to contribute to the Society. But Grandfather somehow has secreted a copy of “Do Not Go Gently Into That Good Night” by Dylan Thomas. Cassia reads it, and knows she must memorize it and destroy it. But first, she shares it with Ky.

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rage at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they 

Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright 

Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay, 

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight, 

And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless me now with your fierce tears, I pray. 

Do not go gentle into that good night. 

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Cassia is confused; she is torn between Team Xander and Team Ky, and questions the Society’s right to dictate her choices. The Society suspects something is up, and takes punitive action. Cassia prays she can learn from her grandfather’s last words to do what is right.

Discussion: Am I going to not like a turtle sundae because it was so obviously derived from a combination of hot fudge and butterscotch sundaes? Of course not! And similarly, it’s hard to resist The Giver plus Hunger Games.

We don’t actually learn how The Society came to be, but I’m willing to accept it as an axiomatic premise. But the boys are also mysteries. All we really know about them is that they’re both pretty much perfect, with the main difference between them for Cassia being familiarity versus exoticism. Cassia could be a cipher too, but since she is so much like the other teens in these sorts of books, we can fill in the blanks: she’s naïve, annoying, spunky, alternately wimpy and brave, self-occupied, stubborn, indecisive, and for some reason irresistible to all the best guys.

Evaluation: In my opinion, Matched is not as strong as The Hunger Games or The Chaos Walking series, but it’s an entertaining depiction of dystopia and its discontents. I felt a particular connection with the story because when I was seventeen, I too fell in love with that Dylan poem, and put it up on the wall of my bedroom.

A sequel is coming – probably a trilogy is in the works, and I presume a t-shirt and movie will follow.

Rating: 3.5/5

Published by Dutton Books for Young Readers, 2010

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22 Responses to Review of “Matched” by Ally Condie

  1. Nicole says:

    I enjoyed this one too, but was a little underwhelmed by it. I feel like the second books will either make the series worthwhile or not. At the end I was curious but not burning up to know what would happen next.

  2. bermudaonion says:

    I need to bite the bullet and try a book like that – for some reason, I’m just not sure they’re for me.

  3. Iris says:

    “A sequel is coming – probably a trilogy is in the works, and I presume a t-shirt and movie will follow.”

    Heh, seems to be true of every YA book lately.

    I’ve been interested in this. I’m hoping to read it at one point. But I have become less eager, and your post contributed to that. I was expecting this to be different, I guess I shouldn’t have done so, but anyway, at least now I know it is not going to be perfect.

  4. Jenny says:

    Well, nothing’s as good as the Chaos Walking series. :p I love that Dylan Thomas poem, also — I feel like it’s been overused in epigraphs and things like that, but it’s such a good poem I never get sick of it.

  5. Staci says:

    This one is on my list of books to read but first I must finish 2 and 3 of the Hunger Games…yes, I am hanging my head in shame!

  6. Trisha says:

    I love the t-shirt and movie comment; things are getting rather predictable these days. While Hunger Games didn’t rock my world either, I think the Chaos Walking series beat both their patooties for originality.

  7. who doesn’t love a good dystopian series?? i’m reading a new book right now that’s set in the future and things are pretty wonky. i love the author though, so i’ll stick with it.

    as for matched…i love the cover. does that count? 🙂

  8. Jen says:

    I’ve sort of heard the same things about Matched everywhere I look. But your review really made the “issues” clear. I know I won’t be picking up a copy of Matched. I liked The Giver far too much, I think.

    Also, laughed at ton at “A sequel is coming – probably a trilogy is in the works, and I presume a t-shirt and movie will follow.”

  9. Haha I love your bit about the turtle sundae. I’ll go with “I’m still really interested in this” even though it looks a bit rehashed. I left on bad footing with the last book of the Hunger Games so maybe this will bring me back to that old dystopian magic. Oh, and I just LOVE the cover, too. ;O)

  10. Sandy says:

    There was just a big write up on this one in EW this week. I haven’t read the whole thing, but they were saying it was the next big thing after The Hunger Games. Which I loved, as well as The Giver. So hmmm. My first question is whether my library has it on audio, and my second question is whether my daughter REALLY meant it when she said she was over audios…

  11. This is one I’ve been interested to read. Something about the cover seems to grab me.

  12. Darlene says:

    I do love dystopian novels and this one has caught my interest on Amazon a few times but for some reason it just doesn’t sound as good to me as The Hunger Games so I haven’t picked it up.

  13. Alyce says:

    I love dystopian YA fiction so much that I couldn’t resist adding this one to the wish list and was thrilled when I got a review copy. I absolutely loved it, but I’ve seen some other reviews that have been similar to yours (people who like it but don’t love it). And then I wonder what was it about the book that made it so special for me but just ok to others? It makes me wonder if my tastes are just unsophisticated. 🙂

  14. zibilee says:

    I have this book and really want to make the time to read it. It sounds like it has a really interesting premise, and I would love to find out what happens in this little triangle. Thanks for the very descriptive and insightful review. I am now really excited about this one!

  15. Helen says:

    I so want to read this book!

  16. Jenners says:

    What is it with all these YA dystopia books? Sometimes I think that is all there is!

  17. Julie P. says:

    LOL! Your review cracks me up. I’m still going to give it a shot. If nothing else, I need to know what all the references are going to be over the next few years.

  18. Amanda says:

    Well you already know my situation and my feelings on this book. It is supposed to be a trilogy – according the to PW article that first destroyed me a year ago, the series was bought in trilogy form, even though the other two weren’t yet written. So yes, there are two more books to come (another reason why it would be imprudent, at the moment, for me to keep trying ot get my book published). I do sort of wonder what you’d think of my book. I’ve handed out a couple of e-copies, but I don’t want to really distribute it on a mass level, first because I don’t want to self-publish,a nd second because I don’t trust my books until they’re edited by a real editor…

  19. Love the turtle Sundae comparison and I think you just sold me on this book 🙂

  20. Meg says:

    With all the buzz surrounding this title, I know I’m going to have to read it! I haven’t been reading as my dystopia lately, but I’ll look forward to picking this one up sometime!

  21. I’m not a fan of dystopian books, but this one has been the buzz of the past few weeks; likely, my kids will read it.

    The cover makes me think it appeals more to girls/women – is that true, or do you think that’s a marketing attempt?

  22. Amanda says:

    matched is actually a pretty good book

    check out my review
    http://readingwhiledreaming.blogspot.com/2011/07/matched-review.html

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