Friday, September 23, 2011

Ally Condie - Matched - Review

Perception is a tricky thing. What influences our choices - our free will or outside sources? Why do we like the things we do? Is it because we feel a genuine inclination toward something or are we subconsciously being led in a certain direction? Matched by Ally Condie examines the nature vs. nurture issue through the lens of teenage romance. Subtle manipulation is the marketing machine that drives any consumer driven culture. But what happens when it is directed toward matters of the heart? Can a young girl be effectively persuaded to fall in love with a preselected boy just because she is led to believe it is her destiny?

It all goes unquestioned until a technical glitch starts the unraveling of the brainwashing scheme. When Cassia is presented with the computer file of her future husband, Xander - who just happens to be her best friend - for a brief second the screen flickers with the image of another boy, the marginalized Ky. It is reminiscent of the technique used by drive-in movie theaters when they would briefly flash a picture of salty, buttered popcorn in the middle of a film to lure hungry patrons to the concession stand. Are they really hungry or do they only want the popcorn because their taste buds were stimulated by the crave-worthy visual? Cassia could be perfectly happy and content with Xander for the rest of her life, but that one brief second causes her to question what she really wants.

This personal revelation leads Cassia to reexamine the entire structure of their restrictive society. Her eyes are opened for the first time to the dictatorial elements imposed upon them. Their options are severely limited and selected by a ruling body that is viewed as a parental unit better equipped to make these kinds of important decisions. The average person considers themselves incapable of choosing the appropriate spouse. But the most shocking thing is that they believe this to be an indisputable, universal truth.

Cassia's private rebellion begins when she goes out of her way to get to know Ky better. Ultimately, she feels more of an attraction to the boy who is forbidden rather than to her betrothed. She actively courts the danger of the unknown over the security of the familiar. While prompted to consider Ky by an external consequence, once the hook is baited she pursues him out of her own volition. It is fascinating to observe how she completely upends her comfortable life in order to be with someone that before the glitch she would have never even considered.

Condie does an adequate job in forming her dystopian realm. It contains all of the heralded elements from an ever-watchful overseer mentality to the numbing anonymity of an industrialized worldview. There are nightly curfews. There are frequent search-and-seizure raids of residential neighborhoods. There are predetermined selections for job placement. Freedom does not exist. Privacy is a foreign concept. Hope is practically nonexistent.

What do these repressed teenagers do for fun? They go on guided nature walks. They watch censored movies in an auditorium atmosphere. They grab snatches of conversation on the front porch. Xander is the noble hero throughout. He loves Cassia so much that he is willing to let her go so that she can be truly happy. He understands what is going on beneath the surface and he does everything in his power to aid her developing relationship with Ky. He is the innocent victim in this psychological warfare. All he ever wanted was to marry his best friend, and that dream is snatched from his grasp.

Matched concludes with the forced separation of our star-crossed lovers. Will they be reunited? If the cover art of Crossed, book two of the series, is any indication - it appears Cassia is taking matters into her own hands. The cover of Matched shows her sitting demurely in a bubble wearing the green dress she wore to the ceremony where she was paired with Xander. The cover of Crossed shows her breaking out of the bubble and ready for action in a t-shirt and jeans. This chick is taking full ownership of her destiny.

Overall, a fascinating look at how subliminal messaging can influence love.

Matched by Ally Condie is available for $17.99 at and at

Thank you to Karoline for recommending this book. Follow her fantastic book blog and Twitter posts.

Review copy provided by Valley Community Library.

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