It's rare when a setting gets more emphasis than the characters in a young adult novel - but in the second installment in Ally Condie's Matched trilogy, Crossed - it does. Cassia searches far and wide for Ky - across deserts, over mountains, through canyons. In a post-apocalyptic world, those like Ky - who stand up to the Society - are banished to the Outer Provinces. These "Aberrations" are transported to the wilderness to fend for themselves against the "Enemy." As Cassia makes her way to her beloved, she is confronted not so much by other humans, but by poisoned streams, treacherous rock formations and varying temperatures.
Ky makes use of the natural environment to leave markers for Cassia like carving her name into a tree and chiseling a compass out of stone for her to find. He does not know that she is hot on his trail, but his yearning for her is so strong it cannot be contained as an intangible desire.
The book rotates between the vivid description of the physical location and the poetry that Ky and Cassia use to define their love. They remember the forbidden words they shared when they fell in love while living in the Society. Poems provide a sense of comfort and connection like the Dylan Thomas phrase, "Rage against the dying of the light," as well as Tennyson's verse, "I hope to see my Pilot face to face." Cassia even begins composing a poem in her head to recite to Ky upon their reunion. While they are struggling through a world framed in prose, their emotion for each other is rooted in poetry.
Xander, Cassia's lifelong friend who is also her jilted Society-approved betrothed, sees her off on her epic quest. However, he provides her with a case full of blue pills that are supposed to keep her alive in the most dire of circumstances. Little does he know, they are full of poison. He also includes bits of information about himself inside the capsule packaging. He has a secret he wants her to piece together. But his rival, Ky, keeps Cassia from completing the hidden message.
The key to the title is explained near the end. Who was double crossed? Who was betrayed? Let's just say that the person responsible for Ky's picture appearing for a split second after Cassia's matching ceremony to Xander is revealed. A central character to the narrative is not above using manipulation to influence Cassia's emotions. A darker side of this personality is exposed making the reader examine the possible motivations underlying this behavior.
The conclusion is a bit on the frustrating side. It poses the question - what does Cassia really want? Is joining a rebellion faction worth the cost? Why is it so important to her to aid a resistance movement? Why does fighting the Society mean more to her than living a life of her own choosing? Why is she willing to be subjected to its influence when she can just as easily walk away? Book three is sure to delve into what is more important to her - who shares her life versus who she can become.
Overall, sometimes you get what you want, not what you need.
Crossed by Ally Condie is available for $17.99 at Amazon.com and at AllysonCondie.com.
Thank you to Yara for recommending this book. Follow her fantastic book blog and Twitter posts.
Review copy provided by Valley Community Library.