When I saw the book trailer for Matched, Ally Condie’s young adult novel where an imperfect love fights against all odds in a totalitarian dystopia, I was intrigued:
The first in a trilogy of titles, sadly, Matched will forever live in the shadow of Suzanne Collins’ wildly popular trilogy, The Hunger Games, if only for the fact that they are both teenaged love triangles in dystopian futures. As a side-note, the same could be said of how Suzanne Collins faced criticism and comparison to Japanese author Koushun Takami’s child murdersport bonanza, Battle Royale, also adapted for film. Comparisons of post-apocalyptic teenaged novels are inevitable, really.
In terms of how Matched plays off of The Hunger Games, the fact of the matter is, the love triangle is markedly similar: you have a female protagonist (Condie’s Cassia to Collins’ Katniss) who’s torn between her childhood friend and a newly introduced love interest that she grows to love over time. Gale : Xander : : Peeta : Ky. I can’t help but compare these two trilogies.
Matched, while easily read in a day, is a bit long. Condie spends almost an extra hundred pages of world-building dispersed throughout the work that really doesn’t need to be there. I think she’s trying to go for the same slow-burn reveal that Collins did in The Hunger Games across three books, however it feels like Condie tries to pack WAY too much world-building into just the first book. I have to be honest: as I began to learn more and more about The Society, I felt like I was watching the first three seasons of LOST, wondering where the pay off was already.
The book boils down certain aspects of the Society and general world-building into very simplistic terms: Matching Banquets, Aberrations, Anomalies, red, blue and green pills, for example. I think the book’s simplicity undermines some of the emotional depth and profundity of the author’s bigger statements about the role of the individual in society versus the role of authority.
That said, there are some real gems found throughout the book, including:
I will say that Matched does get at an emotional complexity on the subject of death in a way that I don’t feel Collins was able to achieve in The Hunger Games. In Matched, The Society goes out of its way to make sure its Citizens are fed, healthy, employed and otherwise happy, barring of course if you’re an Aberration or an Anomaly. Everyone gets to live until they’re eighty years old and then you die on your eightieth birthday. Cassia shares poignant final moments with her Grandfather on his last day, and in how she remembers him in the days and weeks following his death.
Condie is able to write about the conceptualization of death from the perspective of a young adult with more grace and finesse than Collins was able to pull off.
I think the defining distinction is that in Matched, you have the death of a character who’s eighty years old as opposed to the ever piling body count of kids in The Hunger Games; after a while, you almost become desensitized to death in Collins’ trilogy because you know someone’s bitin’ it every 10-20 pages whereas in Matched, this is the only active death (two others are told in backstory).
Condie sets up one stunning launching pad after another to get young adults thinking about death: a topic that I’m sure makes them squirm and I KNOW makes their parents squirm even more.
Matched has its flaws and at its heart, it’s a trashy YA novel capitalizing on trendy dystopian futuristic teenage love.
I’m not knockin’ the book here, let me be clear. I’m already hooked and can’t wait to read both Crossed (out now) and Reached (out Nov. 13th) if only to see how Condie finishes telling Cassia, Xander and Ky’s stories while completing her epic world-building.
And, as much as I might complain about how much world-building there is in Matched, like how I was frustrated those first three seasons of LOST, you better believe I stuck around for the series finale just to see if all my questions would be answered.
If I was the parent of a 14 or 15-year old reading this book, I’d have no problem letting my kid read it. If they got it assigned in school, I might raise an eyebrow only because I’m not exactly sure if this book can pull off those same weighty moral and social issues tackled in The Hunger Games; there’s not a ton of literary value to this book, that’s for sure.
Matched is a tasty, tasty brain Twinkee and it’s simply delicious for my (never-ending) two-week wait.