Book Author: Alley Condie
Book Series: Matched
Series Number: 1/3
Genre: Teen and YA, Dystopian
First Published: November 2010
Star Rating: ⭐⭐
society. Cassia is 17 and is about to be “matched”—that is—her partner is going to be chosen for her but something goes wrong. While all of Cassia’s friends know who they are going to marry…or rather, know of them, Cassia is shown two people, both of whom she knows personally and has feelings for.
This book review will discuss how well the author managed to control the storyline, world building and characters.
Full of potential but unfortunately, disappointing. The world-building is great, the dystopian society is realistic but it has major flaws. It takes a lot for me to give a book a 2-star review but this book hit me with problem after problem that prevented me from giving it at least a 3-stars.
I was looking forward to this book. The cover intrigued me. The blurb interested me. Goodreads recommended it, audible suggested it, kindle said I would like it. And I really did want to like this book. Honestly, I did. As I said, it is full of potential It could be a good book. But a lot of work is needed. Mostly with the use of dialogue and the character development.
In the Society, officials decide. Who you love. Where you work. When you die.
Cassia has always trusted their choices. It’s hardly any price to pay for a long life, the perfect job, the ideal mate. So when her best friend appears on the Matching screen, Cassia knows with complete certainty that he is the one…until she sees another face flash for an instant before the screen fades to black. Now Cassia is faced with impossible choices: between Xander and Ky, between the only life she’s known and a path no one else has ever dared follow—between perfection and passion. – (Goodreads.com)
Plot and World Building
I found the idea of the plot interesting and feel that with a lot of hard work, this could be a great story. Every ounce of your life is chosen for you, including your career, family life and the day you will die. You don’t even get a choice of who you will marry. Every inch of your life is decided.
However, some of the writing decisions and the lack of the character development prevented the plot from developing. Many scenarios could have been created and used in the plot that fit in with the good world building. It could have helped the main character, Cassia develop and made her journey interesting. Unfortunately, that did not happen and the plot did not fulfil it’s full potential
The story follows Cassia who believed in the system and the government body, The Officials. That is, until something goes wrong with her “matching”, the day she learns who she has to marry.
The world building was excellent. In the protagonist’s world, everything is chosen for you from who you will marry, the number of children you’ll have, your career and when you will die. It has endless probabilities and scenarios that the author could use. The world is believable, one I don’t want to experience and one I would fight to change. Often the hardest task of a dystopian book.
It was visual and reminds me of the Matrix… I think maybe because of the use of coloured pills that do different things in the story.
I was careful to leave out any mention of Xander losing his tablet container. I didn’t want him to get in trouble. The omission felt like the tablet itself stuck in my throat. (Condie, 2010, p. 55)
What lets this book down was the writing techniques and the characters.
One is the writing technique. There were many instances where the author stated the obvious. So many times I was confronted with sentences like:
I need to go home… “I need to go home,” I say, out loud this time. – (Condie, 2010, p.199)
Here’s a tip for new writers. Readers know something has been said aloud by the use of speech marks. Just saying “I said/say” is the best thing you can possibly do for dialogue. Too many descriptive words like ‘whisper’, ‘mumble’, ‘shout’ can be distracting to the reader and stop the flow of the story. It is annoying to readers if they are being patronised and a writer should never state the obvious unless it is actually needed – for example when writing sarcasm.
If the reader knows what is happening and can understand the story without the sentence, cut it.
Another tip, if you plant something that can be a danger or issue for the protagonist later on, and constantly refer to it in every chapter, then you don’t need to explain the whole thing again. Alley Condie does exactly that in her book, Matched.
The artefact cannot be found without endangering the protagonist and her lover. We knew this the second she hid it, we knew the danger when it was clear the government body, The Officials, started raiding homes. However, Condie reminds us of the danger as The Officials raid the protagonists home what the danger is. We know! Please just show us what happens. Show, don’t tell. That is the key.
The story is vastly repetitive and the story becomes boring because of it. The plot cannot move on because the repetitive aspect of the book prevents it from happening. The exposition is mostly to blame for this, explaining the same thing 3 different times in about 6-7 pages.
Character and Characterisation
One of the hardest things to decide when writing is who is the main character. I’ve been there. There have been times when I thought one character would be a great protagonist, I write the story, or part of it and realise that she is not the protagonist. Why?
They are too passive.
This is the case with Cassia. She seems to be more of someone observing the events in her world rather than taking action. I mean, don’t get me wrong, things happen that affect her directly but she doesn’t seem to have that political or moral fight a character needs when fighting the tyrant government. I mean isn’t that what Dystopians are all about?
But Cassia. She is involved in a love triangle, which she threw herself into, she does not have any emotional or physical struggle and it is really hard to connect with her as a character enough to care whether she wins or loses.
Cassie also does not get her hands dirty as she fights for what she wants. She expresses a wish to change the system but it is all talk until the end of the book. The second time she does something to rebel. Ignores a direct order from The Officials. Yay! Finally! Only took a whole book to disobey against a system…
But… it seemed like the decision was made out of a tantrum, not because she wanted to change things. The first rebellious act she does is take an interest in literature by learning to write and remembering a verse of a poem that has been forbidden by the government. This is fine, but I think her rebellious side needed to be stronger.
There are two minor characters that I found interesting, her grandfather, Samuel Reynes and her friend, Em.
Samuel is the one with the fighting spirit. Fine, they choose when he dies, but he does not allow them to have his DNA to bring him back to life. He gets his son, Cassia’s father, to destroy it as his dying wish. He also gives Cassia a poem that is forbidden. He also encourages her NOT to use the pills that they are given at a certain age, including the green one – to combat anxiety and nerves.
As I snap the artifact shut, Grandfather leans toward me. (Condie, 2010, p.84)
He is only in the book for a short time and yet he has more character than Cassia does.
Likewise, Em has issues that are clear in the book. She has anxiety and is reliant on the green pill, which you can only take once a day. Unfortunately, she is also seen in the book for a short period of time and I think she could have made a good character.
Overall, I think the plot has a lot of potentials I think the world is interesting and realistic but I feel the story needs to be stronger, have more emotion, character development and cut the sentences that are not needed.
As it stands, the writing errors and lack of character development has prevented me from wanting to read the rest of the series. I do believe the author could have made this into a much better book with some thoughtful and considered editing but as this author develops her writing, I feel her books will improve.
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