Book Title: Matched
Author: Ally Condie
Book Series: Matched
Book No: Book 1
Genre: Teen & Young Adult, Dystopian
Published: November 2010
Star Rating: ★★
Hi, Welcome to Berg’s Book Club—the Book Club with a sweet and cuddly Polar Bear! Today, we will be reviewing Matched by Ally Condie.
Matched is the first novel in the dystopian trilogy of the same name. The series tells the story of 17-year-old Cassia who lives in tyrannical, tightly-controlled society. Cassia is about to be “matched”—that is—her partner is going to be chosen for her but something goes wrong. All of Cassia’s friends are aware of who they are going to be matched and married to but Cassia sees two people on her screen. Both of whom are men she knows personally and has feelings for.
This book review will discuss how well Ally Condie managed to control the storyline, world building and characters.
Matched Book Review
Full of potential but unfortunately, disappointing. The world-building is great, the dystopian society is realistic but this book 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.
Initially, 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 have been a good book. But a lot of work is needed. Mostly,
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)
I found the plot idea of Matched 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 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
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. If done correctly, the story 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… 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)
The writing technique and the character construction let this book down.
Condie’s Writing Technique
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)
Dialogue format and tags
So, 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 and relevance of it again. Ally 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 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 it 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 my main character is not the protagonist. Why?
The character is too passive. This is the case with the protagonist, Cassia, in this book.
Cassia 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?
Instead, Cassia’s main concern is her love triangle. A love triangle that she threw herself into. I think this is why I hate romance stories… I have only ever found one romance-focused story that I truly love.
Cassia does not have any emotional or physical struggle throughout the story, making it hard to connect with her. This makes it difficult to care what happens to her.
All talk and no action.
Cassia expresses a wish to change the system but it is all talk until the end of the book. By which, I mean, she doesn’t do anything to fight. All the other character’s do something. They give her items, teach her to write, give her insight about the world, but she does nothing to get this information or to keep it until the end of the book.
She ignores a direct order from the Officials. Yay! Finally! Some action! initiative! It only took… the whole book!
However, I feel the decision wasn’t one of true rebellion. Cassia had enough and threw a temper tantrum, not because she wanted to change things, but because she had enough and wanted the confusion to go away. And unless you count her interest in literature and poetry, this is the first and only time the character rebels. She is not a strong, rebellious character.
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. Samuel also gives Cassia a poem that is forbidden. Likewise, he 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.
However, as it stands, the writing errors and lack of character development
Thanks for reading
I hope you enjoyed this post. If you have, why not read some other book reviews. There are plenty on here: Blame and The Selection, just to name a few. And please do follow me on here, Facebook or Twitter.