So…Matched. I guess the third time is the charm. I’ve tried twice now to get through it, but haven’t gotten more than about 40% through. I think my issue was that I was listening to the audiobook rather than reading the actual book. The narrator didn’t really do the book justice. I experienced this when I listened to the audiobook version of Twilight – after reading the actual book a few times, I got the audiobook for the car when I didn’t want to listen to music, and it seriously made me never ever ever want to read the book again. Ever.
But, fortunately, I didn’t give up this time and am quite happy with Matched now that I’ve read it and imagined all of the voices on my own rather than hearing the entire story told via robotic sounding narrator. It turned out to be really interesting, and while there were parts that I didn’t care for, there were other parts that really made me think about where the world could end up hundreds of years from now.
Matched (Book 1 in the Matched trilogy) is about a girl named Cassia who lives in a place called The Society, a world where everything, from who you marry to when you die to what you eat, is highly regulated by the government, aka, the Officials. When citizens turn 17, they have their Match banquet, at which time they are “Matched” with another Society citizen based on genetic and other factors. Most kids are matched with kids in other areas of the Society, but fortunately for Cassia, she gets Matched with her best friend, Xander. Matchees all receive a microcard with all of the information about their new mate that they are able to look at when they arrive home.
When Cassia looks at her microcard, she sees another face, besides Xander’s. It belongs to a boy named Ky, who had been mistakenly entered into the Match pool. Ky is an abberation – an outcasted member of society who is excluded from the Match pool based on certain societal missteps. Once this happens, Cassia becomes curious about Ky. The two become hiking partners, so they spend a large chunk of their “rec time” together. In that span of time, they became very close and eventually fell in love – something that could’ve caused them both to be cast to the outer boroughs, away from the organized Society they live in to a world that is at war with the Officials who police their land. The rest of the story unfolds as a tale of bizarre experimentation, behavior modification, and rebellion, leading to a sad but hopeful ending.
What I Liked:
1. Once Cassia realized how messed up the Society was, she really stepped up and let her strength come through. When she was tested to determine what her assigned vocation would be, she had to sort workers (including Ky) into groups based on efficiency to determine what their future assignments would be. In doing so, she found out that some would be sent to the outer boroughs where they would likely die young (as opposed to the 80 years all others got to live), while others would be given better positions that would give them a better way of life. This is where she sees her Society’s version of natural selection at work and controlled not by nature but by the Gods of the Society – the Officials.
2. The entire idea of the Society can be exemplified in one quote:
“We may not hear the sound of pain often in Mapletree Borough, but the instinct to try to help has not yet been Matched out of us.”
I actually had to stop for a second when I read this. Cassia says this is such a blasé way, as though the idea of empathy would eventually be bred out of the human race. This is genetics at its worst. Much like dog breeders who choose which behaviors and traits make for the best match, the traits that make humans human would be bred out of the population to create what would ultimately equate to robots.
What I Didn’t Like:
1. It really did seem like Cassia only became interested in Ky because he showed up on her microcard. She’d had no feelings toward him one way or the other beforehand, and only once he was brought to her attention did she become interested in getting to know him and saw him as possibly more than a friend.
“Our time together feels like a storm, like wild wind and rain, like something too big to handle but too powerful to escape. It blows around me and tangles my hair, leaves water on my face, makes me know that I am alive, alive, alive. There are moments of calm and pause as there are in every storm, and moments when our words fork lightning, at least for each other.”
“There is so much that I want. I feel it so much that I am water, a river of want, pooled in the shape of a girl named Cassia.”
My main issue here is that beautiful language like this is something that the precise manner of speaking in the Society. Only 100 songs, 100 poems, and 100 stories were saved from earlier years – only those the Officials deemed important and relevant enough to save. Using metaphorical language like Cassia does isn’t useful by the Society’s standards, so it’s not likely kids would have been taught how to use metaphors in such a way because they wouldn’t be exposed to them to begin with. If that makese sense.
3. Cassia’s rebellion seemed too easy at times. She was raised in a time where people were more or less brainwashed to believe that having every single aspect of their lives dictated by the Officials was the way things were supposed to be, so rebelling should have been a lot more difficult for her to do.
I really enjoyed this book and am looking forward to reading the rest of the series. And if I learned anything from my multiple false starts with Matched it’s that you should only listen to the audiobook after actually reading the book. It was a completely different experience for me this time around, and I’m glad I decided to give it one last go.