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Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Utopia/Dystopia: Matched by Ally Condie




















Condie, A. (2010). Matched. New York, NY: Scholastic Inc.     
              
Plot Summary:  Seventeen year-old Cassia Reyes lives in a world where the Society knows and decides everything for everyone.  They decide who you will marry, where you will work, and even when you will die.  But, when Cassia sees two boys as her “Match” for marriage her faith in the system starts to falter.  Although the Officials assure Cassia that her best friend Xander, is the correct match, she cannot get the second boy, Ky, out of her head.   In a world where free will is not an option, Cassie has to make the biggest choice of all. Will she follow the laws of the system and lead the life that has been chosen for her, or will she break the rules to follow her own heart?

Critical Analysis:  Heidi Hauser Green from Children’s Literaturestates that in Matched by Ally Condie, “Cassia is a believable, complex, poetic character and her struggles for understanding and justice ring true” (2010, Children’s Comprehensive Database).  Anthony Doyle from the School Library Journal also correlates Green’s comments when he states that Cassia’s “awakening and development are realistically portrayed, and supporting characters like Cassia's parents and her grandfather add depth to the story” (2010, Books in Print). In addition to realistic characters, Condie also develops and portrays the “utopian” world where Cassia lives in perfect and disturbing detail.  Courtney Jones from Booklist states that Condie “easily tears this world apart while deftly exploring the individual cost of societal perfection and the sacrifices inherent in freedom of choice” (2010, Children’s Comprehensive Database).  Ally Condie not only creates a perfect world where everything is decided for you, but she also creates the perfect storm where nothing is what it seems or lasts forever.  In Matched, Cassia Reyes thinks her world is perfect.  There are no diseases, food is prepared for you by your unique nutrition requirements, there is practically no crime, you are given work assignments based on your talents, and you are systematically “matched” to the perfect mate.  But, when Cassia is matched to more than one boy, she starts to question how “perfect” the Society really is and how many other times they’ve made mistakes.  Soon, Cassia starts to question everything and wants a life that she chooses, not one that is chosen for her.  Disobedience and rebellion are not tolerated in the Society and they are keeping close tabs on Cassia and her family.  When Cassia finally thinks she’s unlocked the secrets to how the Society really works, she soon realizes that her world is a lot more complicated and cruel than she originally thought.

Condie’s development of the Society in Matched is ingeniously crafted.  Although, eerily similar to The Giver by Lois Lowry, Condie’s story is still unique and stands on its own merit.  As the story unfolds, so does the world of Matched. You learn about the “emotion” pills, the school system, the Officials who enforce and monitor everything, the matching system, and the age at which a citizen is chosen to die.  In addition, one of the elements that still rings true of many Utopian/Dystopian societies is the brainwashing of its citizens.  This is evident when Cassia says, “there’s no reason to rebel.  Look at what the Society gives us. Good lives.  A chance at immortality. The only way it can be ruined is if we ruin it ourselves” (p. 136). The concept of “big brother” is evident throughout the story as well and is at the heart of what keeps the citizens in check.  The fear of getting an “infraction” and being labeled as an “Abberration” is something no good citizen wants – it only makes your quality of life more difficult.  You cannot be matched with someone and your work assignment is the worst.  The reader will come to realize that this is how the Officials control the citizens and one of the main reasons the Society functions without too many disturbances. 
  
The character development of Cassia over the course of the story is very well done.  In the beginning, you can see how she sees the rules of the Society make sense to her and everyone else.  She doesn’t like to break the rules and is happy with the way her life is – it is all she has ever known.  But, at her grandfather’s “Final Banquet” he reveals to her an illegal poem that provokes to her to “not be gentle” and to fight for what she believes in.  Soon, Cassia starts to question and wonder about the way her world works.  This, coupled with the mistake of the second boy appearing as her match, gets Cassia questioning.  Eventually, she realizes that the Society is not perfect after all and their control over its citizens is disturbingly wrong.   This is evident when she says, “I feel disgust when I think of how we climb our little hills when the Officials say the word. How we hand over our most precious items at their bidding.  How we never, ever fight” (p. 210).  Ky’s development is a little less direct than Cassia’s since the story is told through her point of view.  But, Condie expertly crafts Ky’s backstory as drawings he gives to Cassia that show her a glimpse of his past. Both Cassia and the reader little by little about what happened to Ky and his parents before he moved in with his aunt and uncle. For example, in one scene Cassia is looking at a drawing Ky gave her and says, “In the middle of the crease Ky drew a village, little houses, little people.  But all the people lie prone, on their backs. No one stands straight, except the two Kys. The young one’s hands are no longer empty; they carry something. One hand holds the world Mother, slumping over the edge of his hand, shaped a little like a body” (p. 222).  It’s not until much later in the story that you find out the heartbreaking truth of how Ky became an orphan.  The relationship that Cassia has with her grandfather has a lasting impact on her throughout the story.  It is his character that gives her the strength to “not go gentle” when it comes to fighting for her own choices and future.

Matchedby Ally Condie is a story about love, breaking societal barriers, and finding your own path. This novel is highly recommended for 6th grade and up.  Readers of Divergent by Veronica Roth, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, and The Giver by Lois Lowry will enjoy this thought-provoking story.


References

Doyle, Anthony. (2010, Dec. 1). In a story that is at once evocative of Lois Lowry's The Giver. [Review of the book Matched, written by Ally Condie.] School Library Journal. Books in Print. Retrieved from http://ezproxy.twu.edu:3959/DetailedView.aspx?hreciid=|30738161|35063347&mc=USA#

Green, Heidi H. (2010). Seventeen-year old Cassie has reached an important milestone. [Review of the book Matched, written by Ally Condie.] Children’s Literature. Children’s Comprehensive Database. Retrieved from http://ezproxy.twu.edu:4529/index.php/jbookdetail/jqbookdetail?page=1&pos=1&isbn=9780525423645

Jones, Courtney. (2010, Sept. 15). Do not go gentle into that good night. [Review of the book Matched, written by Ally Condie.] Booklist, Vol. 107: No. 2. Children’s Comprehensive Database.Retrieved from http://ezproxy.twu.edu:4529/index.php/jbookdetail/jqbookdetail?page=1&pos=1&isbn=9780525423645

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