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Matched [Paperback]

Ally Condie
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1,931 customer reviews)

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Amazon Best Books of the Month, December 2010: For Cassia, nothing is left to chance--not what she will eat, the job she will have, or the man she will marry. In Matched, the Society Officials have determined optimal outcomes for all aspects of daily life, thereby removing the "burden" of choice. When Cassia's best friend is identified as her ideal marriage Match it confirms her belief that Society knows best, until she plugs in her Match microchip and a different boy’s face flashes on the screen. This improbable mistake sets Cassia on a dangerous path to the unthinkable--rebelling against the predetermined life Society has in store for her. As author Ally Condie’s unique dystopian Society takes chilling measures to maintain the status quo, Matched reminds readers that freedom of choice is precious, and not without sacrifice.--Seira Wilson


Amazon Exclusive: Author Q&A with Ally Condie

Q: What inspired you to write Matched?

A: Matched was inspired by several experiences—specific ones, like a conversation with my husband and chaperoning a high school prom—and general ones, like falling in love and becoming a parent.

Q: How do you think Matched differs from other dystopian novels?

A: I think it’s different in that it’s perhaps less action-oriented and more introspective. This is really the story of one girl, Cassia, learning to choose.

Q: The cover for Matched is so eye-catching and mysterious. What does the image represent to you?

A: I cannot imagine a more perfect cover for this book. To me, the image is a clear representation of Cassia, the main character, and the way she is trapped in her world. It’s kind of a lovely world—the bubble is beautiful—but it’s confining nonetheless. And, of course, the color green is very important to the book. I’m just so thrilled about this cover. Theresa Evangelista, the designer, and Samantha Aide, the photographer and model, are incredibly talented.

Q: In Matched, each member of the Society is not only assigned a spouse, they’re also assigned a job, and Cassia, your main character, is a data sorter. If you lived in the Society, what job do you think you’d have?

A: I would definitely not be a data sorter. I am terrible with numbers and patterns. I think I would probably be a teacher or instructor. Or maybe one of the people did a mundane task, like dishwashing. I have a feeling that I wouldn’t fare very well in the Society.

Q: Dylan Thomas’ classic poem, “Do Not Go Gentle,” is part of a theme that you’ve woven throughout Matched. Do you remember when you first came across this poem? What made you decide to use it in your novel?

A: I don’t remember when I first read this poem, which is pretty embarrassing. But I do remember the first time I heard a recording of the author reading it. I remember feeling almost reverent, and paying close attention to how he said the words and went through the lines. This poem came to mind almost immediately when I started writing the book. It’s probably the most universal poem I’ve ever encountered. The first line alone resonates immediately with almost everyone.

Q: What do you like about writing for teenagers?

A: Everything. I like talking with teenagers themselves about books. I like trying to capture the teenage voice. And I like writing about teenagers because they have SO MUCH happening in their lives, and they are passionate about those things.

Q: What were some of the books you loved as a teen? Did any of these books influence Matched at all?

A: I loved (and still do) Anne Tyler and Wallace Stegner. I remember being introduced to those authors in ninth grade and being floored by the beauty of their writing. I also loved anything by Agatha Christie. I think these books did influence me—not in any concrete, specific way, but in that I wanted to write a story about a character worth caring about even though/because of the fact that she is flawed and human.

Q: What would you like your readers to take away from the experience of reading Matched?

A: I hope they can take away whatever they need from the story. I hope there is something there for a reader--whether it’s relating to a character or reading a scene that feels true or anything else.

Q: Will there be more books featuring Cassia, or set in the world of Matched?

A: Yes! There will be two more books in the Matched trilogy.

--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From School Library Journal

Gr 7 Up–In a story that is at once evocative of Lois Lowry's The Giver (Houghton, 1993), George Orwell's 1984, and Aldous Huxley's Brave New World, Condie introduces readers to the “perfect” Society. Cassia Reyes is a model student, daughter, and citizen. How could she not be when the Society has everything planned and functioning perfectly? All of her needs are met: food, shelter, education, career training, and even her future husband are selected by officials who know what is best for each individual by studying statistical data and probable odds. She even knows when she will die, on her 80th birthday, just as the Society dictates. At her Match Banquet she is paired with Xander, her best friend and certainly her soul mate. But when a computer error shows her the face of Ky, an Aberration, instead of Xander, cracks begin to appear in the Society's facade of perfection. A series of events also shakes her dedication to Xander and puts her future in jeopardy. Cassia exhibits some characteristics of Winston Smith and Lenina Crowne in her silent rebellion against societal control and in her illicit friendship with Ky but ultimately, and more satisfyingly, she is more like Lowry's Jonas. Her awakening and development are realistically portrayed, and supporting characters like Cassia's parents and her grandfather add depth to the story. The biggest flaw is that the story is not finished. Fans of the Giver will devour this book and impatiently demand the next installment.–Anthony C. Doyle, Livingston High School, CA. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

“Do not go gentle into that good night.” Cassia’s feelings of security disintegrate after her grandfather hands her a slip of paper just before his scheduled death at age 80. Not only does she now possess an illegal poem, but she also has a lingering interest in the boy who fleetingly appeared on her viewscreen, the one who wasn’t her match, the man she will eventually marry. What’s worse, she knows him—his name is Ky, and he is an orphan from the Outer Provinces. How could she love him as much as Xander, her match and best friend since childhood? The stunning clarity and attention to detail in Condie’s Big Brother–like world is a feat. Some readers might find the Society to be a close cousin of Lois Lowry’s dystopian future in The Giver (1993), with carefully chosen work placements, constant monitoring, and pills for regulating emotional extremes. However, the author just as easily tears this world apart while deftly exploring the individual cost of societal perfection and the sacrifices inherent in freedom of choice. Grades 9-12. --Courtney Jones --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Review

"Condie's enthralling and twisty dystopian plot is well served by her intriguing characters and fine writing." -Publishers Weekly, starred review

"I can't stop thinking about Matched. It's impossible to put down this enthralling romance, set in a chilling world where every choice is predicted and even love is controlled. I need to know what happens next. More please!" --Carrie Ryan, New York Times bestselling author of The Forest of Hands and Teeth and The Dead-Tossed Waves

"Matched is a page-turning, dystopian love story, written with the soul of a poet. Finally, a brave new world that readers from Twilight to The Hunger Games will claim as their own." --Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl, New York Times bestselling authors of Beautiful Creatures

"Absolutely riveting! Matched is a must-read." --Melissa Marr, New York Times bestselling author of the Wicked Lovely series

"This futuristic fable of love and free will asks: Can there be freedom without choice? The tale of Cassia's journey from acceptance to rebellion will draw you in and leave you wanting more." --Cassandra Clare, New York Times bestselling author of The Infernal Devices and The Mortal Instruments series --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

About the Author

Ally Condie is a former high school English teacher who lives with her husband and three sons outside of Salt Lake City, Utah. She loves reading, running, eating, and listening to her husband play guitar.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

CHAPTER 1
 
Now that I’ve found the way to fly, which direction should I go into the night? My wings aren’t white or feathered; they’re green, made of green silk, which shudders in the wind and bends when I move—first in a circle, then in a line, finally in a shape of my own invention. The black behind me doesn’t worry me; neither do the stars ahead.
I smile at myself, at the foolishness of my imagination. People cannot fly, though before the Society, there were myths about those who could. I saw a painting of them once. White wings, blue sky, gold circles above their heads, eyes turned up in surprise as though they couldn’t believe what the artist had painted them doing, couldn’t believe that their feet didn’t touch the ground.
Those stories weren’t true. I know that. But tonight, it’s easy to forget. The air train glides through the starry night so smoothly and my heart pounds so quickly that it feels as though I could soar into the sky at any moment.
“What are you smiling about?” Xander wonders as I smooth the folds of my green silk dress down neat.
“Everything,” I tell him, and it’s true. I’ve waited so long for this: for my Match Banquet. Where I’ll see, for the first  time, the face of the boy who will be my Match. It will be the first time I hear his name.
I can’t wait. As quickly as the air train moves, it still isn’t fast enough. It hushes through the night, its sound a background for the low rain of our parents’ voices, the lightning-quick beats of my heart.
Perhaps Xander can hear my heart pounding, too, because he asks, “Are you nervous?” In the seat next to him, Xander’s older brother begins to tell my mother the story of his Match Banquet. It won’t be long now until Xander and I have our own stories to tell.
“No,” I say. But Xander’s my best friend. He knows me too well.
“You lie,” he teases. “You are nervous.”
“Aren’t you?”
“Not me. I’m ready.” He says it without hesitation, and I believe him. Xander is the kind of person who is sure about what he wants.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re nervous, Cassia,” he says, gentle now. “Almost ninety-three percent of those attending their Match Banquet exhibit some signs of nervousness.”
“Did you memorize all of the official Matching material?”
“Almost,” Xander says, grinning. He holds his hands out as if to say, What did you expect?
The gesture makes me laugh, and besides, I memorized  all of the material, too. It’s easy to do when you read it so many times, when the decision is so important. “So you’re in the minority,” I say. “The seven percent who don’t show any nerves at all.”
“Of course,” he agrees.
“How could you tell I was nervous?”
“Because you keep opening and closing that.” Xander points to the golden object in my hands. “I didn’t know you had an artifact.” A few treasures from the past float around among us. Though citizens of the Society are allowed one artifact each, they are hard to come by. Unless you had ancestors who took care to pass things along through the years.
“I didn’t, until a few hours ago,” I tell him. “Grandfather gave it to me for my birthday. It belonged to his mother.”
“What’s it called?” Xander asks.
“A compact,” I say. I like the name very much. Compact means small. I am small. I also like the way it sounds when you say it: com-pact. Saying the word makes a sound like the one the artifact itself makes when it snaps shut.
“What do the initials and numbers mean?”
“I’m not sure.” I run my finger across the letters ACM and the numbers 1940 carved across the golden surface. “But look,” I tell him, popping the compact open to show him the inside: a little mirror, made of real glass, and a small hollow where the original owner once stored powder for her face, according to Grandfather. Now, I use it to hold the three  emergency tablets that everyone carries—one green, one blue, one red.
“That’s convenient,” Xander says. He stretches out his arms in front of him and I notice that he has an artifact, too—a pair of shiny platinum cuff links. “My father lent me these, but you can’t put anything in them. They’re completely useless.”
“They look nice, though.” My gaze travels up to Xander’s face, to his bright blue eyes and blond hair above his dark suit and white shirt. He’s always been handsome, even when we were little, but I’ve never seen him dressed up like this. Boys don’t have as much leeway in choosing clothes as girls do. One suit looks much like another. Still, they get to select the color of their shirts and cravats, and the quality of the material is much finer than the material used for plainclothes. “You look nice.” The girl who finds out that he’s her Match will be thrilled.
“Nice?” Xander says, lifting his eyebrows. “That’s all?”
“Xander,” his mother says next to him, amusement mingled with reproach in her voice.
You look beautiful,” Xander tells me, and I flush a little even though I’ve known Xander all my life. I feel beautiful, in this dress: ice green, floating, full-skirted. The unaccustomed smoothness of silk against my skin makes me feel lithe and graceful.
Next to me, my mother and father each draw a breath as City Hall comes into view, lit up white and blue and sparkling with the special occasion lights that indicate a celebration is  taking place. I can’t see the marble stairs in front of the Hall yet, but I know that they will be polished and shining. All my life I have waited to walk up those clean marble steps and through the doors of the Hall, a building I have seen from a distance but never entered.
I want to open the compact and check in the mirror to make sure I look my best. But I don’t want to seem vain, so I sneak a glance at my face in its surface instead.
The rounded lid of the compact distorts my features a little, but it’s still me. My green eyes. My coppery-brown hair, which looks more golden in the compact than it does in real life. My straight small nose. My chin with a trace of a dimple like my grandfather’s. All the outward characteristics that make me Cassia Maria Reyes, seventeen years old exactly.
I turn the compact over in my hands, looking at how perfectly the two sides fit together. My Match is already coming together just as neatly, beginning with the fact that I am here tonight. Since my birthday falls on the fifteenth, the day the Banquet is held each month, I’d always hoped that I might be Matched on my actual birthday—but I knew it might not happen. You can be called up for your Banquet anytime during the year after you turn seventeen. When the notification came across the port two weeks ago that I would, indeed, be Matched on the day of my birthday, I could almost hear the clean snap of the pieces fitting into place, exactly as I’ve dreamed for so long.
Because although I haven’t even had to wait a full day for my Match, in some ways I have waited all my life.
“Cassia,” my mother says, smiling at me. I blink and look up, startled. My parents stand up, ready to disembark. Xander stands, too, and straightens his sleeves. I hear him take a deep breath, and I smile to myself. Maybe he is a little nervous after all.
“Here we go,” he says to me. His smile is so kind and good; I’m glad we were called up the same month. We’ve shared so much of childhood, it seems we should share the end of it, too.
I smile back at him and give him the best greeting we have in the Society. “I wish you optimal results,” I tell Xander.
“You too, Cassia,” he says.
As we step off the air train and walk toward City Hall, my parents each link an arm through mine. I am surrounded, as I always have been, by their love.
It is only the three of us tonight. My brother, Bram, can’t come to the Match Banquet because he is under seventeen, too young to attend. The first one you attend is always your own. I, however, will be able to attend Bram’s banquet because I am the older sibling. I smile to myself, wondering what Bram’s Match will be like. In seven years I will find out.
But tonight is my night.
 
It is easy to identify those of us being Matched; not only are we younger than all of the others, but we also float along  in beautiful dresses and tailored suits while our parents and older siblings walk around in plainclothes, a background against which we bloom. The City Officials smile proudly at us, and my heart swells as we enter the Rotunda.
In addition to Xander, who waves good-bye to me as he crosses the room to his seating area, I see another girl I know named Lea. She picked the bright red dress. It is a good choice for her, because she is beautiful enough that standing out works in her favor. She looks worried, however, and she keeps twisting her artifact, a jeweled red bracelet. I am a little surprised to see Lea there. I would have picked her for a Single.
“Look at this china,” my father says as we find our place at the Banquet tables. “It reminds me of the Wedgwood pieces we found last year . . .”
My mother looks at me and rolls her eyes in amusement. Even at the Match Banquet, my father can’t stop himself from noticing these things. My father spends months working in old neighborhoods that are being restored and turned into new Boroughs for public use. He sifts through the relics of a society that is not as far in the past as it seems. Right now, for example, he is working on a particularly interesting Restoration project: an old library. He sorts out the things the Society has marked as valuable from the things that are not.
But then I have to laugh because my mother can’t help but comment on the flowers, since they fall in her area of expertise as an Arboretum worker. “Oh, Cassia! Look at the centerpieces. Lilies.” She squeezes my hand.
“Please be seated,” an Official tells us from the podium. “Dinner is about to be served.”
It’s almost comical how quickly we all take our seats. Because we might admire the china and the flowers, and we might be here for our Matches, but we also can’t wait to taste the food.
“They say this dinner is always wasted on the Matchees,” a jovial-looking man sitting across from us says, smiling around our table. “So excited they can’t eat a bite.” And it’s true; one of the girls sitting farther down the table, wearing a pink dress, stares at her plate, touching nothing.
I don’t seem to have this problem, however. Though I don’t gorge myself, I can eat some of everything—the roasted vegetables, the savory meat, the crisp greens, and creamy cheese. The warm light bread. The meal seems like a dance, as though this is a ball as well as a banquet. The waiters slide the plates in front of us with graceful hands; the food, wearing herbs and garnishes, is as dressed up as we are. We lift the white napkins, the silver forks, the shining crystal goblets as if in time to music.
My father smiles happily as a server sets a piece of chocolate cake with fresh cream before him at the end of the meal. “Wonderful,” he whispers, so softly that only my mother and I can hear him.
My mother laughs a little at him, teasing him, and he reaches for her hand.
I understand his enthusiasm when I take a bite of the  cake, which is rich but not overwhelming, deep and dark and flavorful. It is the best thing I have eaten since the traditional dinner at Winter Holiday, months ago. I wish Bram could have some cake, and for a minute I think about saving some of mine for him. But there is no way to take it back to him. It wouldn’t fit in my compact. It would be bad form to hide it away in my mother’s purse even if she would agree, and she won’t. My mother doesn’t break the rules.
I can’t save it for later. It is now, or never.
I have just popped the last bite in my mouth when the announcer says, “We are ready to announce the Matches.”
I swallow in surprise, and for a second, I feel an unexpected surge of anger: I didn’t get to savor my last bite of cake.
 
“Lea Abbey.”
Lea twists her bracelet furiously as she stands, waiting to see the face flash on the screen. She is careful to hold her hands low, though, so that the boy seeing her in another City Hall somewhere will only see the beautiful blond girl and not her worried hands, twisting and turning that bracelet.
It is strange how we hold on to the pieces of the past while we wait for our futures.
There is a system, of course, to the Matching. In City Halls across the country, all filled with people, the Matches are announced in alphabetical order according to the girls’ last names. I feel slightly sorry for the boys, who have no idea when their names will be called, when they must stand for  girls in other City Halls to receive them as Matches. Since my last name is Reyes, I will be somewhere at the end of the middle. The beginning of the end.
The screen flashes with the face of a boy, blond and handsome. He smiles as he sees Lea’s face on the screen where he is, and she smiles, too. “Joseph Peterson,” the announcer says. “Lea Abbey, you have been matched with Joseph Peterson.”
The hostess presiding over the Banquet brings Lea a small silver box; the same thing happens to Joseph Peterson on the screen. When Lea sits down, she looks at the silver box longingly, as though she wishes she could open it right away. I don’t blame her. Inside the box is a microcard with background information about her Match. We all receive them. Later, the boxes will be used to hold the rings for the Marriage Contract.
The screen flashes back to the default picture: a boy and a girl, smiling at each other, with glimmering lights and a white-coated Official in the background. Although the Society times the Matching to be as efficient as possible, there are still moments when the screen goes back to this picture, which means that we all wait while something happens somewhere else. It’s so complicated—the Matching—and I am again reminded of the intricate steps of the dances they used to do long ago. This dance, however, is one that the Society alone can choreograph now.
The picture shimmers away.
The announcer calls another name; another girl stands up.
Soon, more and more people at the Banquet have little silver boxes. Some people set them on the white tablecloths in front of them, but most hold the boxes carefully, unwilling to let their futures out of their hands so soon after receiving them.
I don’t see any other girls wearing the green dress. I don’t mind. I like the idea that, for one night, I don’t look like everyone else.
I wait, holding my compact in one hand and my mother’s hand in the other. Her palm feels sweaty. For the first time, I realize that she and my father are nervous, too.
“Cassia Maria Reyes.”
It is my turn.
I stand up, letting go of my mother’s hand, and turn toward the screen. I feel my heart pounding and I am tempted to twist my hands the way Lea did, but I hold perfectly still with my chin up and my eyes on the screen. I watch and wait, determined that the girl my Match will see on the screen in his City Hall somewhere out there in Society will be poised and calm and lovely, the very best image of Cassia Maria Reyes that I can present.
But nothing happens.
I stand and look at the screen, and, as the seconds go by, it is all I can do to stay still, all I can do to keep smiling.  Whispers start around me. Out of the corner of my eye, I see my mother move her hand as if to take mine again, but then she pulls it back.
A girl in a green dress stands waiting, her heart pounding. Me.
The screen is dark, and it stays dark.
That can only mean one thing.

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