Matched by Ally Condie (Dutton Books, November 2010)
Matched, by Ally Condie, presents a world in which Society prescribes a life for each member and Officials stand in for God, evaluating strengths and weaknesses with scientific precision to enable optimal career paths and “matches.” Although Condie never states it directly in this young adult novel, a match is a precursor to a breeding, which, presumably, will result in future generations of ever more perfect human products.
The story takes place in the not-too-distant future and opens on the eve of two milestone events in the life of the heroine: Cassia’s match on her seventeenth birthday and her beloved grandfather’s death on his eightieth. Both events are planned and orchestrated by Officials to maximize the efficiency of their respective lives. But grandfather is a bit of a rebel, and he either sees or hopes he sees a kindred spirit in Cassia. His last gifts to her are an illicit poem that did not survive Society’s literature purge and the advice, “Do not go gentle into that good night.”
The premise is wonderful. The setting is satisfyingly dystopian – humans wear plainclothes in colors designating their work status; the Officials manage people as though they were livestock; and prescribed recreation sometimes takes the form of walking in the woods, a pasttime as obsolete as typing on a manual typewriter or looking up a word in a hardbound dictionary.
Condie keeps us at arm’s length from the characters, however – Cassia cries, but we don’t cry with her. That may be an intentional reflection of the sanitized Society in which they live. Or it may be due to the fact that Matched is the first book in a trilogy and the author is growing the characters slowly. Regardless, the cliffhanger on which Matched ends is more than enough reason to seek out the sequel in November of this year. (Dutton will publish the third book in the series in November of 2012.)
A review copy was provided by the publisher.