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[January 26, 2011]  "Matched," by Ally Condie, Dutton Books, 2010, 366 pages, young adult

Review by
Louella Moreland

What does the word "safe" mean? Does it mean an absence of violence and death? Does it mean enough food and shelter to live a comfortable life? To what end would a society go to protect its citizens and keep them safe? It is such a little word but with so many possibilities.

In Condie's novel "Matched," Cassia on the night of her 17th birthday is sure she has a perfect life. She speeds toward a banquet to be "matched" with the boy who, in a few years, will become her husband. She feels safe and secure in the love of her family and the community where the Society has placed them. Her life is safe.

The Society makes decisions based on the data recorded on each person. All the citizens need to do is follow what the Officials tell them and all is provided for a great life. Death comes on your 80th birthday, calm and safe, with your loved ones there to mark your passage. Meals are prepared and sent to your home, full of all the calories and nutrients that are right to build a strong body. Exercise is calculated to increase strength and endurance. Follow the rules and everyone is safe. No violence. No starvation. No surprises.

When the Officials announce that Cassia is "matched" to her best friend, Xander, she really believes the Society does know what is best for everyone. She has known and liked Xander her entire life.

On the day after the Match Banquet, Cassia views her microchip of information about her match for the first time. She sees Xander's familiar face, but it disappears and another face takes its place -- another boy she knows: Ky Markham. An Official calmly tells her that a mistake has been made. (Yes, it happens, but very rarely.) Things can continue normally.

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But for Cassia, the mistake and her grandfather's Death Banquet have changed her way of looking at life.

Cassia begins to awaken in many ways. She considers the forbidden poem concealed in the compact that belonged to her grandmother, the confiscation of everyone's artifacts from the time before the Society, her father's defiance of the rules for those he loves, the sorting work she does that is so easy for her, the constant awareness of being watched, but most of all her changing feelings for Xander and Ky.

Suddenly Cassia's life feels anything but safe. It is not only her own future, but the futures of the ones she loves that could be in jeopardy if the Officials find out about all the rules she is breaking.

Now Cassia, Xander and Ky realize that cracks are spreading in the control Society has over the people. Something is different. Cassia begins to see what her grandfather meant with the forbidden poem and its words of "do not go gentle." But what will happen if she gives up being safe to follow the feelings she knows in her heart are the truth? Is following Society's rules really safety?

"Matched" is more than a coming-of-age romance for young people. This novel makes the reader question the lines between free choice and government oversight meant to better the lives of its citizens. The story makes readers dig into their beliefs of how much control of their lives they are willing to give up to be safe.

For this and other novels of this genre, visit the Youth Services department at the Lincoln Public Library, 725 Pekin St.

[Text from file received from Louella Moreland, Lincoln Public Library District]

(Ms. Lou's blog:


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