Not too often does a book come along that's really hard for me to put down, but Ally Condie's debut novel Matched is one such book. The book is about an Utopian future where the government has a tight leash on its citizens, planning time for all of their activities, exercise, eating, what they eat, where they go, etc. They also match each person with their ideal genetic mate. Cassia Reyes doesn't question much in her life. She wasn't raised to. But then she is matched to her best friend Xander Carrow. It's kind of a relief, as she doesn't have to worry about what her husband will be like, but it also takes the excitement out of the event. Until she takes a look at his datafile, and it is momentarily replaced by another boy, Ky Markham, and she slowly realizes that, while it's forbidden, she may be falling for him.
Like Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games, this book is about revolution in the face of an oppressive government. But while The Hunger Games saw the protagonists fight back with bows and arrows, Matched is much more subtle. In fact, Cassia doesn't even realize how controlled her life is until she finds a poem that her grandfather has stashed away. In this Utopian future, only 100 songs, 100 poems, 100 stories, etc have been selected as sufficient entertainment. The poem that her grandfather has hidden over the years speaks words of rebellion that light a fire in her. After she reads this poem, she begins to think differently, observing her life in a new light, even speak and talk in different ways. It changes her life. And one change that she wants is Ky Markham for herself.
Ally Condie seems to effortlessly build this world with unique characteristics. And the subtlety of how her prose changes with her character is brilliant. It's a much slower read than readers of The Hunger Games will be used to, but the ideas in Matched are much more powerful. I loved this story, its heart-breaking forbidden romance between Cassia and Ky, the dangerous moves that Cassia plays in the face of the government, the startling revelations and turns that the story takes. It's all executed beautifully and will make people think about what they've read long after they've put it down.