Paranormal Young Adult
Available November 30
Received from Publisher
Life in the Society is perfect. Genetics have been successfully conquered. People are living longer lives, are matched with their ideal reproductive mate, and provide individual services that benefit the Society as a whole. There's no depression, no ambition, nothing beyond toting a predestined line.
Cassia is one such member of Society, and it's the night she's been waiting for her entire seventeen years. Her Match Banquet. Tonight she will see the boy meant for her, and her life can truly begin. It turns out even better than she could have hoped, as her Match is none other than childhood best friend Xander. Beautiful, intelligent, perfect-in-every-way Xander. Things couldn't be better.
Only when she goes to review Xander's data on a microcard after the banquet, it's not his face that pops up on screen as her Match. It's another neighborhood boy named Ky whose face she sees for the briefest of moments. That fleeting image changes everything. Which Match is her true Match? Should she follow her heart, or follow the rules of a Society that has never lead her astray? Is her destiny the one already planned out to the last detail, or the one she makes it? Never before has Cassia questioned anything, but the time for sitting idly by has passed, and a new time has come where questions become vital to survival.
Every once in a while a story comes along that electrifies you into having a deep, visceral reaction of which you didn't know you were capable and certainly weren't expecting. Matched starts out so simple, a perfect society full of perfect people living perfect lives so spectacularly detailed there's not the slightest opportunity or inclination for change. The story moves very slowly, like a watched pot waiting to boil. There's insubordination and discontent simmering just beneath the surface, promising complex interactions and intricate emotional conflicts, but that first defiant bubble refuses to break the smooth surface and come to a full boil until midway through the book. Though it begins slowly, this story is not boring. Never boring. Rather, the plot progresses at a pace that allows the reader to think, to question, to relate, and ultimately to savor. It doesn't necessarily inspire late-night, frenetic-pace reading, but it does creep into our consciousness at every available opportunity, leaving its permanent brand on our psyche as we find ourselves reflecting on everything we've experienced.
There's something overwhelmingly intimate about Cassia's story, a quiet but potent camaraderie existing between character and reader, allowing us feel that no matter how many other people share this same story, we will always have an individual relationship and our own unique, unbreakable bond to hold tight and treasure. The stolen moments between Cassia and Ky are beautifully portrayed, the simplest of actions taking on a heartbreaking significance. Plain alphabet letters morph into unspoken declarations of love, the briefest of touches becomes more potent than the most passionate of embraces, and hushed exchanges transform into life-altering events.
The writing itself seems to reflect the rigid parameters established by Society. There are no unnecessary, flowery descriptions of characters or places, just matter of fact details illustrating an unquestioning acceptance of day to day life. At first, this sterile approach keeps the reader at a distance, never letting us fully into Cassia's heart and mind so we may connect to her as we follow on her journey, but as soon as Cassia begins to question and to feel, we start to feel with her. The writing then provides yet another type of unity, creating a bond between us that strengthens as each new emotion she feels adds a strand of fiber to the steel cable now holding us together. Real affection, true sorrow, and a brand new anger begin to replace the Society-preferred contentment and complacency, and though it doesn't show on Cassia's exterior, we have the privilege of seeing the maelstrom of rebellious emotions swirling through her veins.
Both gloriously simple and deliciously complex, this story is a joy to read. To bear witness as Cassia discovers the point at which the level of control over her life is no longer acceptable is incredibly powerful, and there's a haunting satisfaction in watching as complexities begin to infect the pristine monotony the Society has worked so hard to perfect. Life is effortless when everything is decided for us, but infinitely more intricate when we are gifted with the ability to choose. Following dictation is easy. Making decisions and facing the repercussions of those choices is far more difficult. More life-affirming. More courageous. And, at the end of the day, what makes life worth living.