In a post-Hunger Games world, it seems dystopian fiction is all the rage. And as more dystopian titles are released, it means authors will have to work even harder to stand out from the crowd. Ally Condie does just that with her new book Matched, in stores today. The first in a new trilogy, Matched has earned all of the buzz its been receiving.
Matched is set in a saccharine and disturbing dystopian future that, in some ways, is more terrifying than the world of Panem from The Hunger Games. Whereas Panem is blatantly oppressive — and its citizens know they are being wronged by their government — the world of The Society is deceptive. The ruling body — “The Officials” — act as though they are serving the people’s best interests, and sugar-coat their control in such a way that most citizens believe in what’s being asked of them.
As the synopsis says, “In the Society, Officials decide. Who you love. Where you work. When you die.” But for our heroine, Cassia, this has always seemed like a small price to pay for the perfect life. And she’s spent her youth looking forward to the day when she turns 17 and will be Matched with her perfect mate.
And at first, all goes well. The face that appears before her is her best friend Xander. They’ve grown up together, and their Matching seems ideal. Except for a brief moment when another boy’s face, Ky, appears on the screen. What begins as a moment of doubt leads to Cassia questioning her entire existence, her entire world and her purpose in it.
The book is slow-paced at times, but it works — with the tension building moment by moment. Like when Cassia and Ky sneak hand-holds. Or read illegal poetry in the woods. Destroy a scrap of paper. Throughout the book, seemingly innocuous scenes buzz with an eerie and disturbing quality. On the surface, things seem fine — but Condie writes the scenes so that you sense a lurking danger.
This hum of unease builds upon itself until the book’s climax, which peaks with a cunning, cinematic quality that readers will devour. The book ends with the perfect set-up for its sequel, which will hopefully hit stores next year. (Matched is the first in a new trilogy — so you’ve got lots to look forward to!)