Saturday, January 8, 2011

Who Would Your Match Be?

Having just finally read Lois Lowery's The Giver, I knew I had to read the book recommended to me as "a romantic Giver". Ally Condie's breakout dystopian/utopian novel Matched challenges all we know about life, questions, and choices. Very similar to The Giver's false utopia, this world has done everything to make sure there is no pain, no confusion, and no choices. But in taking away our ability to choose, have they also taken away our ability to live?

Cassia is excited about her Match Banquet. Here she will meet the man she will eventually marry. He will be from another city, but through interactions monitored by Officials, she will get to know him and they will eventually start a family. In Cassia's world, the Officials have created a life where no one has to make choices. The food they eat, what they wear, where they live, the jobs they do, and even the people they marry, are all choices carefully made by sorters who evaluate data in order to assign choices for everything. Food is delivered every day prepackaged and ready to eat. Even the waste they throw into their disposal is monitored to make sure it is the right amount and proper density compared to the amount of food and products they are given. Without any choices to make, people can't make the wrong choices.

Something strange happens at Cassia's Match Banquet. She is assigned to Xander, he best friend. Usually Matches occur with people from other cities, but she got someone in Mapletree Borough. Cassia is excited, but the situation means they won't have the typical courting scenario since they already know each other. Still, Cassia gets the box with Xander's card in it and plugs it into her portscreen to read the information about Xander, but it isn't Xander's card- it's Ky's- another boy from town. While Cassia knows this was a mistake, she still can't stop thinking about Ky, especially when she learns of his status in the society- Ky Markham is an Aberration. Aberrations are outsiders within the society. They can live and work in the Boroughs, but they aren't given important jobs and aren't allowed to Match. They aren't dangerous like Anomalies, who aren't allowed to live in the Boroughs, but they aren't exactly accepted either.

Ky's status intrigues Cassia, and when they are put together in the new hiking group for free time, she grows to really enjoy his company. In fact, Ky is the only person she shares the illegal poem her grandfather gave her before he was released (everyone is "released" at the age of 80). The poem, "Do Not Go Gentle" by Dylan Thomas keeps swirling around in Cassia's head. It is not part of the Hundred Poems (the Society has only saved 100 poems, 100 paintings, etc. Everything else was destroyed and the people of the society are only allowed to view the 100 that have been deemed appropriate). In fact, it is dangerous for her to even know about the poem, but she can't forget about it since her grandfather gave it to her. And Ky understands why.
The poem, Ky, and so much more are making Cassie question the Society and the lack of choices. She knows why the Society has created the world she lives in, but she isn't as willing to accept it's rules anymore. She likes Xander, but she starts to love Ky. She is angry about losing her grandfather, and hates that the Officials can come into her home and take anything they want. She chooses to Not Go Gentle. She wants to Rage, Rage Against the Dying of the Light.

Cassia has become exactly what the Society has worked hard to eliminate- a young woman who wants to make her own choices.
I am so intrigued by the thin line between utopia and dystopia. A utopia is always flawed and therefore teeters on the edge of a dystopia, such as in Matched. A dystopia may be a horrible new world, but there is always hope, always someone willing to stand up to the tyranny. This story is beautifully written and will make you appreciate each and every choice you make- including the ones that might seem difficult at the time. While choices might not always be easy or fun, they are still ours to own and be responsible for. Sure it might be easier not to have to decide what to wear everyday, but where does it stop? Where does giving up control become too much lost?

This is an amazing book filled with deep questions and budding romance. You can feel Cassia's dilemma between Xander who has always been her friend and confidante, and Ky who just knows her. Both young men are great people, so you don't even know who you want her to choose! But in the end, we all have to ask ourselves, how many choices are we willing to give up? If we were Cassia, would we be willing to continue our humdrum lives with Xander, or slip into the vast unknown with Ky? Give this story a shot... after all, it is your Choice to Make!

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