Matched: The Giver Meets The Hunger Games

Matched by Ally Condie
Started: Beginning of January
Finished: February 1 (Ice Day 2011)
Format: Started as an audio book checked out from the MISD Digital Library and then bought the hardcover from Border's
Goal: 4 of 25

What a lovely way to spend an icy, frigid day off from school. I hunkered down in my Snuggie, drank hot tea, and read off and on all afternoon. Pure bliss. Thank you, Mother Nature, for this rare treat. Finishing this book and blogging about it are my two major accomplishments for this serendipity of a day; I feel slightly productive even though I should have been working on my UNT assignments. Blah.

Now to this thought-provoking book, the first in a TRILOGY by Ally Condie, a former high school English teacher from Salt Lake City, Utah. (I have great admiration and interest in former teachers turned writers because it proves that it CAN be done. And I'm so excited to have another trilogy in my reading life!) I first heard about this book in December during my workshop with Donalyn Miller, The Book Whisperer. I put it on my "To Read List" and then I ran across it as an audio book while browsing the MISD Digital Library during the Christmas holidays. I started listening to it after I finished Shiver, but not having a long trip so that I could devote hours to listening made it impossible to finish before my seven-day checkout limit expired. So Matched was sucked back into cyberspace before I could finish it, which is just part of the reality of being a digital library user. I could have checked it out again, but I went to Border's and did something so 2007: I bought the book in hardback. Since it's a trilogy, this is one I want to own. Besides, the cover is pretty.

Pause for a quick plug about our MISD Digital Library: IT ROCKS! It is so fun to watch teachers, parents, and students get excited about using this amazing FREE resource. We are the only school district in North Texas and the second in Texas to have something like this. I am proud to be a part of a district that values literacy in ALL forms. Even if you aren't a part of the MISD family, you should still visit our site. It's amazing!

Now back to Matched: I loved this book. As I mentioned in the title of this post, it's part Giver with some added Hunger Games and a little Fahrenheit 451 sprinkled in. This is the story of Cassia, who lives in a Society where Officials decide every component of life from occupation to marriage partner to when a person dies. At her Matching banquet, a rite of passage for every 17 year old of the Society, Cassia discovers that her Match is her best friend Xander. It is rare for Matches to already know each other, so Cassia considers herself lucky. However, when she watches the screen to find out the "data" on her future husband who she already knows so well, another face flashes for an instant and then is gone. This is the face of Ky, an outcast of the Society and who just so happens to live on the same street as Cassia and Xander. Therefore, the ingredients of a love triangle emerge (think Katniss/Peeta/Gale or Bella/Edward/Jacob). Cassia must decide if she should follow her heart and break the rules of her Society or live the well-planned life that lies before her.

This book is part of the wave of dystopian YA literature that is quickly replacing paranormal romances as the buzz. In some ways, I liked it better than Hunger Games, which might seem blasphemous to HG fans. Let me be clear: Matched does not possess the compulsive readability of HG. Nor does it have the violence, and I admit that HG was a little hard for me to read at times. But I still loved it--don't get me wrong! What I appreciate about Matched is that it is beautifully written with many interwoven themes and symbols; it made my English teacher heart sing once again. Many times I thought, I would love to discuss this book with a group of teenagers. The central theme of Matched lies in the Dylan Thomas poem "Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night." If you don't remember it from your days in high school English, then click here for a refresher. This is one of my favorite poems, so I loved how Condie used it as a recurring theme: Going "gentle" would mean choosing Xander and the life that the Society has planned for her; to "rage, rage against the dying of the light" means choosing Ky and risking everything she knows and loves.

It is chilling to read about this Society that has made every aspect of human life efficient--even marriage and death. This is a Society which has eradicated cancer through genetic matching, but they have also eliminated free choice. What I found most disturbing was that this Society appoints Officials to choose 100 best of everything--Hundred Poems, Hundred Songs, Hundred Paintings--and burn all of the rest. Their justification behind this horrible censorship is How can we appreciate anything fully when overwhelmed with too much? This is enough to make any librarian's blood pressure rise.

I highly recommend Matched. It proves, once again, that YA books are great for adults, too. Crossed, the second in the series, will be released in November 2011, and I can't wait. Matched offers a satisfying ending, but there is definitely more to Cassia's, Xander's, and Ky's story.

In Cassia's words:

"They are giving us pieces of a real life instead of the whole thing...I don't want my life to be samples and scraps. A taste of everything but a meal of nothing." p. 249

Deep stuff for a cold, lazy day.


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