An intriguing and beautiful cover can sell me on a book, and that's just what happened when I was perusing the YA section at Barnes & Noble in November. I like to wander through bookstores every six-eight weeks, much to my wallet's dismay, and look at the new releases, cover designs, back cover copy, etc.
When I spotted Matched, I knew without cracking the cover that I wanted to read the book. When I did open the book and discovered it was a dystopian novel (a personal favorite genre), a debut novel, and days old, I knew it was leaving the store with me.
See, doesn't this scream take me home and read me?
As the novel opens, Cassia Reyes is about to enter her fully orchestrated future. Her matching banquet falls on her seventeenth birthday which leads her to believe life will be sweeter than ever. When The Society matches her with best friend Xander, all of her assumptions are confirmed--The Society really has perfected the science of giving everyone the best job, marriage, and life one can have.
Until a glitch on her match microchip displays the face of another boy.
And now she can't stop thinking about him or wondering. What if a perfectly choreographed life isn't perfect after all.
I can't say enough how much I enjoyed reading Matched. Once I began, I couldn't put it down until I finished. (I read it so quickly the first time that I decided to read it again as a lesson on craft. I'm not so sure it worked as I got just as caught up in the story the second time around. Maybe the third time will be the charm.)
Ally Condie grounds readers in a chillingly ordered society without bogging us down with too many technical details, and her characters are well developed and sympathetic. I thought Cassia's journey from blind and fervent trust to balanced and realistic independence was particularly well handled. I believed her, saw her as the naive girl, the questioning teen, and the determined young woman. On another note, Condie's prose is lyrical and poetic; several lines took my breath away and made me read them over and over again.
As for the story? It was well-paced and kept surprising me. Just when I thought I knew where The Society stood, Condie through another twist my way. The last switch in particular made me want to go back and start from the beginning with that knowledge in mind. Finally, Condie showed a masterful grasp on the concept of a love triangle. By giving Cassia two good and honorable yet different men and by not creating enmity between them, she made the choice harder on all of us. I waffled back and forth on who was the right guy for Cassia throughout the book and felt my heart ache as I also watched the friendship between the two guys be tested.
All in all? It's an incredible book, and my only complaint is that I have to wait until November to read the second installment, Crossed.
I highly recommend Matched to anyone who enjoys reading YA, dystopian pieces, or simply good fiction. And I'd loan you my copy, but I need to hold on to it as I eagerly await her book signing here in Raleigh on Friday. It'll be my first book signing, and I'll be going to squee a little and support fellow writers. What a fun way to spend a Friday evening! I can't wait :)