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2.04.2015

Book Report - Matched, Crossed, and Reached

I mentioned here that I'm doing the Popsugar 2015 Reading Challenge. I decided to knock out a trilogy early in the year while I still had a lot of reading momentum going on. So, a couple of weeks ago I read the Matched trilogy by Ally Condie - Matched (Book 1), Crossed (Book 2), and Reached (Book 3).

First up, Matched.  Like many popular Young Adult novels written lately, Matched takes place in a dystopian future society. Citizens trust the Society to make all their decisions for them...including picking a mate. Seventeen year old, Cassia, believes in the system. She's seen how well it works with her own parents, so when she sees her best friend, Xander's face appear onscreen at her Matching Ceremony she knows he's her perfect match. However, when viewing his micro card at home, a strange thing happens. Xander's face fades away and the face of another boy, Ky, flashes quickly across the screen. What does it mean? Cassia wants answers, and slowly starts to question the Society and all she's ever known. For the first time in her life, she is faced with a choice that only she can make.
You can't help read a story like this and compare it to The Hunger Games and Divergent. These books all have the same premise. Teenagers questioning the world they live in, and going up against those in control to fight for a better way of life. It's not a new idea. I liked Matched because it added a new element I had yet to see before in these types of books...ART.

The Society has chosen the 100 best of everything. 100 best paintings, 100 best movies, 100 best books, 100 best poems, etc. Citizens have no choice beyond these, and have no concept of creating anything on their own. They can't even write, only type. On the day of Cassia's Grandfather's death (you are only allowed to live until 80), he secretly passes down to her two handwritten poems: "Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night" by Dylan Thomas and "Crossing the Bar" by Alfred Lord Tennyson. I loved the idea of forbidden art, and how exciting and dangerous Cassia finds these poems. She is amazed when she learns Ky secretly can write and draw. Expression is the freedom that Cassia and her gang will fight for, and it really resonated with me.

Next up, Crossed. Society is aware of the danger Cassia presents, and why wouldn't they be? They're aware of everything. She is shipped off to the outer provinces, which turns out to be exactly where she wants to go. Ky is somewhere out there and she is determined to find him and the secret Rebellion she has heard rumor of. She's a child of the Society though. Will she have what it takes to survive outside of their control?
Momentum is key in a trilogy. A lot of them start with a strong book one and then fade in book two. Catching Fire (Book 2 of The Hunger Games trilogy) was essentially a repeat of book one. Insurgent (Book 2 of the Divergent trilogy) moved the story forward, but didn't add much to it. The middle book in a trilogy is hard. It lacks the excitement of both setting up the characters and their world as well as the triumphant conclusion. It's sole purpose is to move the story forward. 

Crossed does a great job of doing this while simultaneously providing a new setting and story for the characters. The book primarily takes place in large caverns, and the characters are often battling the elements instead of the Society. Cassia is forced to really examine her beliefs. Yes, the Society eliminated choice in their lives, but they were safe, healthy, and for the most part happy in their ignorance. It also delves into the conflicts that arise when those you love don't agree with your choices. I thought Crossed was a very strong book two

Finally, the conclusion, Reached. Cassia is back in the Society playing her part until the Rebellion begins. She's separated from both Ky and Xander, but committed to the cause. The rebellion begins earlier then expected due to a virus attacking the population. The Rebellion has the cure and easily takes over the weakened and scared Citizens. When the virus mutates though, suddenly all are in danger. The Society and the Rebellion are in a race to develop the cure knowing whichever of them succeeds will ultimately win. 
I was thrown a little bit with the whole virus story line in Reached, but I ultimately ended up liking it. They explored a really interesting concept which was the question of whether the Rebellion was even really a rebellion, or just the Society in sheep's clothing. The theme organically changed from rebelling against lower case "s" society to finding your place within it. Both the Society and the Rebellion were flawed, but it was ultimately a good thing to shake things up a bit, and in the end things got better - not perfect, but better. I thought it was a very satisfying and real ending, and liked it better than MockingJay (Book 3 of The Hunger Games trilogy) which was only okay and Allegiant (Book 3 of Divergent trilogy) which was so disappointing.

All in all, I really liked this series. It was a a bit of a fresh take on a genre I'm starting to find tiresome. If nothing else, it's a great way to get your kids to read a bit of poetry and maybe appreciate the importance art has in society.

Have you read any good trilogies lately? I must confess I think I copped out a little on this one. I originally planned on reading Tolkein's Lord of the Rings trilogy, as I've somehow never read them yet. However, I really want to finish the challenge, and need to pick books I can get through quickly. There's probably a huge argument to be had here on quantity versus quality, but I promise to read them next year.

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