If you read and loved The Hunger Games series, then I think I have the next thing for you. Matched, by Ally Condie, is the first novel in a three-part series that I picked up while in Dublin, and I wasn’t able to put it down again until I was finished.
Set in the dystopian future, Matched follows the story of a girl named Cassia, who lives in a society where everything is chosen for its people based on mathematical algorithms. The story begins at the Matching Ceremony, where Cassia, and others her age, will be matched with their perfect mate. However, following the ceremony (and due to a series of events), Cassia finds herself falling in love with another boy, thus causing her to question everything the Society taught her to understand.
I don’t want to go into too much detail regarding the plot, because the author unfolds the story beautifully using a mix of imagery and occasional poetry. I do, however, want to address criticism I’ve seen online regarding the book’s similarity to The Giver. While the theme of the story (a dystopian society), including specific elements like the matching and job selections, remain the same as The Giver, much of the story is original and based on the author’s own creative genius. In fact, I believe many of these critics lack the literary comprehension of theme to full appreciate this book’s uniqueness. If they are so angry that the large theme of Matched is so similar to The Giver, then they should be just as equally irritated that The Giver uses many of the same themes as Nineteen Eighty-Four, by George Orwell. I think powerful and popular themes like love, loss, tragedy, and this idea of “Big Brother” are paramount to keeping genres alive that make us question and feel. As a writer myself, I borrow stylistic ideas from other authors that I find fascinating to enhance my own creative ideas. Is that not what authors have done through the ages?
This being said, I love how Ally Condie “borrows” this idea of a dystopian society and makes it her own. Unlike The Giver, she provides us with a mature romantic triangle, deeply rooted in a coming-of-age story that keeps the audience guessing. Her characters are complex and new, and surprising details continuously arise, making us question the foundation of both the Society and Cassia’s understanding of its control. I can easily say that I recommend this story, as I am currently onto the second part of the trilogy, Crossed, and I am not slowing down any time soon.