Saturday, April 09, 2011
All according to the plan.
Matched, by Ally Condie, is a dystopia that takes place in said environment. Cassia, a young woman and the main character, has lived the overwhelming majority of her life happy as far as she could discern. Her education was going smoothly, she'd been "matched" (according to the plan, everybody who will be married must first be matched to another person in order to ensure maximum emotional, mental, etc. compatibility), and she pretty much had a bright future before her. As fate would have it, she was matched to Xander, a boy she had grown up with. They were best friends and overjoyed with the news that they'd been matched. Then Ky came into the picture, in more ways than one.
Ky Markham, an orphan and an Aberrant, had been raised by another family in Cassia's area, and they hadn't much chance to get to know each other particularly well.
While reviewing Xander's data on a Microcard* (flash based storage beats out optical in the future? I should have seen it coming), Ky's face was there instead of Xander's. This causes her to panic. She wonders if there had been a mistake, a massive one. What would happen to her? To Xander? Later, an Official (the equivalent of an FBI agent/Social Worker/Police Officer/etc.) informed her that there had been some sort of cruel practical joke, and nothing more. Ky couldn't become her match because of his status as an Aberrant, which meant that while he could live among regular people, there was something deviant, wrong, different about him that resulted in his not being able to have certain privileges. The next step would be to become an Anomaly, which would result in removal from life among regular people.
Cassia, however, was not entirely convinced that this was a mere joke. But who could she tell? Informing anybody could be, in fact would be a risk. The only person she could think of was her grandfather. In this society, everybody lived to be eighty years old, precisely. No more worry over when you die, it'll just happen.
Cassia shares this secret with the old man, and in his final hours, he leaves her something of great value. He leaves her poetry.
Doing this, ordinarily, wouldn't seem like that big a deal. Only, there's a problem. Nobody is allowed to have any poetry, music, etc., besides that provided to them in the 100 Poems, 100 Songs, and so on. Only the media from their Society is allowable for sharing. These poems are both hideously illegal and are enough to turn her life upside down, changing her social status to Aberrant (or worse!), endagering her loved loved ones, and a host of other undesirable consequences.
Going against everything she believed her grandfather would have wanted, she makes up her mind that somehow, she will destroy the poems. Ostensibly, this will eliminate the last trace of her grandfather. Guilt consumes her as she eliminates what seems to be the only remaining pieces of something far greater. Everything was supposed to be just fine after that, she was supposed to be happy, and safe. Nothing, however, went according to her plan. The poetry won't leave her head, much to her delight (Grandfather will not be gone so long as she has his words), and Ky's face won't leave her thoughts as long as she's with Xander. Limping between two worlds, she realizes she can only run through one at a time. Each moment with Ky feels much different that the time with Xander.
As she tries her hardest to make up her mind, the Officials are watching. Observing, carefully her interactions, choices, and she's aware of it as she's just trying to make the right decision. Nothing is truly by her choice. She can't choose who to love no matter how hard she tries to stick to the rules, and in spite of it all, she doesn't hate the Society in its entirety.
I must say that I, truthfully, didn't expect that I'd particularly enjoy this book. That is simply the truth. I wasn't the biggest fan of the style, for starters, it struck me as far too plain, and simplistic, the writing unadorned and almost boring, and the vibe at times seemed like a cautionary tale from a technophobe.
As I delved a bit deeper, however, I found that I was wrong, badly wrong. The writing was simple, yes, but it's fitting since the protagonist has lived a very plain, uninteresting life. Cassia's normal seemed to have the greatest effect- what was so downright regular for her, when delivered up so simply, was shocking, almost scary to somebody living in the twenty-first century.
I was also wrong about the book seeming technophobic. It was more about the nature of individuality, allowing technology to work with us as opposed to forcing its use for us.
In short, the book was an excellent dystopia that reminded me of 1984, Mirror's Edge, Soylent Green, and my own, Paxcatia.
Official website of the book
*When matched, each party recieves a Microcard full of information about his or her spouse, since chances are, they won't know each other.