Society matched them, but love set them free.
In the Society, Officials decide. Who you love. Where you work. When you die.
Cassia has always trusted their choices. It’s barely any price to pay for a ling life, the perfect job, the ideal mate. So when her best friend appears on the Matching screen, Cassia knows with complete certainty that he is the one . . . until she sees another face flash for an instant before the screen fades to black. Now Cassia is faced with impossible choices: between Xander and Ky, between the only life she’s known and a path no one else has ever dared follow – between perfection and passion.
MATCHED begins with an exciting premise and interesting worldbuilding, very reminiscent of THE GIVER. Cassia’s a good girl, following the rules of the Society and preparing for the “departure” of her grandfather. But most of all, Cassia’s excited for her Matching ceremony, that time when her life partner is chosen for her by the Society.
When her partner flashes on the screen, it’s Xander, the recognized “best of” all the youth in Cassia’s town. And, indeed, as the story continues, I found myself drawn to Xander’s character above all other characters. He’s driven, kind and emotionally invested in his own life. To contrast, Cassia was less fascinating, a more one dimensional character, missing the spice of other female characters in modern dystopian novels. Cassia’s life is complicated when Ky Markham, an “Aberration,” flashes on Cassia’s microcard, the card containing information about her chosen life partner. Suddenly, Cassia’s questioning the ability of the Society to guide their lives perfectly – and whether Xander is the right partner for her.
MACHED is one of the most highly anticipated releases of the Fall. I tried to keep that in mind as I read, tried to distance myself from the expectation of a truly great story. I took a couple of weeks to mull the story over to make sure I presented as fair a review as possible. Ultimately, however, I didn’t find the book to be terribly memorable.
On the one hand, the writing is good – thoughtful and lovely, with an excellent opening chapter and easy to read prose. However, I felt MATCHED missed the urgency, the tension, required for this storyline to really work. I found myself skimming passages, looking for places to connect with the characters. There never was a point at which I, as a reader, felt afraid of the Society, had fear for the characters, thought the world was developed enough to provide a satisfactory backdrop to a lackluster romance. Sure, the Society had rules, but the punishments and explanations were half-formed and unimpressive. I found myself unable to root for Cassia because, honestly, the “punishment” for things Cassia and her family did sounded more like a reward.
Young adult romance has come a long way in the past few years. It takes more craft, more careful consideration for a reader to believe in a novel's romance, but I feel this is another area in which MATCHED failed to live up to expectations. I’m so over the falling in love after three conversations clichés. Cassia and Ky, as a couple, felt contrived to me. I wanted there to be more intensity between the two, more pent-up frustration and desire. A connection between their need to be together and their need to topple an oppressive regime. I just needed more from them, more pressure from the Society, more fear of consequences to love this book.
Is it a worthwhile read? Sure. There are interesting concepts to ponder here. Do I think it lives up to the hype? I don’t, unfortunately. Perhaps the next books in the trilogy will build upon a fledgling romance and mysterious world in a way that will feel satisfactory. But as a stand-alone, MATCHED wasn't my favorite new book of the Fall.