Saturday, February 4, 2012

Book Review #1

I recently finished a book titled Matched by Ally Condie. It's of a society in which all things are regulated, from who your parents are, to how many siblings you could have. From there, things only get more restrictive. Each person has individual nutritional requirements that have to be recorded. Your day is tightly controlled (except when you are given "free time").

At seventeen, you are presented with your "Match". This will be the person you marry when you are 21 (the optimal age to be married, as that is when males and females are most fertile). For those four years, you have supervised outings with your "Match" accompanied by an Official.

This book is about a girl, Cassia Reyes, who is Matched with her best friend Xander. She's grown up with this boy and knows pretty much everything about him. If only things were that simple?

The twist comes when she later goes to read the guidelines about the Match as well as to see if there's anything about Xander that she doesn't know. For just a second, Xander's face is replaced with another's. This one's name is Ky Markham and he is what is considered an 'Aberration'. Something happened with his parents and he was adopted by his aunt and uncle.

As the story progresses, we learn that this 'Perfect' society is hiding some very ugly facts. Such as the fact that no one lives past 80 years old. (Again, the optimal age. This time, to die before no diseases set in.) Their food is poisoned and they die quietly with no one knowing the difference.

There are many rules and regulations in place. You can't share your food, you can enter another person's home, you can't be out past curfew.

By the end of the story, Cassia has learned that not everything is perfect. She loves Xander because he is her friend and her Match, but she also loves Ky because he is different. He knows how to write (a skill no longer known when everything is typed) and he knows about poetry that is not confined to the Hundred Poems list (there is a list like that for music as well).

I liken it to Alduous Huxley's Brave New World, about a utopian society that controls everyone through a modified caste system. There are similarities between the two, such as a controlled society and showing people that this control is necessary and welcomed.

However, Matched is slightly more engaging. After all, it is told from the eyes of a teenage girl. You can see her struggle to come to terms with the revelation that not everything always goes as planned and that, sometimes, it's okay to rebel.

I know that I couldn't live in a place like that. If I'd been raised that way, perhaps, but then again, maybe not. There are simply too many rules to remember and follow.

It's supposed to be part of a trilogy, but I haven't seen the other two books yet. I hope that Condie does write more. I'm eager to see her idea of an imperfect 'Perfect' society develop further.