Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Matched and Crossed by Ally Condie

After reading Divergent, I decided to read Matched and Crossed by Ally Condie, since the Matched Trilogy was mentioned so often in the reviews for Divergent.

The Matched Trilogy is set in a dystopian society. The Society controls all aspects of people's lives including what they eat, what they drink, where they live, where they work, and who they marry.

From Amazon's product page:
For Cassia, nothing is left to chance--not what she will eat, the job she will have, or the man she will marry. In Matched, the Society Officials have determined optimal outcomes for all aspects of daily life, thereby removing the "burden" of choice. When Cassia's best friend is identified as her ideal marriage Match it confirms her belief that Society knows best, until she plugs in her Match microchip and a different boy’s face flashes on the screen. This improbable mistake sets Cassia on a dangerous path to the unthinkable--rebelling against the predetermined life Society has in store for her. As author Ally Condie’s unique dystopian Society takes chilling measures to maintain the status quo, Matched reminds readers that freedom of choice is precious, and not without sacrifice.--Seira Wilson
The first novel, Matched, deals with Cassia's feelings about both Xander, her Match, and Ky, the boy whose face flashes on her screen. In the Society, people whose parents commit Infractions are reclassified. Ky was reclassified as an Aberration due to an Infraction committed by his father. For that reason, Ky cannot be matched, yet his face flashed on Cassia's screen. Could Ky be Cassia's true Match?

In the second novel, Crossed, Ky has been sent away, and Cassia makes the choice to leave the Society in order to find him. Cassia learns about the Enemy, which fights the Society, and the Rising, which is a group of rebels hoping to infiltrate and bring down the Society.

The Society is set in the future, probably by 100 to 200 years. The Society decided to take away people's freedom of choice and seeks to destroy the artifacts of the previous society, such as books, poems, and art. The items that survived are traded on the black market. I found this aspect of the story to be very interesting.

The first book is dangerous. The reader constantly fears for what will happen to Cassia as she pursues a forbidden relationship with Ky and hides artifacts that she should not have. The first book is very compelling.

Most of the second book consists of Cassia trying to find Ky, and frankly, most of it is filler material. As someone on Amazon pointed out, the book is like a long camping trip. While Crossed introduces several new characters and the reader learns about them, very little plot advancement occurs.

Fairly early in the book, something is mentioned about Xander having a secret, and this bothered me so much that I flipped through around 200 pages of the book until I discovered what it was. The fact that I could skip through that many pages without anything major to the plot getting spoiled tells how much filler material the book has. By the way, knowing Xander's secret earlier in the story, as a result of spoiling myself, kept me from being annoyed the entire time. Interestingly, the secret could make Cassia's final decision on which boy to choose easier in the end. I'm not sure that the author made a good decision.

The point of view switches between Cassia and Ky during the second book, and I kept having to look back at the first page of each chapter to keep track of who was narrating, particularly after Cassia and Ky were reunited. It isn't a big problem before they reunite, but after, it is confusing. I find that books that switch back and forth between two points of view tend not to be as good as books that stick with one character. This is why I don't like Rick Riordan's Kane Chronicles as much as Percy Jackson. The changes in point of view are distracting and often confusing.

The filler in the second book should have been shortened so that we could see more of what happens with Cassia towards the end. I can't say exactly what I mean without spoiling the content, but Cassia learns what her next move will be, and the plot finally advances beyond the long camping trip. Suddenly, the book skips ahead by months. I hate it when books do that. Why do authors insist on taking the easy way out to the detriment of the reader's enjoyment?

Most of the negative reviews for Crossed state that the book is boring. I did not find it boring at all, and I enjoyed the entire book. My primary problem is that the long trek through the canyon should have been shortened and the description of what happens to Cassia towards the end of the book should have been lengthened.

While the second book has a number of flaws, I enjoyed both of these books and will be reading the third book when it is released later this year.

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