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I sat attentively at my desk in the carpeted, chilly classroom that belonged to Mrs. Heiber. From the front of the room, perched on a small chair, she read aloud. Her voice was clear and strong, the prose smooth and captivating.
I stared at her, her long skirt puddling at the floor, as I anxiously awaited what was next and, at the same time, wishing it wouldn't end.
My seventh-grade teacher, who still holds a special place in my heart, was reading "The Giver" to my language arts class. The story of Jonah and his "perfect" world was one that stuck with me, and I have found myself over the years re-reading the book by Lois Lowry. (I most recently read it, and the companion novels, late this summer as Mark considered it for his own seventh-grade class.)
To me, "The Giver" is not just an interesting tale nor does it offer just an insight into what we think is perfect. To me, it is a work of great literature - as evidenced by the awards it has received.
And so the bar was set high when I cracked open the green binding of "Matched." While it is an interesting tale that offers insight into our society and the idea of a controlled society, it is not a great work of literature. But it didn't need to be. And once I accepted that, I found myself captivated by Ally Condie's story.
Cassia has always trusted the Society to make the right choices for her: what to read, what to watch, what to believe. So when Xander's face appears on-screen at her Matching ceremony, Cassia knows he is her ideal mate . . . until she sees Ky Markham's face flash for an instant before the screen fades to black. The Society tells her it's a glitch, a rare malfunction, and that she should focus on the happy life she's destined to lead with Xander. But Cassia can't stop thinking about Ky, and as they slowly fall in love, Cassia begins to doubt the Society's infallibility and is faced with an impossible choice: between Xander and Ky, between the only life she's known and a path that no one else has dared to follow.
Aptly described by one reviewer on the jacket as "The Giver" meets "Twilight," the story sucks you in with the love triangle but leaves you wanting more with the writing. The prose was a bit too poetic at times and made me feel like the author was trying too hard to make Cassia, who tells the story, sound introspective and thoughtful.
I was able to look past it, though, as I found myself wondering how I would do in such a society. The world in which Cassia lives not only controls occupational and societal choices but recreational ones as well. Cassia is limited to how many times, at what pace and how far she can run on the "tracker" and her daily calories are controlled (and limited) by the society.
As all of you are sure to know, I would not do well and seeing Cassia think - actually think, a novel idea in her society - about how she liked to be controlled like that was - dare I say - rewarding. And once she figured it out, I was left captivated (and up far too late) by how far she was willing to go.
You can find out more about Ally Condie's "Matched" in BlogHer Book Club. Read her bio, read and excerpt of "Matched" or join the discussion here. If you are interested in following Ally on social media she has a Facebook page and a Twitter account. She also blogs here.