After Life of Pi and Between Shades of Gray, I was definitely in the mood for a light read.  I knew Matched by Ally Condie is dystopian novel, but it’s not dystopian like The Hunger Games or Divergent.  Teenagers aren’t fighting and killing each other.  They are getting married – or at least getting introduced to the person they will marry.

Matched is set in a world that is free from disease, hunger, crime, and nearly all suffering. The Society has created this world for it’s citizens by carefully managing data on everyone.  Every person’s nutritional needs, exercise, dreams, school work, career, free-time and even marriage are all managed in order to insure optimal health and happiness.

I’ve got to admit, in the beginning of the book it all sounded kind of appealing.  All the grown-ups have jobs they enjoy – jobs tailored to their specific abilities and interests.  The children grow up in a close-knit group of friends.  Meals, custom prepared according to each family member’s specific nutritional needs, are delivered to homes morning and night.  And at age 17, teenagers are introduced to someone who has been selected, based on extremely comprehensive date, to be their perfect match.  The Society believes in providing it’s citizens with everything they need to live happy productive lives, and since a happy family life is crucial to a good life, young people are given the best possible chance at this happiness through a sophisticated matching system.  It’s a life free from choices, true.  But it’s also a life free from worry.  It’s nearly a life free from suffering.  What could be bad?

Turns out, a lot.  Initially, the main character, Cassia, is thrilled with her match.  He’s handsome, charming, smart, and her best friend, Xander.  Maybe she has always wanted Xander to be her match, but she never really let herself consider it.  People are very seldom matched with someone they know.  They are only 17, but Cassia knows that in four years, they will begin a marriage every bit as happy as her own parent’s marriage.  But when the face of another boy, Ky Markham, pops up on Cassia’s Match Information Portcard, Cassia is confused.  Suddenly, she knows more about this boy than anyone else in their close-knit circle of friends, and all of the sudden he is catching her eye.

Along with unexpected feelings for Ky, Cassia experiences other strange new feelings when her grandfather secretly gives her a forbidden poem – one eliminated  by The Society decades ago. Now Cassia’s perfectly planned, perfectly safe life doesn’t seem so perfect anymore.

I don’t want to give too much away on this one because I think it would make an excellent mother/daughter book discussion.  It  raises a lot of interesting questions about marriage, happiness, choices, and their consequences.  Even though there are no troubling elements, the subject matter (marriage) is a little sophisticated for younger readers.  Middle schoolers are not as likely to get as much out of this book as high school students.

LANGUAGE

No.  I think The Society has weeded that out.

VIOLENCE

No.  There are hints of past violence, but The Society has weeded that out too – for now. Of course, like with pretty much all books these days, there’s a sequel.  That’s another discussion for another post, but I’m really tired of sequels.

SEXUAL CONTENT

Cassia makes a brief mention of the awkward knowledge that she and Xander will one day have children, but it’s sweet and innocent.

SUPERNATURAL ELEMENTS

Cassia and Xander wonder about angels they have seen in old paintings,but  until now there has been no need for a Higher Power in their perfect world.

FOR DISCUSSION

Cassia is genuinely nervous and excited on the night of her Match Banquet. Why?  Doesn’t the idea of having your future husband or wife picked out for you eliminate all the fun?

Cassia’s parents truly love each other.  Yet, they were matched.  Can an arranged marriage be a happy one?

What are the ingredients of happy marriage?  Compatibility? Passion?  Commitment?

What does Cassia see in Xander?  What does she see in Ky?

Who do you find yourself rooting for? Xander or Ky? Why?

The Society really does seem to have the best interests of its citizens in mind.  At least Cassia has always been secure and happy.  Think of what The Society has provided. The citizen’s are free from so many of the worries that plague us today.  What has this freedom really cost them?

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