Thursday, March 01, 2012

Matched & Crossed

I listened to Matched "on tape" and recently read the second book in the trilogy, Crossed, on M's Kindle.  I merely mention it because those are slightly non-conventional reading methods and did have an influence on how I perceived the books.
They're YA books by Allie Condy, about a young girl (15? 16?) in the not-so-distant future who lives in a very controlled world where The Society keeps a close eye on everyone, regulates what they eat, drink, even regulates  dreams and decides when people die (on their 80th birthdays).  They choose marriage partners, and Cassia gets "matched" with her friend, Xander.  But then, like, somehow she's really matched with this other guy, Ky (to tell the truth I forget how that all worked... it's been a while) and, anyway, she sort of starts falling for Ky.

In the second book, Crossed, (Spoilers re: Matched here), Ky's been outcast to this other place so Cassia sort of outcasts herself to go find him.  A lot of the book takes place in the wilderness, which is a major change for these folks who've been basically eating nothing but TV dinners their whole lives.  The wilderness bits had an inevitable Hunger Games feel to them (which I rather liked) and I've been semi-developing a theory about young characters and the rejection of the structured environment.  But more on that some other day.

As everyone knows, when one is reading a book like this, one is constantly comparing it to that Standard Bearer of all Dystopian Novels - you know what I'm talking about - The Handmaid's Tale, by the great Margaret Atwood.  So, how does Condy compare to Atwood?  Not too bad...  She creates a really rich and engaging landscape for the characters.  I also really like how she uses poetry as subversion - Dylan Thomas's Do Not Go Gentle Into that Good Night and a few things by Emily Dickinson that I'm too lazy to look up.  The citizens of this place carry around pills that the society tells them to take at various points - that's very effective because they're a bit of a mystery, and the more Cassia questions the society, the more the reader questions those sneaky pills!

As far as YA books go, what I really loved about Crossed was how brave Cassia is.  She's a great role model for young women: question authority, use your head, trust your instincts.  Another nice aspect is that she's not getting saved by the male hero; she's a clear heroine in this story, not a helpless princess.  Here's Ky thinking about Xander:  "This isn't a game. He's not my opponent and Cassia's not a prize."  Hell yeah she isn't!  Eat it, Stephanie Meyer!  

Sometimes Condy's prose goes a bit blue, but I have a very high tolerance for that sort of thing - this is the only bit of alliteration abundance (see what I did there?) that made me roll my eyes: "Seeing the wind wave the water and brush the branches reminds me that, before I returned to the Society, I crossed over rivers and canyons."

The third book comes out this fall, and I'm looking forward to finding out how it ends!

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