I seem to have jumped into the dystopian stream with both feet lately. I am already formulating a post discussing the current trend in post-apocalyptic literature, but I want to read some more first. It's very popular among YA readers these days. THG opened the floodgates, and now all dystopian novels, before Katniss and after, are prominent in libraries. Personally I enjoy a good journey into the "what-if," so I don't mind reading what my students are reading. (But no vampire books. I draw the line at vampires.)
Today's book, Matched, is definitely in the same vein as THG and Divergent, but it has its own refreshing take on the questions of the post-WWIII world. Instead of being focused on guns, violence, and brute force, it takes a softer, more philosophical approach. The Society in which Cassia Reyes and her family live is very ordered, very neat, very bright and very clean. Everything appears to run smoothly. You almost start to think that this world really wouldn't be so bad after all. After all, there's no poverty, no violence, everyone gets along and has what they need - really, what is so bad about all that? What if we had a society where everyone just did what they were supposed to and got along fine without possessions and money? But just about the time you start to get as comfortable as Cassia is in her cocoon of a world, the underbelly of such a culture starts to be exposed, and as Cassia does, you start to question whether or not things are what they seem, and whether or not any of this is a good idea. About a third of the way through the novel, an important person in Cassia's life tells her "it's ok to wonder." From that moment on, Cassia does wonder, about many things she has always accepted without question, and the reader begins to wonder as well.
One of the things I enjoyed most about this novel is its examination of the importance of creativity. In the ordered world of the Society, all literature has been boiled down to the Hundreds - the Hundred Songs, the Hundred Poems, the Hundred Stories, etc. The powers the be decided that their culture was just too cluttered, so they decided what were the most important pieces of art, and they eliminated the rest. What's more, no one is allowed to add to them. No one writes songs, or poetry, or books. In fact, no one knows how to write at all. Oh, they can type on a touch screen, but no one knows how to pick up a pen and write something longhand.* It opens up the question of how important such things are. Is it important to keep imagining? To keep creating? What happens to a society when no one creates anything new any longer? How does that cut off the life of a people? The storyline about the act of writing intrigued me, because I have had this discussion with other educators. More and more handwriting is being discarded as a part of the curriculum in favor of typing and technological ways of communication. Does that matter? Should people be able to form letters with their hands? What importance does that have to a person? To a group? To a society?
Interwoven with these themes of wonder and creativity is a lovely little love story that turns Cassia's ordered world upside down. There is no "team this" or "team that." You realize fairly early on just who Cassia needs to be with and what that is going to mean for her life and the life of her family. It's an intense (but clean!) love affair that helps Cassia sees more of who she is and who she could be. It's a beautiful storyline that promises to carry us into the second and third books.
Overall, Matched is a nice addition to the dystopian world. It asks different questions than have been asked before and takes the reader to important places in their minds. I'm excited to read its sequels and bring more reviews on the series, just as I hope to bring about Insurgent and Allegiant as soon as I track down copies of those and get them read. In the meantime, I definitely recommend Matched to anyone looking around for a good read and who enjoys this line of fiction.
*OR DO THEY?
Rating: 4 out of 5 starsReading now: A Higher Call by Adam Makos
2. Multiply by Francis Chan
3. Cleopatra by Stacy Schiff
4. Four Blood Moons by John Hagee
5. Insurgent by Veronica Roth