So, this book has been hitting quite a few lists of books you’d enjoy if you liked The Hunger Games. That meant I at least had to see what all the fuss was about.
We enter a futuristic world where things like compact cases and cuff links are considered artifacts and relics of a past era of war, disease, and human stupidity. The modern society is governed by statistics. Men and women are most likely to have healthy babies at a certain age, so they get Sorted earlier on with people who are both a genetic and psychological match. People have aptitudes for specific jobs, so they are Sorted into careers where they can be successful and find satisfaction in their work, knowing it’s for the good of the society. Literature, music, and art have caused some dangerous tendencies in the past, so there are 100 books, 100 poems, 100 songs, and 100 paintings that the Society has deemed safe and exemplary for the culture they are trying to create. People succeed with a particular balance of nutrients, so meals are delivered by nutrition experts every meal to ensure optimum health.
Pie was treated like a sacred, rare treat and the word bacon wasn’t even mentioned once in this book.
The story starts off with Cassia Reyes on the night of her Matching. Think of it like Pol Pot’s version of a quinceanera. Fancy dresses, fancy food, and big hoopla as the seventeen-year-olds are introduced to their matches. Those they will court and eventually marry. The vast majority of the kids know that their match will likely be in a different borough, so everyone is surprised when Cassia’s match is her long time best friend Xander.
This early on, there should be a little voice in the back of your head that says “oh, crap, this is going to become a love triangle, isn’t it?”
It came out five years after that one story involving a vampire/werewolf/human love triangle, so yes, there’s a love triangle. As a guy, this really makes me scream to the heavens in wonderment of why there’s so much of this going on. If we’re really thinking about how romance works in the real world, we’ve got to stop making ideas like this so common. I don’t believe it happens as common as literature leads us to believe. If there was a story about a guy having to choose between two women that like him, it would be a totally different thing. There would be angry letters written.
Anyway, enter Ky. He’s a quiet kid from the Outer Provinces who has pretty much accepted life in the forever alone kind of way. Society says it’s okay for people to be single their entire life and being matched is a lot of responsibility so don’t feel bad if you’re alone every night for all of existence.
But, as simply as Ky’s face flashing across the screen when Cassia’s learning about her Match, and there’s a love triangle going on. She keeps thinking that there must be something more than the glitch that the Society officials tell her it is. That leads her to start talking to the kid, spending more time with him than connecting to the person she was matched to, and breaking rules for him.
Xander finds out eventually, yet he’s still okay with all of this. Lie to the guy, admit you’ve got feelings for both but the only one she wants to be with in the end is the other guy, and expect him to help you break rules and still be gentlemanly in every way possible. Just make sure you give him a moment to be angry before asking him to help you.
The book ends with Cassia being sent to a special work assignment planting crops that’s near where there were hints about Ky’s whereabouts. She now a revolutionary, ready to fight the system, buck authority, and change the world.
The book gets three stars because it wasn’t boring enough for me to stop halfway and move to a different book. It was interesting, but as long as you don’t mind a lot of loose ends, the book works. Don’t ask why everyone just let the majority of art and literature fade away and be destroyed when even in this culture people understand the importance of words and aesthetics. Don’t ask why there aren’t rogue artists or wordsmiths or why there aren’t a heck of a lot more people to ensure that things stay happy-go-lucky. Don’t ask ANYTHING about the matching ceremony or why people let that become a thing. The overall feeling of the book is we’re just seeing a piece. A society could exist like that, but we need to see more of it in order to believe it. We just aren’t seeing enough to make this a feasible existence. And since it’s a dystopic, you need to go big or go home. You’re competing with The Hunger Games, Uglies, Skyship Academy, and just about everyone trying to get their piece of the dystopia pie. Ally Condie played it kind of safe.
What I did like is that the society is implemented on a much more personal level, much more invasive. Right down to the tablets, the Society has their paws in every fire of every person. It makes no sense how they got there or why people just sat back and let it happen, but that’s an element of totalitarianism that has to occur for a governing regime to function.