Romance novels aren't usually my favorite kind of book, It’s not that I hate romance. It’s that, ironically, romance novels often don't flesh out the romance very much. They focus llargely on the kissing and physical parts of the relationship rather than meaningful foundations and healthy communication. Worst case, it's just a vehicle for sex scenes, which I don’t abide. But, even though it's not my favorite genre, every once in a while I come across a romance story that grabs my attention, and really holds it. Today, that book is Matched by Ally Condle, the first book in a three-book series, following a dystopian romance story.
Seventeen-year-old Cassia Reyes is a proud citizen of the Society. The Officials who run the world have gotten life down to an exact science. They’ve formed a careful plan that allows their people to enjoy the healthiest, happiest, and most productive lives they can possibly live. Their data helps them choose what they eat, where they work, when they die… and who they love. With this knowledge, Cassia is delighted to find that she has been Matched to her best friend Xander — kind, charismatic, clever Xander. Her trust in the Society's choice is absolute… until she sees a different face in her Match data. This face belongs to Ky Markham, an Aberration — his father was a rebel, and so he could not be considered a proper Citizen. Ky is quiet and unassuming, but Cassia quickly finds out that there is much more to him than meets the eye. Cassia finds herself caught between two boys, and two choices — will she choose Xander, and live out the perfect life Society has chosen for her? Or will she choose Ky and dare to seize the only thing the Society doesn't provide: the freedom to choose.
There are definitely a few problems with this book. The world building is basically just a copy paste of The Giver — which, to be fair, is the case with many dystopias. The Giver was such an influential book. On top of that, we sometimes don't get quit enough contex, leaving the readers in the dark on how the world functions and what it looks like. The romance plotline between Cassia, Xander, and Ky is not as fun and engrossing as it could have been — especially with Ky — and the plot follows a somewhat predictable, Hunger Games-ish formula. While captivating, the writing lacks a touch of critical emotion, and the characters certainly could have been given more… well, character. Cassia suffers the most. She is the least interesting hero out of the main three. We just don’t learn much about her personality. I know what she wants, but I don't know who she is. Stilil, in spite of all that, I ended up really enjoying this book. There is plenty of romance and a terrifically engaging plot. Ally Condle did a wonderful job at building up the tension, and showing Cassia's inner torment over the choice between perfection and freedom. The world she lives in is truly terrifying, and her love triangle with the two boys morphs into a choice between two different lives she could lead, not just a romance. However, it is very much a romance story. As much as I wish it could have been more developed, I did end up enjoying some of her moments with Ky and Xander. I suppose I'm more of a romantic than I thought.
The most enjoyable part was the thought-provoking horror of living in a world with no personal freedom, even if the choices made for you are healthy — a world so strictly controlled that the past is not allowed to be remembered. Only the future, and what the Society decides is reality, is permitted in the thoughts of the Citizens. It reminded me why God sent us to live on Earth — to grow and change on our own terms. A safe, happy, and even moral life feels meaningless if you aren't the one choosing it. I rate this book a solid 3 out of 5. It's has its flaws, but is good enough to be an enjoyable read. Best of all, there aren't any lewd scenes, so you are welcome to recommend it to your teens and tweens. Check out Matched if you want a scary dystopia story wrapped up in a predictable (but still fun!) love triangle. If that doesn't sound appealing, then don't worry — I’ve got plenty of other books on my shelf that I can't wait to share with you all!