In Matched, the first book in a new young adult trilogy by Ally Condie, Cassia lives in a wonderful world. Most illnesses - including heart disease and cancer - have been eradicated. The cultural clutter that was so overwhelming has been distilled to the One Hundred best of everything: poems, songs, etc. Citizens are guaranteed long, full lives working in their perfect job with all their needs provided. If they want to marry, they will even be matched with their ideal mate.
In exchange for this utopian existence, citizens of the Society trust the Officials to make all the major decisions. It seems a small price for a world where all are treated equally and every effort is made to ensure appropriate matches.
Cassia has never doubted the Society and eagerly looks forward to the night of her 17th birthday and her Match Banquet; this is the night she will learn whom she is fated to share her life with and when she will receive the microcard with more information about that boy.
When it is announced that her match is her best friend, Xander, she is pleased and sure that this will be a good match. Yet when she looks at the microcard later, a face announced as her match appears briefly before being replaced - a face that is not Xander.
Having believed her whole life that the officials of the Society do not make mistakes, Cassia is faced with some tough questions. Further spurred on by a long lost poem entrusted to her by her grandfather just before his death, Cassia vows to "not go gentle into that dark night" as she tries to figure out why Ky's face appeared as a match and she learns some rather unsettling truths about the Officials who run her world.
This YA novel was fast paced and exciting. While I have heard some comparisons to The Hunger Games, I was reminded more of the first Kurt Vonnegut story I ever read, "Harrison Bergeron." As in that tale, those in charge in Ally Condie's novel seek to maintain equality and fairness for all citizens. In Condie's dystopia, the measures taken are more subtle but no less vigilant.
The open ending of this novel certainly lends itself to potentially interesting discussions about love, freedom, free will and whether Cassia will succeed at the task she is attempting at the novel's end. The sequel, Crossed, will be released in November 2011. I can't wait!