You mean I haven't talked about Matched yet? But it was so impressive! It reminded me very much of The Giver, by Lois Lowry, which is a great compliment. I don't want to diminish it by making it sound like a knock-off, though--you can see the inspiration, but Ally Condie created her own world and her own characters, and their depth, I think, is even greater than Lowry's.
Not to dump on The Giver. It reads more like a fable or a parable, and is, I think, aimed at a somewhat younger audience, as the main character is 12 or 13. Matched is about a girl of 17, in her last year of high school, and reads more like a reality. There's more texture--you can see more glimpses of the internal lives of the peripheral characters. You can see the leeway that has been left in the structure of society for individual personality.
Somehow, too, you also get a deeper grasp of the allure of this totalitarian world. You feel the appeal of safety, comfort. These are people who don't feel oppressed--they're living the American Dream. What they've been given is close enough to what they want, and the options they can conceive are limited by their experience enough, that their satisfaction and fears are very convincing.
And then Condie avoids all the easiest pitfalls of storytelling--all the places where your characters guess what the other is thinking, or at least lack the blind spots of information and understanding that real people have. How do you love two people at once? How do you learn to want what you've never even imagined? There are no missing parts, no anachronisms, no fundamental attribution error here.
I also loved that Cassia had a great relationship with her parents. She--and we--learn a lot from them about the average citizen and the compromises that are required to live happily in this world.
I think the only thing I didn't love about the book--and I won't call it a flaw--was its focus on the teenage romance. It was actually good, and very well-written, but it was the only thing that firmly pegged the book as YA to me. Cassia learns to dissent as she is learning to think and feel as an adult, so it all fits together, and the story did hinge around the romance--the Match. But that lens of romance, which probably did such a great job hooking the YA reader, definitely added a little distance for me as an adult.
Also I love the cover.
Phew! It was nice to write about a book I loved for a while. I'll be wrapping up The Left Hand of God tonight, and pulling The Owl Killers back into heavy rotation. We'll see if that helps or hinders my forward momentum.