Thursday, April 07, 2011

Apparently I Take Requests

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.


Lianna Williamson said...

I was impressed by it as well! I agree that the society was very well drawn, and I could see the seductive appeal of it. The idea of having all your nutritionally-tailored food provided was particularly appealing to me. I also liked it that Cassia was so content in this world in the beginning, until one tiny moment of "wrongness" unravels her whole life.

I wasn't convinced by Xander as a character. I kept reading him as faintly sinister, and expecting him to turn out to be working for the Officials. I mean, wouldn't Xander make a perfect Official? He's obsessed with rules and yet is unconflicted about breaking them for his own purposes. I so thought he was going to screw Cassia over "for her own good", and I still think that would have been a powerful scene.

Ky just never seemed all that real to me. I've been re-reading Hunger Games (reading it aloud to some of my tutoring students as their oral comprehension exercise), and I think the love triangle was much better done there. In HG, both Peeta and Gale know separate, but equally real, parts of Katniss, and neither is really capable of understanding the part that the other knows, which makes it believable that Katniss feels lonely despite the fact that she's got two guys who are both in love with her. Whereas in Matched, I felt like Xander doesn't really know Cassia, because there is no "real" Cassia to know until her consciousness is raised by Ky. Se cares about Xander and they have a lot of shared history, but I didn't get the sense of her losing some vital part of herself if she lost him.

I'm reading Uglies now. Have you read that series?

LibraryHungry said...

I agree about Ky and Xander, though I think I kind of lumped that in with the "young romance, blossoming womanhood, yep, sure thing." I think Ky's opacity seemed to be part of his character--even when he's giving Cassia more of himself than anyone else, his real self is still very much hidden away.

Xander seemed more like a paragon--an image of all that is attractive and appealing about the Society. He's responsible and upstanding and contains all her childhood memories--I think more of those might have helped build his character, more of the childish intimacy they shared. Since he represented the good of the Society, you expect him to contain its bad, too. It seems more food for thought that in the end, it's possible to be part of the system without being a blind monster to it.

Your Gale/Peeta explanation from the Hunger Games is a great explanation of how those relationships work and why they were so compelling. Unlike most girl-torn-between-two-guys, there's no right or wrong answer (though in the third book, they sort of set you up for the ending).

And I did read Uglies, and I really liked it. It took a huge amount of willpower to start each book--the lingo gets thicker and denser as the series goes along. Once you get into the groove it's easy, but the first chapter of the second and third book are really hard to stomach. I think what I liked most about those books is that everyone--the good guys, the bad guys, pretty much every character--does what makes sense to them at the time, but really, really often, they don't have enough information or they're personally biased, and they make wrong decisions. Too often in fiction, the hard path is the one that gets you to wanting and intending to do the right thing, and after that it's smooth sailing. Not so in Uglies, which is what I liked about it.

Linden said...

I just read this book yesterday, after you recommended it so strongly. I agree with a lot of what you said, and I do love the cover as well.

In particular, The Society does a good job of brainwashing their citizens based on data, that their way is what's best. The seeds of dissent grow slowly in that environment. I was impressed that Cassia, with her "sorter brain", was given the love of language and poetry that moved her in that direction.

It was really chilling to me that the people gave in to oppression like having their trees and treasures removed. No dessert, food portions determined by others, no input on clothing. It was like they slowly lost what it felt like to even want something that wasn't what they were allowed by their society.