(Quick premise: "For Cassia, nothing is left to chance--not what she will eat, the job she will have, or the man she will marry. In Matched, the Society Officials have determined optimal outcomes for all aspects of daily life, thereby removing the 'burden' of choice. When Cassia's best friend is identified as her ideal marriage Match it confirms her belief that Society knows best, until she plugs in her Match microchip and a different boy’s face flashes on the screen. This improbable mistake sets Cassia on a dangerous path to the unthinkable--rebelling against the predetermined life Society has in store for her.")
I'll say up front that, much the way rats just don't do anything for me as a horror trope, dystopias don't really resonate with me. I'd rather read about saving a world worth saving than destroying a world that deserves destroying, I think. I'll read anything good, which is why I'm willing to read The Hunger Games, but a dystopia is not going to set my imagination on fire, is what I'm saying. I probably sound overly picky, but I bring these things up more as personal blind spots, trying to separate "I didn't like it" from "it wasn't good," which I think will be more helpful to you.
Anyway. You know what? Matched wasn't actually crapular. It's decently written (no "dust moats" or hideous grammar) and the characterization is well done. The complaint I heard most often was that there's no there there. (As foresthouse put it, it's like someone made a really nice cream puff and forgot to put any cream in it.) Or, as I was saying to someone else, it feels like a shorter version of this book should have been the first 20-30 pages of a better one. I'll tell you the truth: there is more plot and action in Twilight. YEAH, I SAID IT. But I think what's really going on here is that--like the first two-thirds of Twilight itself (to which the book jacket specifically compares Matched)--the emotions are the plot. Most of the book happens inside Cassia's head, much as it does in Bella's, with occasional mundane events breaking in. Except that I will give you this: Cassia is an infinitely more sympathetic narrator. In fact, I did not at any time want to throw the book across the room. The two love interests (yes, it is one of those books) are different and yet both appealing; you like them both and you can see why Cassia likes them both. (Or at least I can.) And Cassia even has parents, parents with their own jobs and lives and personalities, not absent ciphers who conveniently neglect their children so that the plot can happen. Her relationship with her parents is important both to Cassia and to the story--her relationships with other people, who she cares about.
Yeah, I need to read a greater variety of YA, if this is impressing me.
Basically, Cassia's feelings for these two guys, childhood friend Xander (who has an unexpectedly interesting, sympathetic personality for The Guy She's Supposed to Be Stuck With) and tragic loner Ky (who is far less broodingly cliché than he could have been), are intertwined with her feelings about the Society, the world she has always trusted and is now gradually learning to rebel against. She learns in a slow, thoughtful, largely internal way--which is where the cream puff feeling comes from, with no real action to give the story weight. But there is an actual story arc there--Cassia's character growth from contentment to rebellion. The whole thing is a character study, really--one that has no resolution, but rather a gentle cliffhanger. Which says to me that it's not a stand-alone book--Ally Condie has something coming out next fall called Crossed? I'm guessing it's a sequel? Because if the point of Matched was to bring a naive Cassia to a point where she can actually do things in Crossed instead of just feel them, then I'll give Condie a provisional pass on this one.
Anyway. Apparently, judging by some of the @HollywoodCrush tweets, Team Xander vs. Team Ky is already A Thing, and it's yet another one of those shipper rivalries I don't understand because it pretty much seems dead on arrival. The entire book is about Cassia falling for Ky and discovering herself through doing so, with Cassia feeling bad about poor Xander in the background. The moment she said that Xander's kiss was sweet, but that she thought kissing Ky would be a lot more than just "sweet," I was like, oh, well, that's over, then. Unless a whole lot changes in the sequel, Xander is now just a supporting character and the series (or whatever it is) is about how Cassia's love for Ky both parallels and fuels her freedom of thought. Even the noble, only slightly bitter Xander puts together a care package for Cassia at the end of the book, as she starts planning to go in search of Ky, all like, "TEAM KY IS BIGGER THAN BOTH OF US NOW." And I think it says something about the writing that I didn't want to slap Cassia into next week for all of this, I still liked both guys, and I honestly don't know that I could say which guy I like better.
Em seems to think Xander's cute. Maybe he'll end up with her.
But yeah. It's a very slight book, not much happens, and I don't think it deserves the hype it's apparently gotten. (The back cover basically says it's The Hunger Games for Twilight fans. It's that blatant.) But I see what the book was going for, with the emotions-as-plot thing, even if it isn't very satisfying. If the sequel turns out to be interesting, I could see the series picking up some word-of-mouth steam at that point. I'm not a fan of dystopias, but other people are. And it's still better written than Twilight; it's got appealing (and generally non-ragemaking) characters, and characters seem to be what readers actually latch onto. (Also, the breathless eroticism of forbidden not-kissing, which is referred to as a "love affair.") A certain demographic might eat this up, or they might not. It's actually pretty bland--there's a lot of bullshit in Twilight, but that bullshit also touched a primal sort of nerve with people. Matched is a "damned with faint praise" kind of thing, maybe. But I didn't want to fling it across the room, so the book has that going for it.
I want to get some Varney done, maybe tonight, but tomorrow I'll be reading The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, yes.