Tag Archives: Ally Condie

SO MUCH DRAMA

Remember when I read Matched by Ally Condie?  I was okay with it until the very end when it became hella interesting, and then the book was over.  I’ve been anxious to see what happens to Cassia and Ky ever since.  I finally got Crossed from the library last week, and I dove right in.  It’s possible that I was not in the right frame of mind for reading this book.  I don’t really love romance novels, so I should have mentally prepared myself for this before jumping in.  In my defense, I forgot that this was going to be a romance.  I was remembering the part where they are fighting against the Society’s oppression, not the part where Cassia is trying to find Ky because she loves him so.  Or the part where Ky is being brave and sacrificing himself for Cassia’s own good.  I forgot the angsty-ness of it all.  They’ve declared their love and they are teenagers, so they think about each other all the damn time.  They pine, they yearn, they are totally focused on each other.  This is probably appealing to a less cynical person than me.  I don’t have a lot of patience for this.  Cassia wants to write a poem for Ky, but she’s having trouble getting it going, and it’s HEARTBREAKING.  Ky stops to carve her name into a tree while he’s running for his life from the Society.  I’m sure that this is all very romantic to teen readers (the actual target audience of this book), but I find it very tiresome.  Let’s take the moment that they reunite as a little example.  Setup: Ky has been sent to the outer provinces to pose as a farmer until he gets blown to bits by the Enemy, so he runs away when he sees his chance.  Cassia finds herself in a similar situation a few days later, and she goes after him.  They’ve been running for days, and Cassia finally catches up to Ky.  She’s on top of a hill and he’s down in a valley.  Their eyes meet.  They start running towards each other as fast as they can.  They meet and it’s like NO ONE ELSE IN THE WORLD EXISTS.  (Picture this in slo-mo.  There is no way that a screen adaptation of this bit would not be in slo-mo.)  Except that there are other people there, and it has to be awkward for them.  Ky has been traveling with a kid named Eli who reminds him of Cassia’s younger brother, and Cassia has been traveling with another girl from her work camp, Indie.  It’s really not surprising that Indie and Eli would become friends other shortly after this.  No one can watch something this melodramatic and not bond with the other people who are suffering through it, too.

The whole book is in the same vein.  Cassia and Ky spend a lot of time dwelling on how much they love each other and how great their bf/gf is and how they never want to be apart again.  There’s poetry.  There is a little tiff, but it’s resolved pretty quickly and easily an in such a way that they don’t have to separate for all time.  They almost die a few times, but they survive.  The whole thing is fine.  As usual, I’m more interested in the marginal bits than the main storyline. For instance, who is this supposed Enemy that is raining hell down on the Outer Provinces?  Is there really even an Enemy, or is this Society’s convenient way to dispose of Aberrations and Anomalies?  This seems more likely to me since they’re not even giving the kids (no adults out here on the front lines) real guns to fight back.  Nor are they sending actual soldiers.  Also, we find out that there is a rebellion.  How many spies does the Rising have in Society?  How organized are they?  The brief time that we get with the Rising makes me think of the Rebel Alliance of Star Wars fame.  I hope that it turns out that way.  I also want to know what happens to Hunter, the farmer living outside of Society’s iron fist.  Obviously I will have to read the next book in hopes of finding these answers.  Next time I will gird my loins for the teen puppy love first, though.

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Too Many Boyfriends: A Serious Problem to be Taken Seriously

Cassia Reyes has a sickness, and it cannot be cured by more cowbell.  She, like so many other YA heroines these days, suffers from Too Many Boyfriends Syndrome (TMBS).  It’s becoming quite the epidemic.  Some authors pack their books so full of boyfriend drama that they forget about the actual plot (I’m looking at you, House of Night), while others manage to slip it in as a nice arc while the rest of the story goes on around them (well played, Hermione Granger).  Either way, it’s hard to find a YA heroine who doesn’t face this dilemma somewhere along the way.  The prevalence of this theme lets us know that it’s a Serious Problem, and we should Pay Attention.

I wasn’t surprised by the TMBS when I started reading Matched by Ally Condie (Dutton 2010).  It’s right there in the title and jacket copy.  Cassia lives in a communist dystopian future where marriages are arranged.  All citizens decide as teenagers whether or not they want to get married.  Teenagers.  Because a good time to make life choices is right in the middle of a moody, turbulent phase of life.  Oy.  Fortunately, these kids have been relieved of the burden of choosing an appropriate spouse by their government, which arranges all of the marriages.  Communism to the EXTREME – everyone who wants to get married does.  Equality!  It’s a pervasive theme throughout the whole book.  Now, before you get all uppity, I understand that some cultures still practice arranged marriages and that they work out well for the most part, so this isn’t really a crazy idea.  Also, my grandparents all married as teens, and their marriages lasted, so clearly there is something to this.  It’s just not a life choice that I would make, but to each their own.  Anyways, Cassia chooses to be Matched, and everything goes swimmingly at the big banquet celebration.  It turns out that her perfect mate is already her best friend, and everyone in town is pleased as punch for the happy couple.  Cassia decides to look at what the government thought she should know about Xander for kicks, thinking it would be a laugh since they are already BFF, and she is familiar with all of his vital stats.  And then, briefly, ANOTHER FACE SHOWS UP.  That’s right.  It’s possible that this little system isn’t perfect.  While this isn’t a Face on the Milk Carton kind of revelation, it still shakes Cassia’s world view to the core.  This bombshell coupled with a secret forbidden poem (Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night by Dylan Thomas) from her grandfather on his deathbed inspires her to become a FIGHTER à la Xtina, and she starts to question the Society’s rules, albeit with better hair.  I hope.  Did you guys see The Voice?  Girlfriend needs a hot oil treatment or something.

I have to say, the beginning of this book is not terribly exciting.  There is a lot of exposition going on, but once it picks up, it REALLY picks up.  I am anxious for the next one because I was pretty close to the end when I was totally drawn in instead of being just interested, and  I’m hoping that we will get to skip all of the exposition hoo-ha and dive right into the good stuff for part deux.  The turning point is when Ky (Cassia’s almost-Match) gets press-ganged into the army to fight an unknown enemy out on the border provinces, and then the Officials make everyone take forgetting pills so that they don’t remember this unpleasant little incident. Cassia doesn’t take hers, though, and she decides to go after him, the subversive little minx.  Her family and Xander both agree to help her hunt Ky down.  Crossed should be action-packed, and I can’t wait.

I do wish that Ky and Xander’s characters were a little more developed.  Ky gets some okay character development as Cassia learns more about him, but Xander is a bit two-dimensional.  He actually reminds me of a less awesome Gilbert Blythe – he’s pretty unflawed, and therefore uninteresting.  Xander is always there for Cassia, even when he knows that she’s falling for Ky.  He’s upset that he’s not her first choice, but he helps her go after him.  He breaks rules for her.  He is resigned to his fate as second best.  Zzzzzzzzzzz.  Ky’s status as an Aberration makes him marginally more interesting, but he didn’t commit the Infraction that classified him as a second-class citizen; his father did, so Ky is also edging into dull faultless hero territory.  He does buy an illegal poem on the black market, so he’s willing to flout the rules to make Cassia happy, too.  He’s also the only person Cassia knows who actually knows how to write instead of type.  This endears him to me more than anything else, and it’s probably the main reason that I like him more than Xander.  I do love pretty handwriting, and it irks me every time I hear news stories about legislation to eliminate cursive from school curriculum.  It’s pretty.  Let the kids learn it.  (Also, if Matched teaches us anything, it’s that eliminating bits and pieces of your culture is a slippery slope down to a Hundred History Lessons, a Hundred Poems, a Hundred Songs, etc.)  I understand that the two guys are supposed to be equally awesome so that you get that Cassia isn’t choosing Ky because he’s better than Xander but because she feels differently around him.  However, I don’t see how she wouldn’t have major self-esteem issues either way because of their equal faultless awesomeness.  It would start to wear on a girl.  Perhaps she should look for a third boyfriend on her quest to find Ky who isn’t quite so perfect.  One can never have too many boyfriends in YA.  It’s best to keep your options open.