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Book review: Ally Condie's 'Matched' lives up to hype, awards

Published: Saturday, Nov. 27 2010 2:00 p.m. MST

"MATCHED," by Ally Condie, Dutton Juvenile, $17.99 (young adult)

What if you didn't get to pick whom you marry?

What if the government chose for you?

That's the premise behind Ally Condie's new dystopian novel, "Matched," the first novel in a planned trilogy.

Seventeen-year-old Cassia has been waiting for her Match Banquet for what seems like forever. It will be the first time she sees the face of the boy who will be her Match.

In city halls all across the country, the Matches are announced in alphabetical order according to girls' last names. After being Matched, each receives a silver box with a microcard containing their Match's background information. But they have to wait until they get home to check out their microcards.

The night is perfect, and Cassia can't believe her luck when her Match is announced. Everything is falling into place.

The next day, Cassia inserts her microcard into a port, and a voice welcomes her, "Cassia Reyes, the Society is pleased to present you with your Match." A picture of her Match appears, and Cassia again feels excited. But as Cassia touches the words "Courtship Guidelines" and the recorded voice again announces her Match, another face appears — one she's not expecting.

Suddenly, things that were certain aren't clear anymore. The Society never makes mistakes; at least that's what Cassia thought. Whom is she supposed to be with? And if the Society made this mistake, what other ones is it hiding?

"Matched" is a departure for Condie, whose previous young adult novels, including "Being Sixteen" and "Yearbook," take place in contemporary times and are geared toward a more Mormon audience.

Condie's latest book has a broader appeal than her other works, but "Matched" is still in keeping with Condie's style. Her voice is the same, as are her sensibilities toward producing a clean and interesting read that parents will be happy to pass on to teens in their lives.

In fact, teens might find themselves fighting with their parents over who gets to read their copy of "Matched" first.

Already named to Publishers Weekly's Best Children's Books of 2010 list and optioned by Disney for film rights, "Matched" more than lives up to the hype surrounding it.

Condie has created a unique story that offers just the right blend of the familiar and unknown. Her characters are compelling and likeable and have more dimension than that usually offered on the young adult scene.

"Matched" is similar to "Hunger Games" in that readers won't want to put it down. There's a driving force in "Matched" that will have everyone asking for more.

e-mail: jharrison@desnews.com

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