Book review: 'Crossed' continues 'Matched' story with adventure, survival story

Published: Saturday, Oct. 29 2011 4:00 p.m. MDT

When she was growing up in the Southern Utah community of Cedar City, Ally Condie's family would go camping practically every weekend.

"There is a lot of geography people are super-familiar with," Condie said of The Narrows and the other canyons in an interview with the Deseret News. But there are many other features that people don't know about.

Most of "Crossed," the second in her young adult dystopian "Matched" trilogy, is largely set in the Carving in the Outer Provinces, which was inspired by the canyons Condie loved growing up. "Crossed" (Dutton Juvenille, $17.99) will be released Nov. 1.

Even though it's a rugged place, "you can sustain life," she said of the canyons. It's part of the area's pioneer heritage, as many of the pioneers came across the plains and then were assigned to settle rugged and untamed areas.

"They were very resilient," Condie said of the pioneers.

In "Matched," the first book in the dystopian trilogy which was released last November, 17-year-old Cassia lives in a suburban neighborhood with her family and goes to work and school like many of the other teenagers she knows. Through research, Society has figured out the parameters of a pleasant, healthy life, including that everyone should dress similarly, be provided with food for optimal nutrition, and be told how long to live and whom to marry. Extras like music, poetry and art have been narrowed down to an approved 100 in each category.

Cassia is matched with her classmate Xander, but when she sees someone else in the information she's given about her match, she starts to fall in love with Ky and realizes for the first time that she possibly has a choice.

However, someone from Society is always watching. Ky, who is from the Outer Provinces, lives with his aunt and uncle in the neighborhood from the Outer Provinces and is labeled an "aberration," so many people steer clear of him.

"The first time I typed 'Outer Provinces' I knew where that was," she said Ky's home.

In "Crossed," Ky has been sent back to the Outer Provinces for what appears to be certain death in skirmish with some unknown enemy. He manages to survive and escape with friends to the Carving. Cassia goes looking for him and manages to track him down to the Carving.

"I liked to throw Ky out there (into the Outer Provinces) and it was fun to watch him," Condie said of putting Ky back in his element and in a place where he wasn't simply trying to blend in. "Crossed" is told from both Ky's and Cassia's perspectives, a storytelling style she used in the "Being Sixteen" series published by Deseret Book.

"Crossed" is the more adventuresome of the two books as the characters crisscross the canyons, work to survive and find out more about themselves and the people who live in the Carving and Society. But they also make sacrifices for each other as they learn to make their own choices, continuing the characters' self-discovering from "Matched" as they are pushed toward their limits. This sequel is still the clean and interesting story that Condie started in the first book.

Xander does shows up in "Crossed," but in unexpected ways. Condie hasn't really seen her fans come out in a Xander-versus-Ky battle, but many have asked which she would choose.

"I tried to make them both really likable," Condie said. She took the best traits in her husband and put half in Ky and the other half in Xander.

Both Ky and Cassia make friends along the way who help contribute to their survival.

Cassia meets Indie in one of their work camps, and although Cassia "is a smart girl and a tough girl" she did need someone who could help her along the way.

As they are away from Society, they see others die both in battles and from failure to survive, although none of it is graphically depicted. The readers get to know more about Ky, adding more depth to him.

Poetry, including verse from Dylan Thomas and Alfred Tennyson, is woven through "Crossed."

"I've always liked poetry a lot," Condie said. "I've found it hard to read sometimes."

There is room for interpretation in poetry, and original poems become valuable in Society and can be traded.

"My husband is an economist and says there is an economy for everything as long as there is a demand for it," Condie said.

Condie initially wrote and queried "Matched" as a stand-alone book.

"I felt it was pretty complete," she said. "(Cassia) had really changed over the course of the book."

As she finished up "Matched," she saw another story there. She signed a three-book deal with Penguin — for "Matched" and a sequel and then a third to-be-determined book. As she was finishing "Crossed," she saw where the story might lead for a third book, which is still unnamed but is scheduled to be released in a year.

Several of the characters readers meet in "Crossed" will be in the third book.

"In the third book, not everything will be perfectly resolved," she warned.

Since "Matched" was released last year and hit the New York Times' best-sellers list, Condie has crisscrossed the U.S. and has gone to Europe for book tours and writing conferences, but she stayed a little bit closer to home for the recent St. George Book Festival.

"It's surprising and fun to see (fans) so passionate," said Condie. "When I wrote it, I didn't know if anyone would read ('Matched')."

She has also visited a few schools but doesn't necessarily get mobbed at the grocery store.

"I have missed being in the classroom," said Condie, who was an English teacher before she and her husband started a family, which now includes three boys, ages 8, 6 and 3.

She has also penned "Leaving," a new short story for "Enthralled: Paranormal Diversions" (HarperTeen, $9.99), which was published in September and includes 16 short stories from several best-selling authors of young adult fiction.

"A short story is an intimidating form," Condie said of establishing a setting, backstory, character and plot in only a few pages. "Leaving," which is 20 pages long, is set in a future in which people live in contained societies as the air "outside" makes the world uninhabitable. Sora is a teenage girl whose widower father believed he could go back in time to when the "beautiful people" lived and because she told people he went Outside, she was considered Untouchable.

The idea for it came from how celebrities go to Third World countries to help make a difference and what that would look like if taken out of context.

"There used to be suffering and someone would come in and fix it," she said.

Also, what if there were a reason someone couldn't be touched?

When Condie taught high school, she could see people in the hallway who weren't touched.

A launch party for "Crossed" is set for Tuesday at 7 p.m. at The King's English Bookshop, 1511 S. 1500 East, Salt Lake City. She will also be the keynote speaker at the Provo Teen Book Festival on Nov. 12.

IF YOU GO …

What: Ally Condie, "Crossed" book launch

When: Tuesday, Nov. 1, 7 p.m.

Where: The King's English Bookshop, 1511 S. 1500 East, Salt Lake City

Web: kingsenglish.com and allycondie.com

Also …

What: Ally Condie presentation, book signing at the Provo Teen Book Festival

When: Saturday, Nov. 12, noon

Where: Provo City Library, 550 N. University Ave.

Web: www.provolibrary.com/teen-book-fest

Email: rappleye@desnews.com

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