Despite the success of the Matched trilogy, Ally Condie can still go to the grocery store and not be recognized.
“You’re not actually famous,” Condie said. “It’s great.”
There has been a spotlight on her books each year in November as each installment of the Matched trilogy has been released. “Reached” (Dutton Juvenile, $17.99), the third book in the series, is scheduled to be released Tuesday.
“It’s always a little scary to release a book out there,” Condie said in a telephone interview with the Deseret News from her home in Utah County.
“I’ve had in mind what was going to happen and it was fun to write those things,” Condie said. “There were some surprises and some things I thought I would do and then I changed.”
“Matched” is the story of Cassia, who has grown up in a dystopian Society that has built life to where everything is at an optimal time or in an optimal amount to help avoid pain and suffering — from food to schooling, jobs, music and death. The Society uses an algorithm to match teenagers to their future spouses, and the story opens on Cassia’s Matching Banquet.
While Cassia is paired with her friend, Xander, she also sees information on the data card about another, Ky, who came from one of the outer provinces to live with his aunt and uncle. It’s in “Matched” that Cassia realizes she can have a choice and that everything in Society isn’t as perfect as it appears.
The second book, “Crossed,” follows Cassia as she searches for Ky in the outer edges of their known world through canyons, and they find out more about a rebellion and uprising. Cassia is choosing Ky over Xander, but Xander isn’t simply stepping aside without trying to win her.
“Reached” picks up about where “Crossed” left off as Cassia, Ky and Xander are all working for the Rising, as the rebellion is called, in their own way. Cassia is working within Society, Ky has been stationed outside Society’s borders and Xander is in a hospital and helps treat victims of an outbreak of a deadly virus.
“Reached” is told from all three of their perspectives.
“Xander is sort of that intriguing personality that will do right, no matter what,” Condie said. “I find good people who constantly do the right thing fascinating. It’s really hard to. It comes with a personal cost.”
Condie knew from the first book that Xander’s perspective would be in the third book, joining Cassia’s and Ky’s viewpoints from “Crossed.”
“It’s really, really hard for me to see a story from one point of view,” Condie said. While that one point of view worked for “Matched,” there are multiple perspectives in “Crossed” and “Reached.”
“It was great to get him on the page,” Condie said of writing from Xander’s perspective. “I have a real soft spot for him.”
And to Condie, both Xander and Ky are good guys.
Despite writing about a love triangle of sorts, she personally hasn’t experienced that.
“I was lucky to have one boy like me at a time,” Condie said with a laugh.
As the virus affects more people, the Rising begins to become public and overthrow Society. But the cost in human life and what people are willing to sacrifice becomes overwhelming, and it’s interesting to see people’s reactions during a crisis.
One of Condie’s neighbors is an immunologist, and she talked to him quite a bit about the virus and how it behaves, including mutations and treatments.
Because of their talents and abilities, Xander, Ky and Cassia are asked to help find a cure for the mutated virus, but time is short and knowing whom to trust is difficult.
“It made me think a lot of life and death and how things can go south really, really quickly,” Condie said of “Reached.”
Cassia continues to grow and learn more about making her own choices.
“What I like about (Cassia) is she comes into all this new awareness, but it doesn’t cripple her,” Condie said. “It’s hard, but it doesn’t take her down entirely.”
“Reached” ended up about 150 pages longer than “Matched” or “Crossed,” and the story builds and moves from Society to its outlying areas and back again.
It’s an exciting and satisfying ending to the trilogy as the unpredictable happens as Society’s façade cracks, the Rising realizes things aren’t going to be as simple as planned and Cassia, Ky and Xander do their best with the information they have. And they do have a run-in with the mysterious Pilot.
“Everyone has their final chapter,” Condie said of the ending with the three main characters. “I felt like we knew where they each were physically and emotionally.”
While the three main characters are working with the Rising and trying to figure out the best path for their own lives, their families aren’t necessarily far from their mind.
“Each character cares about their families,” Condie said. “These three characters don’t walk away from their families.”
Condie's own family has experienced a busy year during 2012. In addition to finishing up the Matched trilogy, Condie and her husband adopted a baby girl from China and brought her home in February.
“They felt like it was the Christmas that was never going to come,” Condie said of her three boys, the oldest of which is 9. “They love her.”
Instead of writing in a corner in the basement, she has a finished home office now and has hired a baby sitter a few hours a week so she can write and meet her deadlines.
“It’s kind of hard to balance work and family,” said Condie, a former high school English teacher. “Some days are better than others.”
For now, she is playing around with a few ideas.
“I’m just trying out different things,” Condie said.
For now, she will be crossing the country on a book tour for the release of “Reached” that starts in Salt Lake City. Her mother will come up from Cedar City to watch her children while she’s away.
She will be at Rowland Hall, Lincoln Street Campus, 843 Lincoln St., Salt Lake City at 7 p.m. on Tuesday. The launch party will have an oversized "Reached" bubble for photos.
If you go ...
What: "Reached" launch party and Ally Condie book signing
When: Tuesday, Nov. 13, 7 p.m.; doors open at 6:30 p.m.
Where: Rowland Hall, Lincoln Street Campus, 843 Lincoln St., Salt Lake City
Note: Book-signing tickets are distributed on a first-come, first-served basis