When I first read the synopsis blurb for Matched, I was intrigued. I enjoy the Dystopian genre and this sounded like a fun new addition. The cover for the book is pretty eye-catching as well. It definitely presents a feminine aspect to the book (what with the main art being a girl in a green dress), but I was really taken in by the imagery of the girl being trapped in a bubble. It is really very suggestive and left me with a lot of hope for the novel.
Now that I've read it, I can say that it is worth reading. It's not an overly deep or revolutionary book in terms of genre or plot. To a large sense, it felt very similar to other dystopian novels I've read in the past. In fact, I was left with a very distinctive feeling of similarity to 1984 and with the strong desire to go and re-read that classic book.
Even though Matched had a lot of classic similarities and elements that are very common to the genre, I felt like it had a lot of power in doing something that some of these other books hadn't done...to take the depth and power of these classic elements and present them in a "bubblegum" format. When I say "bubblegum", I mean a couple of things. Mainly though I mean that in many ways this book felt light and airy and full of sugary goodness, which was ironic given the underlying tone of dystopia in general. Because of that lighter feeling, it was a very quick read and I have a feeling it will be quite accessible to younger readers who would be put off picking up 1984 or a heavier work like that. Furthermore, Matched takes on the romantic element head on by keeping us close to a female protagonist who is very much in the thick of dating and planning for her future...literally scoping out her perfect "match" and becoming engaged to be married. Thus we have the teenage romance brewing from a female perspective which, in terms of other dystopian novels, again feels somewhat more light-hearted than problems of Society.
Given that Matched felt like a "bubblegum" novel to me, it might be shocking to hear that it actually had more depth of theme and content than expected. As I mentioned, it reminded me a lot of 1984...even more so than some of the other recent dystopian YA novels I've read (like Hunger Games and Maze Runner). While the other novels were very focused on the adventure of fighting against the Society (or directly confronting the elements of the Society), in Matched we are taken on a very personal inspection of the Society and allowed to experience things not from the point of view of a rebel or one who is in a struggle for her life, but from the point of view of a person (or people) who are caught in the midst of this "perfect Society" and begin to wonder if things are as perfect as they appear...and as they wonder, they worry about whether or not it is safe to "wonder" (let alone to do anything about it...which is a huge risk).
I really enjoyed the slower pacing of this book. While it's great fun to have an adrenaline filled romp through the world alongside protagonists striving to set things right in a "perfect" Society gone bad, I personally find it equally entertaining (more so in some ways) to take a slower, methodical analysis and inspection of the Society. I loved the introspection of the characters as they try to determine the nature or existence of problems within the Society and then weigh their personal options of whether to take action or not and what may happen in either case.
For those who are worried from my comments that this book is a slow paced social investigation with a love story at the forefront, let me assure you that there are elements of tension and action but I will also say that they aren't the kind of action from a Hunger Games or a Maze Runner. There is some "off-screen" violence alluded to and a small "on-screen" scuffle but otherwise, most of the action is of a more suspenseful nature and the intrigue of keeping actions hidden and covert.
While I suspect there will be some people who aren't as interested in this title because of its slower pacing and greater focus on introspection, analysis and the teenage romance, I also feel like this is a worthy addition to the dystopian genre and I feel like it's a great gateway book to classic dystopia. While a reader may be a little wary of diving into the heavier 1984 or Fahrenheit 451, the same reader may feel quite comfortable with Matched and come away with some similar thoughts and ideas and may feel more comfortable diving into heavier material.
Give it a try and let me know what you think.
3 out of 5 stars
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