Cassia has always trusted the Society to make the right choices for her: what to read, what to watch, what to believe. So when Xander’s face appears on-screen at her Matching ceremony, Cassia knows with complete certainty that he is her ideal mate… until she sees Ky Markham’s face flash for an instant before the screen fades to black.
The Society tells her it’s a glitch, a rare malfunction, and that she should focus on the happy life she’s destined to lead with Xander. But Cassia can’t stop thinking about Ky, and as they slowly fall in love, Cassia begins to doubt the Society’s infallibility and is faced with an impossible choice: between Xander and Ky, between the only life she’s known and a path that no one else has dared to follow
Author: Ally Condie
Published: November 30th 2010 by Dutton Juvenile
Time it took me to read: 28/08 – 01/09
I’ve been hearing about this series for a while now and I’ve finally decided to pick up the first book and read it. And, I have to say, I am not a fan.
Cassia lives in a dystopian totalitarian society in which everything is regulated. Based on data gathered in every day life, the society dictates what and how much you eat, where you work, what activities you do, and even who you marry and when you die. People are restricted in what they learn; because knowing too much will make this harder for you. So if it is decided that you will work in agriculture, you will only learn about agriculture. Similarly, the society has selected 100 works in every cultural category (poems, paintings, songs) and has forbidden making any more. This prevents their culture from becoming too cluttered.
Cassia trusts the Society completely, never doubting the decisions it makes for her. Up until the moment that an error occurs. After being Matched to her childhood friend Xander (which means that she will marry and have children with him), a second face shows up on the screen: the face of Ky Markham. And through getting to know Ky, doubts start to form in Cassia’s mind. Is the Society as good as it seems?
I am severely disappointed in this book. The premise had a lot of promise but the execution was extremely lacking. I really had to push myself to finish it, something that almost never happens. Let me break down the things that annoyed me.
First of all: the writing. I am not an expert and I have no authority when it comes to judging the English language. However, in this book it was very obvious to me that the writing could have been better. I felt like it was a little choppy and that some parts of the story could have elaborated on a little more while other parts were stretched out unnecessarily. I think that Condie maybe focused on the wrong things, leaving out or only shortly mentioning things that would have been more interesting for us. I’m guessing that she did this because the things she did focus on are the things that are important in the next books. However, as we don’t know this it maybe would have been better if she had done this more subtle. How we know for instance that the artifacts will play an important part in the later books even though they didn’t in this one. The foreshadowing was too obvious. Oh and if the Artifacts aren’t important in the next books then the amount of attention that has been spent on this subject is beyond weird. Why not rather tell us more about how the Society works? Or what the difference between Anomalies and Aberrations are? So much that could have been focused on instead.
And then there is Cassia. I didn’t care for her. She seems very naïve to me. And I suppose that Condie did this on purpose. After all, Cassia is a resident in a world where she’s kept completely in the dark. But it was done in a way that it was getting slightly annoying. Is a little critical thinking too much to ask? Also she seemed very whimsical. She’s totally into Xander, who is her best friend. But then suddenly she switches her attention to Ky so completely that we don’t hear about Xander for pages and pages. Doesn’t she think about him at all? Doesn’t she care? Doesn’t she feel at least a little guilty? I mean, come on.
As for the Society, I’m on the fence about it. On the one hand it’s an interesting and intriguing concept, on the other hand it’s very drastic. I enjoy the idea of a government being so restrictive that they calculate the probability of a person’s behavior in every possible situation but I don’t like the idea that they simply destroyed hundreds of years worth of art, music, books and poetry. The people in this story can’t even write because the government want to keep them from creating anything. It’s a tad far-fetched.
So for all these reasons I rated this book a 2 out of 5. I found it an extremely frustrating read, especially since it had so much promise. However, I will probably try and read the second book to see if it gets any better. I think that there is a definite possibility that it could be better. We shall see.