More on Dystopian Literature: Matched by Ally Condie

MatchedDystopian fiction gets a lot of attention these days, and yet, I’m still not sure people understand what it’s all about.

Several months ago, I wrote a post called What Does Dystopian Mean Anyway?  In it, I tried to clarify the genre.  Main points:

  • dystopian fiction is usually set in a society with at least one horrible, inherent flaw
  • dystopian fiction usually includes themes that explore the role of government, or the best rules for society, or the power of technology in our lives

If you’re ready to explore dystopian fiction, the Matched trilogy might be a safe place to start.

The premise

Matched opens with Cassia heading to her Matching Banquet, where she will learn who her husband will be.  In Cassia’s society, the government chooses what you wear, what you eat, who you will marry, and when you will die.  All in the name of efficiency and fairness.

But Cassia’s perfectly organized world gets rocked when she sees the image for one, and then a second young man on the screen at the matching ceremony.  The Society doesn’t make mistakes, but why does she have two matches?

Should you read it?

Matched often gets criticized as being a rip off of The Giver, by Lois Lowry.  Admittedly, theThe Giver cover two books have a lot in common:

  • a “perfect” world controlled by the government
  • a hidden history- in both books, we never learn how or why the society came about, and the people of the society have limited access to the past
  • the members of both societies take pills to suppress emotions
  • the protagonist slowly realizes that the society isn’t as wonderful as it seems and takes action to change it

Another complaint I often see, and agree with, is that Matched is kinda boring and bland compared to more exciting dystopian books like The Hunger Games or The Maze Runner.  The romance is tepid, and no violence livens up the plot.

Finally, Cassia is a quiet lead in Matched.  She doesn’t wield a bow and arrow or show any extraordinary talent.  But she does see the problems in her society, and she’s willing to risk change.

Matched, like The Giver, could be a great book to introduce the dystopian genre to younger readers, like my 11-year-old daughter.  It brings up great questions for discussion, like:

  • Which is more important, the society or the individual? 
  • How would life in our country be better if we had stringent rules to keep it running efficiently?  How would it be worse?
  • What would you do if you were in Cassia’s shoes?  How would you try to change things?   

The greatest value of dystopian literature is that it explores difficult issues from a safe distance.  It encourages readers to ask, “What if?” and seriously evaluate the consequences.

Matched isn’t bad, it’s just tame.  Which is fine for my 11-year-old.

Next week, I’ll post about a much less tame dystopian novel, The Maze Runner, which I encouraged my 12-year-old son to read.  Before I knew about the cannibalism and the monsters.  Yikes!

Have you read Matched or the other books in the trilogy?  What did you think?  What other dystopian novels have you enjoyed?

Thanks for stopping by!

Julia Tomiak

I believe in the power of words to improve our lives, and I help people find interesting words to read. Find me on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Pinterest, and Google+. Member of SCBWI and Wordsmithstudio.org.

9 Comments

  1. Thanks for this! I read “Matched” and enjoyed it, but it’s a much quieter book than “Hunger Games” and “Maze Runner.” I think “Matched” is more character driven than the other 2, which are more action driven, and perhaps that’s what accounts for its quietness.

    I had not heard about it being a rip-off of “The Giver,” so thanks to you, I ran out and read it. I loved it, and I can see where the comparisons lie. I’m giving the edge to “The Giver.” Lois Lowry is a gifted author, and her ability to convey so much in the brevity of this thin novel is beautiful and engaging.

    I see now that “Son”, the sequel to “The Giver” is out, and I still have to read “Reached,” the final installment in the “Matched” trilogy, so my dystopian reading does not seem to be abating!

  2. Intriguing. I want to read these two books back to back now and compare them!

    Good to know about the Maze Runner. I will definitely NOT be recommending that to my middle-schooler. 🙂

  3. Julia,

    I about passed out when my 13 yr. old son came home from school and was talking about his literature class and the ‘dystopian’ literature etc. (I didn’t even know what that word was until recent years). Thanks for sharing about the “Matched” books . . . sounds like another trip to library is in store before spring break. 😉

    Blessings to your weekend,
    Hester, 😉

  4. I haven’t read them, but have been fascinated by the subjects. Now that I have a young nephew who’s learning to read, I’m grateful for all your good tips, Julia!

  5. I thought Matched sounded really good when I read the synopsis on Good Reads, but it’s good to hear from you that it’s a bit bland. I think I might skip it (unless I get my hands on a free copy.) I do love dystopian books though. The Hunger Games is one of my recent faves, and you know I love Fahrenheit 451. Brave New World is also a fun classic.

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