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Matched by Ally Condie

Released November 30, 2010.

An enticing mix of dystopian science fiction and romance, this is the first book in a trilogy.  Cassia trusts the Society with her entire life.  She trusts it to pick the best job for her skills.  She trusts it to decide who she will love.  She trusts it to decide when people die.  So when she attends her Matching ceremony and the face of one of her best friends is shown as her ideal match, she knows it is meant to be.  Xander is handsome, clever and kind.  That’s what makes it all the more confusing when Cassia looks at his data and she momentarily sees the face of another boy she knows.  Ky is quiet, a mysterious handsome loner who moved to their area from the Outer Provinces.  Cassia finds herself drawn to Ky and starting to think outside of the rules of the Society.  Learning to write in cursive, a skill lost for the people of her city, Cassia discovers a longing to create things for herself outside of the limits assigned by the Society.  Their love itself is forbidden, and something that could bring them to the attention of the Officials at any moment.  Now Cassia must choose between the comfort of life as she has always led to or the danger of the unknown and love.

Condie has created a society that is detailed and fascinating.  Within the Society, she asks questions that modern teens should be considering about privacy, personal choice, and the public good.  These questions are present in the book, but offered up in a subtle way.  The world building here is logical.  Condie excels at slowly revealing the horrors of this world, at first allowing readers to see the world as Cassia does, one with few troubles and many answers. 

Cassia is a great protagonist.  Even though this is a romantic novel, Cassia is strong and brilliant.  A large part of the success here is that Cassia is not concerned about her looks, but more concerned about looking beyond the glossy surface of perfection.  Happily, both of Cassia’s love interests are equally interesting, kind and bright.  This is not about a villain vs. a hero.  It is far more nuanced than that, as are all of the choices that Cassia faces in the novel.

I look forward to the next in this trilogy.  This first book finished with just the right amount of unanswered questions to keep readers intrigued for the next book and not so many as to be frustrating.  Appropriate for ages 13-15.

Reviewed from ARC received from Penguin.