Honest and lively YA book reviews
I have a penchant for piercings. Nah, not so much facial piercings. I stopped with my nose. But ear piercings. I like to collect them. I went for the biggie in September: a scaffold piercing. Some call it an industrial. For all you not riveted to your Big Book of Piercings it's basically two piercings at the top of your ear with a bar passing through both. FYI, the top of your ear is made of cartilage and requires considerable force to pierce through. So needless to say, this kind of piercing hurts like a bitch. I went with my sisters to get it done in their home city. Their piercer is hot. He tattooed my wrist last year - holding his hand for 45 minutes was like holding a little piece of heaven. So when the room started sliding away and I felt the cold grip of a faint around my throat as he forced that needle through my cartilage twice I said, "Nope, not today" and fucking pulled my self together. There was no way I was collapsing to the floor in the presence of this beautiful person. But I swear I came this close.
Similarly, you have no idea how close I came to giving up and laying on the floor whilst reading Matched by Ally Condie. This book is about as painful as a scaffold piercing but minus all the blood. I felt an almost overwhelming desire to shove more needles through my ear just to have something to do because this book is a major snooze-fest.
Hello? Hello plot?! Where did you go? Come back!! We need you!! Yeah, Matched has next to no actual plot going on. The basic story goes that Cassia lives in a Society (that's right. Society with a capital S) which has somehow reserved the right to dictate who she marries, where she works and when she dies. It's all very The Giver-ish, but without the menacing undercurrent. Cassia is paired with her bestie, Xander but finds herself falling instead for the dark and brooding guitar playing, poetry writing Ky (naturally), who she then begins a dangerous and illegal affair with. There's a bunch of hill-walking, angsting and sorting (whatever that is. Can anyone help me out here and explain exactly what sorting actually is?!) going on, all the while Cassia uncovers secrets and discovers the Society isn't as perfect as she's been led to believe.
One of the main problems I have with Matched is the almost complete lack of any real threat, urgency or danger. I mean, Cassia apparently isn't supposed to be cavorting about with Ky in secret but the most she receives is a stern talking to by a name-less official. Ooh scary. Her compact mirror is taken away and kept safe at the local museum of artefacts. Wow. I'm frightened now. And the tree in her front yard is cut down. Terrifying. It makes it really hard to care about how dangerous Cassia proclaims her affair with Ky is when the consequences are this lame. And with so little actual drama or suffering the plot really grinds to a halt. I was getting real tired of reading about Cassia dreaming of Ky, Cassia reading Ky's notes, Cassia staring into Ky's colour changing eyes. Because that's pretty much this book in a nutshell.
I'm not saying the romance was terrible. Because it wasn't. I mean, Ky wasn't abusive, or dismissive or a criminal as is usually the case in a typical YA love triangle. He was sweet enough, he was kind. But it was all very blah. There was absolutely no sexual tension built whatsoever. For a book centred around a love triangle the attraction between the characters was very bland. Cassia spent most of the novel focussed on Ky's hands or eyes. It reminded me of the sort of crush twelve year olds experience. You know? "Oh, he's so nice and good and wholesome" kind of crush "He has floppy hair and gave me his Haribos at lunchtime so I love him" sort of thing. And yet, Cassia is supposed to be sixteen. Her behaviour didn't feel very realistic for her age.
The same could be said for the third side of the triangle - Xander. Poor naive Xander. Supposedly he and Cassia had been friends since forever and yet their conversation and time spent together was so embarrassingly stilted and juvenile I was squirming. Xander refused to kiss her, took her for a gut-wrenchingly awkward meal at that weird dining hall meant for parents and sad singles and just appeared to want to get as far away as possible from her. Cassia was no better. An important part of friendship is being able to talk. Cassia seemed incapable of this and lied to Xander repeatedly, admittedly by omission mostly but I would have felt more respect for the girl if she had been honest about her feelings, or rather her lack of feelings for him and her blossoming relationship with Ky. The whole thing felt grossly unfair.
I didn't enjoy the world building in the slightest. It was bizarre. I felt the same way about The Giver - who would put up with this shit?! The worlds are very similar: an all powerful society designed to keep citizens placid and compliant by withholding the truth. But why aren't there more rebels? Why did this even come about in the first place? I don't like these nonsensical Societies (yeah, Ms Condie is fond of throwing randomly capitalised words in there, just to keep us on our toes) - there has to be a reasoning why this would happen. And in Matched, there ain't none.
The Society has destroyed history, art and free thinking and expression leaving only 100 poems, 100 pieces of art work, 100 songs all carefully chosen to be in line with what The Society thinks is appropriate. Cassia tells us this and then just drops it. This I would have been interested in. But instead we get endless description of Cassia and Ky's lurve, Cassia's outfits, the goddam weather. There's no expansion on how this Society actually functions, how they came to choose the 100 of everything, why. Nope. We're given nothing. It's so frustrating. Similarly, the whole death-when-society-decides debacle would have been so interesting to explore but instead, we're given the bare minimum of information and then nothing else. This in itself would have created an interesting story. The Society basically murders people when they reach 80 years old, deeming that an old enough age to live until. Now this would have been a good cause to fight against. I would have enjoyed reading about Cassia's discovery of this and how she battled against it. But again, nope. It's dumped on us, we're expected to accept it and move on.
I think the biggest problem I had with the world building was the goddam Matching itself. How does this work?! What about the gay or lesbian people?! What about trans-gender people?! What about people who are disabled?! Because they weren't mentioned. There was something about people who opt to remain single, who are not entered into the matching pool. Is this where these people wind up - alone forever?! What?! This is the problem with trying to create these kinds of perfect-world dystopias. It would never work simply because of the vast diversity of life. It's not possible to ram everyone into a neat little box with a label. Everyone is unique and individual. I had too many questions so I found it very difficult to get caught up in Matched. I wound up feel very disconnected from the whole thing and I guess that's where the real boredom set in. In a way reading Matched was really good for me - I started looking for other things to do. Anything except trundling along with old Cassia and nice-but-dim Ky. I got my filing done. I trimmed my house plants. I sorted out my hall closet. I bathed my dog. It was a good week for housework. Not so much a good week for reading.
I would advise you to read Matched if you have a lot of unfinished chores. Or if you enjoy mind-numbing tedium. Aside from that, just don't. The only thing to really stand out about this novel is the writing which in places is beautiful although somewhat repetitive. I mean, there's only so much that can be said about the same girl and the same boy hiking up the same hill day in, day out. I'm disappointed that this book is so blah, because of the hype it received I was prepared to be blown away. Instead, I just can't muster up the enthusiasm to even contemplate continuing with this series. I really don't enjoy housework that much.
Ciao for now my friends!!