It turns out Ally Condie is a very talented writer. I just finished Matched and feel like the time I spent reading about Cassia and her world and love triangle was time well spent. The world is robust and very nicely put together and reasoned, the characters feel like real people and their voices are clear, and the conflicts are interesting.

Matched deserves its hype.

The story follows Cassia, a 17-year-old girl who begins the tale by attending her Matching banquet. This is the ritual in which girls and boys in different cities across the Society are matched. The match is designed to be as genetically optimal as possible. To everyone’s surprise, Cassia is matched with her best friend, Xander. Xander is a confident, attractive and popular young man. But usually the system matches a girl from one city with a boy from a different city.

Thus begins the story of Cassia as she transforms from a passive, happy young woman who accepts and enjoys the artificial world in which she lives into a discerning and proactive woman who knows what she wants and won’t stop until she gets it.

Cassia is a demonstration of excellent character development. It is not usual for the protagonist in a dystopian novel such as this to be a happy and normal and satisfied member of the ‘utopian’ and artificial society at the heart of the story. This was a nice choice for Condie to make, because we got to see what it would take to wake up a regular citizen of such a world to the truth of her situation.

As Cassia plunges into her conflict, the tension mounts satisfyingly and the final pay-off is a model of high stakes, consequences, and smart writing.

The officials of the Society are another gem in this book. They are menacing and wonderfully drawn with their forcefulness. The tablets– what a nice twist to the tale.

I have no concerns or critiques of this book, merely a taste issue. Matched is a wonderfully written and crafted book and it moves along at a very steady pace. But it is, at its core, a love story. I like love stories, but they’re not my favorite kind of story. I like more action and physical struggle. But that’s just taste, and I eagerly await the rest of this series.

All in all, the book deserves 5 out of 5 pens.