What if instead of going through life with flaws, mistakes, and pain, you lived in a place where the government could guarantee the best life for each person?
Matched is a young adult novel about a dystopian society that uses statistics and probability to shape and make decisions for the citizens. For optimum results, the government, known as the Society, matches everyone with their best match for their future marriage, their vocation, and even the boroughs in which they live.
The story begins with Cassia’s 17th birthday and her “Match Ceremony,” where she will discover with whom she has been matched for her future marriage. At the ceremony, she finds out that she knows her match, which is a rare occurrence, and he is her best friend, Xander. This is a relief to Cassia—most couples do not meet each other until after they are matched, but she has known Xander since they were children.
After the ceremony, all of the individuals that were selected to participate are given a microchip that contains information about their match. Cassia uses her microchip, but in the middle of accessing information about Xander, the image of another friend, Ky, comes up. The Officials never admit to making any mistakes, so this causes Cassia to wonder whether her real match is Xander or Ky.
But in this “ideal” society, those like Ky who are labeled “Abberations” for various reasons are never allowed to marry or have full citizenship. This means that Ky does one of the “lower level” jobs that leaves a mark on him so that all other citizens will know that he is not like them. So for his face to appear in Cassia’s microchip was a very big mistake . . . and thus begins to unravel the utopian society façade for Cassia and her family.
This wondering of what “could be” for Cassia creates other questions to ponder: for instance, the reason her society will not allow poetry, as it creates images of heartbreak, pain, and suffering. Also the fact that when one reaches the age of 80 that he or she must die, since that is the ideal age to pass away before disease and old age takes one’s dignity away. And the ideal meal containing only foods that will keep all of the citizens healthy, with just enough resources used to allow them to complete their work during the day.
In the sequel, Crossed, the relationships of Ky, Cassie, and Xander are tested when Cassie and Xander decide to help keep Ky from being forced to become a soldier in the pending war located within the borderlands. The second book is darker than Matched, as many secrets about the mysterious Society are revealed. Yet in this book, Cassia’s focus is entirely on the guy she chooses to be with, and towards the end this even gets a little reminiscent of Bella’s obsession with Edward in the Twilight series.
However, there is more depth in these books, as the themes of the first book in particular cause the reader to consider a “perfect world” where life has no surprises or unplanned occurrences. There is an underlying uneasiness in this world, because the citizens are so controlled and uninformed that the Society (government) is able to manipulate them without being held accountable.
We follow Cassia, Xander and Ky on their “adventure” of making choices not based on what society tells them is right and wrong, but on what they believe is right and wrong. This could seem like a dangerous concept to feed young adults, but against the backdrop of this false utopia, the desire for choice is the catalyst for freedom. The Society controls all aspects of life, so why wouldn’t choices and freedom be a good alternative?
It does raise an interesting question, though: If given the chance to live in a near-perfect world, would you as an individual give up your freedom of choice? And another one: Are such dreams of Utopia mere whispers of what is to come for believers?
In the writings of James, Peter, and Paul, we believers read that trials and suffering will be normal for us while we are in this world, but when we arrive in the real “Utopia” (New Earth), suffering, fear, and hardships will no longer exist. We do not need to go on “Autopilot” expecting leaders to make decisions for us, but we do need to choose today whom we will serve (Joshua 24:15). Will we serve a specific Christian leader, a political form of government, envy, greed, our selfish desires? Or will we serve God alone? The Matched trilogy (the third book, Reached, comes out this fall) has the potential to open important discussions about the possibility of “perfect” societies, and even theological discussions about the depravity of man and whether it is possible to be “good” outside of God’s influence.
Image copyright Speak. Review copies from the reviewer’s personal collection.
Esther J. Archer works in the IT Department for a Christian university. In her off hours, she can be found reading, knitting, and trying to figure out the last algorithm for the Rubik’s cube.