Seventeen-year-old Cassia Reyes lives in a world where the Society has pre-determined each choice she will ever have to make: where she works, who she marries, how many children she can have, and when she will die. On the night of her Matching Banquet, she is delighted to learn that she has been assigned to her life-long best friend, Xander, and will be granted permission to marry him at age 21 if she so desires. If not, she forfeits her rights to be married, and will automatically take on the irrevocable status of “Single.” At home, she activates the microcard containing her Match’s information—and is stunned to discover that the information on the card is not for Xander, but for Ky, a classmate and mutual friend of theirs. The Society, it appears, has made a mistake. Which boy is she meant to be with? Clever, witty Xander, or quiet, introspective Ky? Although the Matching Department contacts her shortly afterward to apologize for the mistake, Cassia can no longer see things as she once did. Now, she is stuck with the uncomfortable decision of continuing to accept the choices the Society makes for her, or—she can finally make choices of her own.
I have to admit that from reading the summary of this book, I didn’t really have very high hopes for Matched. Thankfully, though, I was quite pleasantly surprised. Far from focusing entirely on the love triangle formed by Cassia’s botched Matching assignment, it also takes time to trace Cassia’s slow journey from blind acceptance to disillusionment of the Society. (It may also be wishful thinking on my part, but perhaps Cassia’s questioning of her Match could also be a way of pushing back against the first-love-at-first-sight element so nauseatingly prevalent in YA romance.) One of the best things about the story, though, is that her two love interests are not just bland hunks of boy-meat that seem to populate YA romance now-days. No, even better: these two boys actually have interesting personalities.
As for any downsides to the novel, the only one I can think of is one that many other readers have pointed out in their reviews: Matched seems to borrow a fair amount from Lois Lowry’s classic novel The Giver (government-assigned jobs, ritualistic euthanasia at a pre-determined age, pre-arranged marital assignments, etc.) While this is unfortunate, I, for one, was not really bothered by it, and frankly can’t think of why teens would be bothered by it either.