A blog about the amazing things teenagers do, about writing for teens, books for teens, and occasional forays into my world and the world of publishing.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011


I'm excited to introduce as my first guest reviewer, M. S. Steed, a 19-year-old aspiring writer from here in Washington. I should point out that I have never met M. S. Steed, she is a friend of a friend, but she was the first to step forward when I asked for teen reviewers. She chose to review MATCHED by Ally Condie.

Review by M. S. Steed:

When you live in the Society, you don't have to think. The Society tells you where to work, where to live, provides your food, tells you how much you're allowed to exercise, where to go when you have free time, when you'll die, who you'll marry and when. You're not supposed to think.

But maybe you should.

Seventeen year old Cassia's faith in the Society is complete, and when she attends her matching ceremony, she's sure that the boy the Society matches her with will be the perfect person to spend her life with. When her best friend, Xander, is declared her match, she's thrilled and confident.

So when she goes to put the information card in the computer the next day, why is Xander's face suddenly replaced with Ky's? Is it really just a rare computer glitch, as the officials tell her? Or is there a reason? For the first time in her life, Cassia begins to wonder.

I picked up Matched by Ally Condie after I read a review from the Compulsive Reader, and I went in hopeful, but not expectant, that I would find a story I could enjoy without cringing at the language or content.

As a Christian, I choose to read books that fit a standard. Since I'm a teenager, I want young adult books that I can enjoy. Trying to find a book for teens that has a moral code aligned with mine, without sexual content, bad language, or substance abuse, is difficult. It borders on impossible, actually. Occasionally I'll take a chance on a book that I've read interesting reviews to, but often times I'm let down hard.

With this book I was pleasantly surprised.

Dystopian stories seem to be in vogue right now, and they can begin to bleed together after a while. But this one was a breath of fresh air in a genre that I'm not a big fan off. Often they’re violent, with all the content I want to avoid.

I loved the character journey of this story, which was wonderfully written, with a realistic flow that made Cassia's changing opinions easy to follow. Unlike so many stories I've read, her relationship with Ky evolves naturally, from interest, to friendship founded on trust, to love. As it evolves, we also watch Cassia's blind faith slowly slip away as she begins to question their total control of her life.

Discovering more about Ky and his history is handled in a unique way. Rather than sitting the Ky and Cassia down and having them talk, talk, talk and talk, the author leaks the information to us in short phrases alongside Ky's drawings.

Even supporting characters, from Cassia's match Xander, to her parents and grandfather, are all well-rounded, and well-portrayed.

Xander is a sympathetic character. Though I was on Ky's side from the beginning, I could definitely understand why Cassia would be a little torn.

To my joy, Cassia's parents were also solid characters. The contrast between her mother and father, one following the rules to protect their family, the other breaking the rules for the same reason, was intriguing, and I was happy to see that Cassia's relationship with them was strong, even when there were things she couldn't tell them. Like real parents, they wanted Cassia to be happy, whichever path that meant she had to go down.

The world of the story is also well-presented. It's easy to understand everyone's satisfaction with the setup of the Society, but at the same time you question why people are so complacent.

As if this wasn't enough for me to love the book, then I get to add that it's clean! No bad language, no use of drugs or alcohol. There are a few descriptions of violence and devastation, but when compared to the graphic nature of books like The Hunger Games, those descriptions are quite tame.

Even more, the questions raised by the story were also powerful. Is security and comfort worth giving up control of our lives?

As someone who believes in free will, this was a great chance to think about my beliefs, and the value of that gift.

Of the 300+ pages, I found only one problem with the whole book, and it's merely a bit of grammatical style. Save for the possessive, I don't think I found a single contraction in the whole book. "I'm" was always "I am", "I've" was always "I have." Considering the teen narrator, and knowing how much teenagers love contractions, it was a little jarring. But otherwise the voice of this story was consistent and absorbing. As I said before, the character and her journey made sense, no jump from one opinion or frame of mind to another. It all made sense.

This is quite possibly the best book I've read in awhile. Maybe not the best quality of writing, but it's clean, the main character didn't make me want to pull my hair out, and the romance was sweet, centered on a couple drawing close to each other and loving each other for their personalities and heart, rather than just what they look like.

I eagerly await the sequel, Crossed, due out November of this year.

Reviewed copy borrowed from my local library.

Thanks for the review! I love hearing what actual teens think of YA books (rather than what adults like me think they should think).

As a side note, I'm happy to announce that yesterday, MATCHED was chosen as a finalist in for the Whitney Awards in the category of Youth Fiction-Speculative. (The Whitney awards are sponsored by LDStorymakers, the author's guild for the LDS market.)

About my reviewer:

M. S. Steed is nineteen, currently living in the Northwest, where she's chosen a nontraditional route for her education, receiving her GED. At this time she's focusing on her writing, searching for good books to read, and manages her blog, songofafreeheart, where she talks about writing, reading, while ranting about her opinion on the current cultural landscape of America.

1 comment:

  1. What a fantastic review! Thanks for sharing!

    I read MATCHED in August 2009. You ask how (as that was a year before it released). It came through our agency as a submission (alas Ms. Condie ended up signing with another agent but I route for her and her books just the same!). I remember, distinctly, the feeling of awe - how complex and real this book was, how engaging and beautiful (very much like how I felt reading Jennifer's book as a submission also). :)

    Thanks to M.S. Steed for putting this book into personal context. For the record, Ally Condie is a practicing Mormon with strong personal beliefs about YA literature (like you have). She's a great author to follow (www.allysoncondie.com)

    Thanks for sharing!
    -Sara Megibow