November 2010 by Dutton Juvenile
Cassia has always trusted the Society to make the right choices for her: what to read, what to watch, what to believe. So when Xander's face appears on-screen at her Matching ceremony, Cassia knows with complete certainty that he is her ideal mate... until she sees Ky Markham's face flash for an instant before the screen fades to black.
The Society tells her it's a glitch, a rare malfunction, and that she should focus on the happy life she's destined to lead with Xander. But Cassia can't stop thinking about Ky, and as they slowly fall in love, Cassia begins to doubt the Society's infallibility and is faced with an impossible choice: between Xander and Ky, between the only life she's known and a path that no one else has dared to follow.
Wow, that was good. I had kind of low expectations going in, but it was a hard book to put down. The synopsis above makes the book sound shallow, but I liked it, and I saw the the love triangle stuff as the impetus for Cassia to question the perfection of the Society. I am a bit annoyed, though, that a love triangle is the basis of the plot. Thankfully, it isn't as big of a trip up as I expected it to be. I don't like love triangles, especially when the girl waffles between two boys and she just can't decide who she likes better. Cassia spends the whole time being drawn to Ky and feeling guilty about hurting Xander, but she doesn't really waffle. So points there. By the way, no I will not pick a team. Teams are not the point; the Society and its absolute control is. I will not allow romance to get in the way of my dystopia. And since we all know how this is going to end, there is no point in bickering. Xander is the representation of the status quo; Ky represents choice. She can never choose Xander because that would prove that the Society is right, and we can't have that.
Condie does a good job of the building and describing a credible dystopia. We start out seeing the micromanaging control as strange but justified. Everything is safe this way. But then Condie leads us through a gradual reveal of the darker side of the Society. There's not much in the way of action, so don't expect a thrilling Hunger Games read-alike. But it is engaging through the interpersonal relationships and government induced issues.
I love Cassia's parents. So many YAs kill off the parents to get them out of the way. It is so nice to see good parents who love and support each other and care about their kids. I also like how their choices are flip sides of the same coin. Mother keeps the rules to protect the ones she loves; Father bends the rules to protect the ones he loves. They are an interesting and unexpected pair. I wish we could have seen more of Grandpa, but it is kind of important to get rid of him early on as his death is part of what spurs the change in Cassia.
I like the role "Do Not Go Gentle" and other poems play in Cassia's emerging rebellion. Yes, literature can change the world! I know it would be terribly boring to include in the book, but I'd be interested to see a list of the 100 songs, poems, history lessons, ect. Maybe as bonus material online or at the end of the book? I'm curious.
I will definitely read the next book. I hope Crossed includes more about the outer provinces and the countries the Society is fighting against as well as more turmoil within the Society. I also hope we learn why and how the Society came to be. The scary part of dystopias is not that such a world could exist; it's seeing our own society's potential to go down the same path.
Is it formulaic? A bit. There's definitely a lot of carry over from The Giver, but I don't think that kills the novel. Condie makes her world original enough to satisfy me. Besides, what's wrong with a deeper exploration of that type of world?
P.S. Google Chrome thinks "dystopia" should be "topiary".