Cassia has looked forward to being Matched for as long as she can remember - and that it's scheduled for her seventeenth birthday makes it even more special! She's picked the perfect dress for her Match's first vision of her, and though it will be returned after the Match Banquet she'll get to keep a sliver of the fabric.
Cassia's Match is even more special than she anticipated - in an amazingly rare happenstance, Cassia is Matched with someone she already knows, rather than a boy anywhere in the country. Xander's not only someone she knows, he's her best friend, and Cassia knows she truly fortunate. That is until she puts her microcard into the home port the next day, to look at Xander's picture in private. Instead of his face she sees another, and it's also a boy she knows - Ky, who lives down the street. And just like that, everything in Cassia's life begins to change.
Condle has created a well-crafted world that is reminiscent of a number of dystopian novels set in a totalitarian future (like This Perfect Day, Collin's Mockingjay trilogy and Westerfeld's Uglies triology, with elements of Logan's Run) while still being unique, engaging and entertaining. We learn about a way of life wholly unlike ours, as Cassia passes through what is utterly familiar to her, in a seamless example of show don't tell.
The flicker of Ky on her port viewer is a mistake, an Official tells Cassia, but Society does not make mistakes. She's not to talk of this error to anyone, and that alone triggers a shift in Cassia's outlook. And her increased awareness of Ky goes hand in hand with an increased awareness of problems in a Society that she's been trained to believe is perfect. As Cassie sees her world with new eyes, the reader uncovers layers of reduction, repression, manipulation, secrecy, injustice and cover-up.
Matched is a brilliant example of how perception and society shape reality, how restricting art (to the One Hundred Poems, for example) limits thought, how language frames ideology and the capacity for innovation, and how removing the ability to write has multiple repercussions. This is the kind of book I was hoping The Maze Runner would be - rich, textured, layered, grounded, unique, with a completed narrative arc that holds promise of a sequel. Just perfect. - Alex