Matched called to me with it's beautiful cover and glowing blog reviews and enticing premise. Matched is a dystopian young adult novel that follows Cassia as she discovers that the safety the Society has provided her has also left her trapped in a metaphorical bubble.
What is so powerful is that the story seems more subtle than other books in this genre. Usually the inciting incident sends the main character on a powerful journey, and this happens in Matched. But Cassia isn't Tally setting off on a hover board or Katniss volunteering for the games. Cassia's journey involves falling in love for the first time in a society where people don't fall in love because they are handed perfect matches. It involves her learning to choose and her slowly understanding that what the society gives her isn't a fair exchange for her freedom. It was exciting in the quiet of the woods as Cassia learned to write. The horror at what is being done in the name of good is also more subtle. The rational argument for killing people at age 80 is repulsive in a way that hit me deeper than Katniss fighting for her life ever did.
Dystopian is huge right now, but this is the first novel I've read where the main character is a "have" and not a "have not". It seemed to me a very fresh take on the genre (I'd be very interested in more books that take this perspective!). But more than that, the book just seems so perfectly balanced. I was never bored, but yet I barely noticed the way the story moved. It took me from one place to the next and seemed so effortless (I know it wasn't).
The characters were all well developed, most importantly the two love interests. We meet Xander on the very first page and I instantly fell in love with him. I thought "This is the one who Cassia will end up with. I love him already". I didn't think another character could worm his way in, but I ended up falling in love with Ky right along with Cassia, and loving Xander from the very beginning kept me emotionally tied in to Cassia (I love the bittersweet).
I also loved the way poetry weaved its way through the narrative. People think I'm weird sometimes for being blown away by words, songs, and ideas, but they're powerful in this story. There are so many good things to say about this novel, that I will leave it with I loved it and it's totally living up to the hype. I'm excited for the sequel, Crossed, coming out November 2011... so far away.
As a parting thought, check out Ally's blog. I've been following it for a few months (since the buzz about Matched started) and it's one of my favorites. This is my favorite post so far. Or stay here a while longer and leave me a comment. Tell me: What novels have you read that live up to their hype?