Imagine a world in which no one got sick. Crime was an extreme rarity. Your food was delivered to you daily, rather than having to cook it yourself. And on your 80th birthday, you'd have a feast day, all day, then die painlessly.
In exchange, everything was optimized and tightly controlled. You didn't choose a career. Instead, you were monitored closely, given a work experience at 17 based on years of data about your abilities and inclinations, then a finalized vocation. You had a choice of a handful of recreational activities each week. And, at 17, your ideal match was selected for you, also based on years of data.
That's Cassia's world. Cassia is the main character in Ally Condie's 'Matched.' Except, things don't go quite according to plan. Cassia gets her Match, all right, and even more excitingly, her Match turns out to be someone she's grown up with, which is very rare, considering the large population of the Society. After you get your Match, you get a microchip containing photographs and information about them. Despite being good friends with her match, Xander, Cassia views her chip anyway.
Her chip is all screwed up, though. It's all about someone else that she knows, a boy named Ky. Although an Official quickly tracks her down to exchange the chip and reassure her that the entire thing was a mistake and that she shouldn't question her Match, she does anyway, which in turn leads her to question whether The Society really does know best. And, as it turns out, she's not the only one wondering that.
I enjoyed reading this book, and got through it very quickly. Since I've been re-reading The Hunger Games recently, which is also set in a totalitarian society in the near future and features a female POV character choosing between two different boys, I can't help but compare them. And I predict that the Matched trilogy will have fewer male fans. The boys in this story are not terribly vivid and act more as plot devices than full-fledged characters, the way Peeta and Gale came across. Also, the action in Matched is mostly emotional. There's little enough problem-solving, and no real violence at all.
That being said, I can see many women loving this book. It does have a nice, romantic plot, and but Cassia is not a sappy character. She has an Athletic Permit because she enjoys running hard on their 'tracker' and passed an examination to ensure she wasn't an anorexic or a masochist. She's very smart, and seems destined for one of The Society's higher-level jobs until the romance thing sidetracks her. She is also an independent thinker: when she chooses her Match banquet dress, the clerk points out that her non-mainstream choice was predicted by her personality. Cassia is a character you can admire and root for, and does well at carrying the plot along. I'm looking forward to picking up 'Crossed' on my next library trip.