Matched Trilogy

I recently listened to the audiobooks for the entire Matched trilogy over the course of a week and half. I love it when all the books in a trilogy have been released and I can follow the entire story arc without waiting a year for each installment!  The trilogy is nothing new and original and exciting – another YA trilogy set in a dystopian society with a love triangle – but I thought it was fun, entertaining.  I also loved the use and importance of poetry throughout the series.  There’s no way to discuss the series without giving some things away, I will try to minimize the spoilers, but consider yourself warned!

matchedThe Society controls everything – where you live, your work, your schooling, your food, your spouse, your entertainment, when you die …  Cassia Reyes is headed to her match banquet where she will find out who The Society has paired her with – and surprise!  Lucky her!  She has been matched with her best friend, the handsome, smart, sweet, and loyal Xander.  She couldn’t be happier until a brief flash of someone else’s face shows up on her match card – that of another childhood friend, Ky Markham.  The Society assures her that it was a simple glitch.  But when her grandfather gives her handwritten outlawed poetry (no one’s allowed to write…) at his final meal, she begins to see a world of possibilities.  What if she could choose?  As she begins to learn to write, and to fall in love with Ky, everything about the world she has known and trusted becomes confused and suspicious.

This first installment was told in Cassia’s voice, and while parts moved a little slowly, and there were some weird plot holes (if you can type on a computer, even if you haven’t been taught handwriting, why is the idea of writing so foreign?), it went quickly and I liked the characters.  I was engaged in watching Cassia awaken from her naiveté even though it sometimes felt like she was falling in love with Ky simply to be difficult when she’d obviously been head-over-heels for Xander a week earlier…

Title: Matched
Author: Ally Condie
Genre: Fiction, Young Adult, Dystopian
Pages: 384
Publication: Dutton Juvenile, November 2010

crossedKy, who happens to be an aberration (someone whose parents have committed an infraction against The Society), has been sent outside of the society and Cassia is determined to find him.  Of course, as Cassia is running from place to place trying to find him Ky is running from place to place trying to get away from The Society, or The Enemy, or somebody.  Apparently there’s a war, and Ky and his buddies are being used as bait, but it’s never clear who the war is with or what is actually happening.  But anyway, he’s running (with his new friends Vick and Eli) and Cassia is chasing (with her new friend Indie).  There are also rumors of The Rising, a group of people who want to overthrow The Society.  Cassia wants to find Ky so they can find and join The Rising together.  Ky just wants to find Cassia.  Once they find each other, where will they go from there?

Crossed was told in alternating voices, switching between Ky and Cassia.  That wasn’t a problem, except I found Ky to be annoying – overly dramatic or something – he just grated on my nerves.  I still liked Cassia and while I wanted her to find Ky and The Rising because she wanted to, I wasn’t convinced that what she was doing made any real sense.  It still felt like she was doing all of this simply because someone told her not to, not because of some great destiny.

Title: Crossed
Author: Ally Condie
Genre: Fiction, Young Adult, Dystopian
Pages: 367
Publication: Dutton Juvenile, November 2011

reachedCassia and Ky have joined The Rising, only to be separated again.  Cassia has been sent to Central to work from inside The Society while Ky is a pilot for The Rising and Xander is working as a medic.  There is a rebellion, and a plague is unleashed.  When the plague mutates things start to fall apart.  Will a cure be found?  Who will be in control – The Society or The Rising or someone else?  And of course, who will Cassia choose?  Or will she even have a choice anymore?

Reached was also told in alternating voices, but this time the chapters alternated between Ky, Cassia, and Xander.  Ky was less annoying, but still too emo for me.  Xander’s voice was actually my favorite. Overall, I guess I was OK with this book and the way the story ended.  While the actual uprising seemed anti-climactic, the search for a cure was far more engaging.  Things moved quickly.  Parts of the book were still a little weird for me, it felt like there were parts of the story that remained unexplained.  Having said that, there is character growth and change, particularly with Xander, and the main storylines do get wrapped up, and for the most part I was fairly satisfied with where things ended.

Title: Reached
Author: Ally Condie
Genre: Fiction, Young Adult, Dystopian
Pages: 512
Publication: Dutton Juvenile, November 2012

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Fangirl

fangirl

I don’t know why I love books by Rainbow Rowell, I just do.  They are amazingly real.  Eleanor & Park stole my heart, and I was enraged when a group of ridiculous parents tried to ban it from their schools, canceled Rowell’s appearances, and demanded disciplinary action against the librarians that chose the book for a teen summer reading program.  Teens need great books, great books that are real, that touch them, that make them feel understood.  Grown-ups (especially those that are parents of teenagers!) need books that remind them what it feels like to be a teenager – those terribly wonderful tumultuous times.  Rainbow Rowell’s books are those books.  Fangirl is one of those books.

Cath is heading off to college and her twin sister, Wren, has decided that they shouldn’t be roommates.  While Wren is off partying, Cath buries herself in the world of fan fiction online.  Even as the author of a fan fiction for the Simon Snow series (think Harry Potter-ish world) followed ardently by thousands of people all over the world, Cath is awkward and unsure, far more comfortable in her make-believe world.

“No,” Cath said, “seriously. Look at you. You’ve got your shit together, you’re not scared of anything. I’m scared of everything. And I’m crazy. Like maybe you think I’m a little crazy, but I only ever let people see the tip of my crazy iceberg. Underneath this veneer of slightly crazy and mildly socially retarded, I’m a complete disaster.” 

And you don’t need to know anything about fan fiction, or even care about it, to relate to Cath and her insecurities – she’s just so relatable – who hasn’t paused when walking into a new cafeteria for the first time?!

In new situations, all the trickiest rules are the ones nobody bothers to explain to you. (And the ones you can’t Google.) Like, where does the line start? What food can you take? Where are you supposed to stand, then where are you supposed to sit? Where do you go when you’re done, why is everyone watching you?

And all the wonderfully realistic and fascinating characters only add to the story, and to Cath’s life and struggles.  There’s Reagan, the blunt, sarcastically funny, slightly wild roommate who decides she’s going to be Cath’s friend:

“I feel sorry for you, and I’m going to be your friend.”
“I don’t want to be your friend,” Cath said as sternly as she could. “I like that we’re not friends.”
“Me, too. I’m sorry you ruined it by being so pathetic.” 

There’s Levi, the too nice, too relaxed, too wonderfully sweet and accepting guy with his own story and struggles:

“What’s the plan?’ she asked.
He grinned. “My plan is to do things that make you want to hang out with me again tomorrow. What’s your plan?”
“I’m going to try not to make an ass of myself.”
He grinned. “So we’re all set.” 

Others at college add to Cath’s experiences – the tough but supportive professor, the charming self-centered writing partner.  And of course, there’s Cath’s family – the mother who left her as a child, her twin sister who is on her own journey, and her manic-depressive father (I LOVED her father!):

“Honey, I’ve watched a lot of 90210. The parents weren’t even on the show once Brandon and Brenda went to college. This is your time – you’re supposed to going to frat parties and getting back together with Dylan.”
“Why does everybody want me to go to frat parties?”
“Who wants you to go to frat parties? I was just kidding. Don’t hang out with frat guys, Cath, they’re terrible. All they do is get drunk and watch 90210.” 

The thing is, all of this could be hokey – a too sweetly perfect love story, an over-the-top family drama, a traumatic freshman college experience – but it is everything but hokey.  It is real, heart-felt, touching, funny – it is life…

Title:  Fangirl
Author:  Rainbow Rowell
Genre: YA Fiction
Pages: 338
Publication: St. Martin’s Griffin, September 2013