Matched is set in a futuristic world where people's lives are controlled by the government. The Society decides everything from where you live and work, to the food you eat and cloths you where, to who you marry. It is this process of Matching that is the main subject of the novel. Cassia is told that she has been matched with her best friend, Xander. But when she goes to view a mircrocard with Xander's information on it, another boy's face appears--Ky. This leads Cassia to question whether the society makes mistakes, who she is really meant to be with, and why she cannot make that choice for herself.
I loved the concept of this book. I was reminded of The Giver, one of my favorite books from my childhood, which is also set in a tightly controlled Utopian society. Matched is intentionally thoughtful, asking big questions about free will, choice, and the nature of love. Yet it isn't pretentious or sanctimonious in it's message. We see both the good and bad sides of the Society, from the protection it offers it's citizens to the fear it instills in them.
Our heroine, Cassia, is intelligent and likable. I didn't mind following the story through her perspective. Her emotional journey and development felt real. She goes from blindly trusting and accepting, to questioning everything and trying to make choices for herself. This is a struggle that I found easy to relate to.
I enjoyed the gentle touch of romance that overlays the story and drives the plot forward. Even as she loves Xander and is loyal to him, Cassia feels real love for Ky. As Ky and Cassia discover one another, they build trust, understanding, and affection. I liked that this emotional connection built slowly, but ran deeply. It made me long for the two of them to have a happy ending.
The pace is extremely slow. It isn't an action filled story, but rather a slow and contemplative one. As a result, it takes patience on the part of the reader and might be frustrating to those accustomed to more tightly written plots.
Finally, the parallels to The Giver, while delightful, made me just a bit uncomfortable. Some of the details were, in fact, so close that I'm suspicious that they were lifted directly. The story itself goes in another direction and deals with some slightly different themes, but the world building is the same. While I don't think this is intentional plagiarism, I still have to mention it as a minor drawback.
Overall, I enjoyed reading Matched, and I look forward to the rest of the series. I'd recommend it, particularly to fans of slow and thoughtful YA literature. 4 stars.