Sunday, 14 October 2012

Crossed by Ally Condie

Crossed (2011)
Ally Condie
Grade: B-
Genre: dystopian YA
Source: library
Matched: (1) Matched, (2) Crossed

When Society decides what you eat, what work you do and who you have children with, not everyone is going to blindingly obey. The vast majority have been indoctrinated to believe that this is the only path to follow, but underneath the surface, if you know where to look, dissenters exist aplenty. Society has its ways of controlling those who are more vocal in their dissent; those like Cassia are more aware of what will happen to them if they lash out and instead keep one ear open for any news to do with the Pilot who it is said will lead The Rising.

In Matched, it seemed like Cassia had the perfect life. She had been given a top work assignment and was matched to her childhood best friend rather than a complete stranger. Cassia should be ecstatic at the notion of being matched to Xander for the rest of her life, but as she spent more time with Ky Markham, the adopted son of a couple in her neighbourhood, they discover the danger of falling in love with someone not chosen by Society. Ky’s Aberration status in Society is coloured by his family history and as a result, he is being punished for the transgressions of his father, making his and Cassia’s secret relationship even more dangerous.

As a result of deliberately juvenile behaviour in Matched, Cassia has been sent to the Outer Provinces in an attempt to ‘rehabilitate’ her before she is allowed back to her family; little do Society know that this was her intention all along. Only if she is in the Outer Provinces will she have a chance of escaping to find Ky and she must run before she’s sent back home. She meets Indie who is just as eager to find the Rising and deciding that it can’t hurt to have an ally, Cassia allows Indie to tag along. As they find Ky and head for what they believe to be the Rising, it becomes clear (to Indie, at least) that this is the very last thing that Ky wants to do. Will he reveal to Cassia the reasons why he won’t join The Rising, or stay with her against his will? Whichever way, time is running out fast …

I didn't like this nearly as much as Matched. The love triangle between Cassia, Xander and Ky was great to watch unfold and although it is a love story between Cassia and Ky, I would have loved to see a lot more of Xander. Xander’s secret was interesting to see unfold and I’m excited to see what role this will give him in Reached, but I could have done with seeing his face more in Matched.

I was a little bored by the story. Sure, the setting was more exciting as it was a sort of road-trip-adventure-type-thing, but it got old very quickly. Don’t get me wrong, Ally Condie is a brilliant writer and there’s an abundance of beautifully written, insightful and poignant scenes, but sometimes it got a bit too much. I’m not really one for reading-between-the-lines (which is probably why I hated A-level English so much) and so it annoyed me in Crossed when the reader is being asked to do exactly that. Not overtly, but it always seemed like Cassia would come across a funny shaped rock or a clear sky or smell something in the breeze (okay, maybe I’m going a bit far) and stop and ponder what it meant – I couldn’t care less. Harsh, but true.

The poetry thing was cool. Just to explain, when Society was created as we know it in the book, panels of Hundred Committees selected just one hundred items from the arts (songs, books, poems, paintings etc) to take over to this new world. It had been thought that there had been too much in the old society for people to appreciate, and so by limiting each thing, the citizens would come to know everything and love it all the more with the knowledge that it had survived. But, not everything had been discarded. So called Archivists and other rebels kept copies of things that hadn’t met the cut and there is one poem that is immensely personal to Cassia and Ky, as well as another that was given to Cassia by her grandfather. The former is ‘Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night” by Dylan Thomas; the latter ‘Crossing the Bar’ by Alfred, Lord Tennyson. I do like both. I’m not really a fan of poetry, mostly because of the whole reading-between-the-lines thing, but Lord Tennyson wrote one of my favourite poems: The Lady of Shalott. Ms Condie made good choices with these Thomas and Tennyson poems. They both represent the life that Cassia is trying to leave behind and I love how both poems run through the novel constantly.

A mention for the covers: utterly beautiful. They match the dystopian theme perfectly and I love the symbolism of each cover as the series progresses: Cassia trapped by Society; Cassia thinking for herself, breaking out of the protective bubble that Society have erected around every citizen and going after what is being denied her; Cassia free. The blank mask-type faces are again suggestive of the robot-type society that has been created and that by lashing out against Society (as on the cover of Matched), an individual can gain their individuality that has been denied them. The bright colours used for the clothing of the model indicates Cassia’s unique identity in the blandness and monotony that Society has created. The colour green is particularly special to her in Matched, but I’m not so sure about the blue and red. I like that different colours have been used: they show the evolution of Cassia as a character and an adult who is slowly coming to terms with her own mind. The Shelfari page for Matched includes an analysis of the colours: green being nature, youth etc; blue peace, freedom and distance and; red a new beginning, danger and sexual impulses. I’m not sure I entirely agree with all of them about what they translate to Cassia’s character, but my interpretation as above is exactly that: mine. I’d love to hear if you think differently.

So Crossed didn’t exactly rock my world. It was an okay book and I did want to read it to see how Cassia’s journey has developed as she has begun to see past the façade that Society puts up, but I was disappointed. Nevertheless, I’ll be back for Reached. The cover as above is indicative of success in Cassia’s mission and so I’m hopeful. It had better be good.

Images: Matched, Crossed, Reached

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