I was completely unprepared for this book.
How many of us have had the hype surrounding a book colour our expectations? All of us, pretty much? Since this book had so much buzz, my expectations were two-fold.
The first set of expectations I had were, since this book sold for such an astronomical amount (can't remember the exact amount, but it was a seven-figure advance at auction), it must be amazing.
The second set was... but since dystopian is the hot thing in YA right now, what if publishers just found something they knew would sell a billion copies and cracked it out, not caring about the quality?
Since I'd read so many incredibly mixed reviews, I really didn't know which side of the expectation scale Matched would swing to until I actually read it.
Holy crap, it's amazing, guys.
There will inevitably be comparisons to The Hunger Games, since that's the biggest dystopian out there right now, but I'm serious when I say that, for me, Matched blew THG out of the water. I was lukewarm at best towards Katniss; I love Cassia. She's sympathetic in a way that Katniss never was. Cassia is the everygirl. She isn't an extraordinary hunter/gatherer, she isn't even rebellious and revolution-minded until the last quarter or so of the book. She's average in every way, until a perfect storm of events happen to turn her into a heroine. I loved this.
The love triangle is even fantastic, and I'm not a fan of them in general. But here it's really believable. We can easily see that Cassia loves Guy #1 as a friend, and because of that wouldn't mind spending the rest of her life with him. But Guy #2 really sets her on fire. There is no dilly-dallying between the two of them, agonizing and angsting and carrying on.
I was also caught off-guard by the sheer poetics of Ally Condie's writing. The writing in Twilight is overwrought, the writing in THG is nondescript, but Condie's writing is lyrical, experimental. I never thought literary style would work so well in a sci-fi.
Long story short... I'm really, really excited for the sequel, Crossed, due in November 2011 I believe. Ahh. It's going to be torture to wait.