Matched by Ally Condie

Bibliographic Information: Condie, A. (2010). Matched. New York, NY: Penguin.  ISBN: 0525423648.  384 pages.

Plot Summary: Cassia lives in a “Society” where everything is decided for her and the rest of the members by Society Officials.  From her meals to her wardrobe, everything is predetermined, thus lessening the potential “stress” decision-making might cause Society members.  When Cassia was young she did not think much of the lack of self-determination in her life.  Now, she is 17, of age to be given her “match,” her ideal life mate that Society Officials will choose for her, as determined by algorithms and scientific data.  At the match ceremony Cassia is happy to be matched with her close childhood friend, Xander.  Their match is an unusual one, as the scientific method of determining matches makes it statistically unlikely that both people in a match will be chosen from the same Borough, but Cassia and Xander are that exception, and they are both pleased.  They are each given a “match microchip” to view on their “ports” once they return home.  Match microchips contain information about your match, so you can get to know your match better.  Even though they have known each other for years, Cassia puts the microchip into her home’s port.  And then something unpredictable, irregular, and seemingly erroneous happens, which, in a society built on predictability, regularity, and precision, stuns Cassia.  While watching the match microchip about Xander, a face other than Xander’s flashes on the screen.  And she knows who it is: Ky Markham, a boy who cannot be matched with anyone, because he has been classified an “aberration” by the Society because of some unsanctioned actions that his father took.  And Cassia knows Xander is the match for her, or is he?  Ever since his face appeared on the screen, Cassia cannot stop thinking about Ky, and the Society Officials are trying desperately to recover from this error.

Critical Evaluation: As far as Dystopian novels go, Matched is a great one.  Condie weaves intricate details of a freedomless, future society with the authentic thoughts and feelings of a 17-year-old girl.  Matched is its own novel, with nods to the dystopian novels, particularly The Giver and The Hunger Games, who have come before it.  The voice of Cassia is strong and clear as she struggles with her feelings, her obligations, and her new found perspective on the society she has lived in and followed the rules for all of her life.  The reach of the Society’s control is demonstrated again and again, by small events in addition to the larger ones.  For example, Cassia receives an artifact from her grandfather for her matching ceremony.  Artifacts have mostly been disposed of, as they are considered unnecessary, but her grandfather has held on to this one, a metal compact, from Cassia’s grandmother.  In a tiny, unnoticeable compartment Cassia finds a small slip of paper with a bit of a poem written on it.  Most poetry has been eliminated from Cassia’s society, except for a few works that have been archived.  This bit of a poem was on an older type of paper, and Cassia was fairly sure that if she put the paper in the incinerator at her home, Society Officials would be able to determine that a foreign, even forbidden, object had been incinerated.  She could get her whole family in trouble for burning a wisp of paper, so she finds another way.  And this way of thinking, this trying to outsmart Society Officials, continues as Cassia starts to see her way of life differently.  This book is accessible for teens of all ages and its message leaves much to be discussed and considered.

Matched was favorably reviewed and received several awards and honors.  Matched is a New York Times Best Seller, was named number six on YALSA’s 2011 Teen’s Choice Top Ten, was on the 2011 YALSA Best Fiction for Young Readers and Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers lists, and was on Publishers Weekly’s Best Children’s Books of 2010 list as well.

Reader’s Annotation: Cassia lives in a “Society” where everything is determined for her and the rest of the members of the Society.  So, when something unplanned happens, when there is a glitch, Cassia is stunned out of her rule following and starts looking for the truth.

Information about the Author: Ally Condie is a former high school English teacher who keeps her license current, as she says, “just in case,” (Condie, 2011).  She lives outside of Salt Lake City, UT with her husband and three sons.

Matched is the first book in a trilogy, something I did not know until I was doing research for this blog post.  The second book of the trilogy is Crossed, which was released November, 1, 2011, and the third, and final, book of the trilogy is scheduled to be released in November 2012.

Genre: Science Fiction

Subgenres/Themes: Science Fiction: Dystopia

Topics Covered: Freedom, Choice, Love, Conformity

Curriculum Ties: Social Science, Political Science

Booktalking Ideas:

  • Would you choose to be matched or to be a single?

Reading Level/Interest Age: Ages 13 – 18

Challenge Issues: There are no obvious challenge issues associated with this book.  Preparation for any challenge can include the librarian’s: reading of the book, adhering to the library’s collection development department, and possessing reviews of the book from well-regarded sources.

Why is this book included? I found out about this book from a classmate in this course, I was excited to read it because it was fairly current, and I had not heard of it before.

References

Condie, A. (2011). Bio. Retrieved from http://www.allysoncondie.com/bio/


Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

Bibliographic Information: Anderson, L.H. (1999). Speak. New York, NY: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.  ISBN: 0374371520.  208 pages.

Plot Summary: At the end of the summer before her freshman year in high school, Melinda Sordino and her friend Rachel attended a party.  At that party, Melinda called 911. This resulted in the party breaking up, some students being arrested and Melinda’s social status going to zero.  Her friends abandoned her.  People she did not even know hated her.  It was pretty much the worst way to start high school.  And then something strange started to happen.  Melinda’s throat seems to always be sore, her lips are badly chapped and she is often unable to speak, “It’s like I have some kind of spastic laryngitis,” (Anderson, 1999, p. 51).  Something is wrong, but when her parents try to ask her about it, Melinda cannot seem to get the words out.  Soon she is almost completely alone, preferring to spend time in an abandoned janitor’s closet than her classes at school.  Can she ever get out of her isolation and depression?  What happened, and will she ever SPEAK?

Critical Evaluation: Moving and intense, Speak has a lot packed into its 208 pages.  Part mystery, part issue novel, Speak tells Melinda’s story with attention to detail, reminding us that the little things are often very important.  Melinda’s voice is clear and authentic, and resonates with honesty.  Melinda’s dry commentary on the superficiality and ironies of high school will ring true for many a teen.  Anderson delivers a novel that brings its readers in and does not let them go even after the last page have been read.  Readers will root for Melinda, as she tries to find her way out of her quiet isolation.  Speak, Anderson’s first young adult novel, was highly praised by critics and won numerous honors.Ffor example, it was a National Book Award Finalist, a Printz Honor book, an ALA Best Book for Young Adults, and an Edgar Allan Poe Award finalist.

Reader’s Annotation:  The events at an end-of-summer party create havoc for Melinda’s freshman year in high school.

Information about the Author: Laurie Halse, rhymes with waltz, Anderson is a highly acclaimed young adult and children’s book author.  She is a two-time National Book Award Nominee, won an ALAN award in 2008, and won the 2009 Margaret A. Edwards Award, among many other honors and achievements.

Anderson “has loved writing since second grade” (Anderson, n.d.).  She has taken Virginia Woolf’s quote “A woman must have…a room of her own to write fiction” (as quoted by Anderson, n.d.) to heart and has a lovely eco-friendly, off-the-grid writing cabin in the woods behind her house.  Click here to watch a video of the cabin design and building process and, in the process, get to know a little more about Laurie Halse Anderson.

Genre: Issues, Realistic Fiction, Suspense

Category: Issues: Physical, Mental, and Emotional Concerns: Mental, Emotional, and Behavioral Problems; Issues: Life Is Hard: Sexual Abuse, Outsiders

Curriculum Ties: Sexual Assault, Underage Drinking

Booktalking Ideas:

  • What might happen to you, that would leave you unable or unwilling to speak?

Reading Level/Interest Age: Ages 13 – 18

Challenge Issues: Underage drinking, sexual assault, rape.  Anderson has a piece on her website with specific information to respond to challenges to Speak. (Anderson, 2009).  Lastly, in response to any challenges, one can refer to the library’s collection development policies.  Also, there are several positive reviews of the book, and it has won several awards and honors, four are mentioned above.

Why is this book included? Both the honors it has received and word of mouth from classmate,s as well as the mother of a teen I know, led me to choose to this book.

References:

Anderson, L. H. (n.d.). Officially long official biography of Laurie Halse Anderson. Retrieved from http://madwomanintheforest.com/laurie/

Anderson, L. H. (2009). Censorship & book banning: Challenges to Speak. Retrieved from http://madwomanintheforest.com/teachers/censorship-book-banning/