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
- 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.
Condie, A. (2011). Bio. Retrieved from http://www.allysoncondie.com/bio/
→Spoiler alert: This review may include information revealed in the Harry Potter books 1 through 6. ←
Plot Summary: In this, the last book of the wildly popular Harry Potter Series, Harry, now 17, must seek out the hidden objects that are sustaining life for the evil wizard Lord Voldemort. Each of the books in the series has gotten more dark, Harry’s journeys more dangerous, and this one is no exception. Harry’s quest to defeat Voldemort is more harrowing and challenging than ever. This book contains bravery and triumph, in addition to heartbreak, sorrow and devastating loss. In the midst of trying to save the wizarding world from unimaginable evil and to keep himself alive, Harry is transitioning from Hogwarts school boy to a full-fledged wizard and a grown man. This is one coming of age story readers will not want to miss, full of drama, danger, friendship and love. Harry’s last book will not disappoint his fans one bit. The only problem is, it leaves us wanting just one more…
Critical Evaluation: In this nearly 800 page finale, Rowling, astoundingly, does it again. The elaborate, magnificent fantasy world she created in the first Harry Potter book comes alive again, with enough of the familiar to satisfy and comfort and enough new elements to thrill and engage. This is gripping reading at its finest. The characters are charismatic, unique, and multidimensional. The story is riveting and unpredictable. The book mixes the fantastical with, realistic young adult story lines of friendship and love, family and loyalty. This mix keeps Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows grounded and believable, even as unbelievable as many of the elements are. This is a great book for boys and girls, reluctant and eager readers alike, and, of course, fans of fantasy.
Of note, is that this book and the entire Harry Potter series are excellent choices for audio books. The audio books are unabridged, so they take many hours to listen to, but the reader, Jim Dale is himself magical in his ability to act out each role as if a different person were performing. Highly recommended.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was named the best book of 2007, by Newsweek‘s Malcolm Jones, was on Publisher’s Weekly’s Best Books of 2007 list, and was on the 2008 YALSA Best Books for Young Adults list, among many other honors and awards.
Reader’s Annotation: Harry Potter, now 17, must take a dangerous and circuitous journey to seek out the hidden objects that are sustaining life for the evil wizard Lord Voldemort.
Information about the Author: J. K. Rowling started writing stories as a young child. The idea for Harry Potter came to her while she was on a train. She did not have a pen, so she spent the four-hour train ride just dreaming up Harry and his magical world. She says “I think that perhaps if I had had to slow down the ideas so that I could capture them on paper I might have stifled some of them.” (Rowling, 2011).
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is the final book in a seven-book series, books one through six are: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince,
Subgenre/Theme: Fantasy: Magic
Curriculum Ties: n/a
- How would it feel to be the only person who can save your world from evil and destruction?
Reading Level/Interest Age: 9 – 18
Challenge Issues: There are those who claim the books promote the occult and witchcraft. In fact, the Harry Potter series is number one on the ALA’s Top 100 Banned/Challenged Books: 2000-2009. 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, some are mentioned above.
Why is this book included? The great popularity of the Harry Potter series makes it a natural choice for a young adult collection. Also, I really enjoyed the audio books of books one through six, so I was thrilled to get to listen to number seven.
Rowling, J.K. (2011). Biography. Retrieved from http://www.jkrowling.com/en/