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Literature / Matched

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A dystopian trilogy (Matched, Crossed, and Reached) by Ally Condie, started in 2010 and concluded in 2012.

In The Society, everything is figured out based on statistics. What you eat. Which job you'll do best at. Who your optimum partner for marriage and children is. The Society has even determined the best age for people to die at.

Cassia has always trusted their judgment. A little loss of freedom is a small price to pay for a long life, the perfect job, and the ideal mate. She's delighted during her Matching Ceremony when it's her childhood best friend, Xander, who appears on screen. But another face flashes on screen for a second, casting Cassia in uncertainty. Now she's beginning to question the perfect life she was once so content to live, and the powers that decided it for her.

Tropes present in the series:

  • Arc Words: Dylan Thomas' poem, "Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night," has more force and meaning every time it's quoted.
    • In Crossed, it's Tennyson's "Crossing The Bar."
  • Aerith and Bob: Character names can vary from Indie and Vick to Sarah and Catherine.
  • Betty and Veronica: Xander (Betty) vs. Ky (Veronica).
  • Big Brother Is Employing You: Everyone works for the Society.
  • Big Brother Is Watching: Citizens' dreams are monitored on a regular basis.
  • Black Market: The Archivists trade in illegal literature and information.
  • Bread and Circuses: As Cassia observes, citizens are given just enough freedom to keep them too content to rebel.
    "They are giving us pieces of a real life instead of the whole thing. They have perfected the art of giving us just enough freedom; just enough that when we are ready to snap, a little bone is offered and we roll over, belly up, comfortable and placated like a dog." - Cassia
  • Bureaucratically Arranged Marriage: A major part of the premise is the fact that the government chooses who you will marry based on statistics.
  • Cannon Fodder: Aberrations are being sent into the Outer Provinces as "decoys" to draw the fire of the enemy in a mysterious war.
  • Character Blog:
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • In Matched the hikers were told to remove the flags that they had tied on the Hill, which would have enabled the Society to lay paths on the Hill. The reason why the flags were no longer required is revealed in Reached, when Ky discovers that the Hill had been flattened.
    • Also mentioned in Matched was Cassia's mother's job assignment, where she had to travel to the Farmlands to investigate some crops. She mentioned a crop called sego lilies. The importance of it is revealed in Reached where it was the key ingredient to creating a cure for the mutated Plague. The best part? Sego lilies apparently have another name, called mariposa lilies, and nobody (except Anna) knew that the two seemingly different plants were actually the same. Even more awesome, Cassia's mother's knowledge of the location of the sego lily fields gave Cassia the chance to save her mother first.
  • The Chosen One: Vick and Indie insist that Ky is the Pilot who will lead the Rising to victory against The Society.
  • Clingy Jealous Girl: Cassia is not happy about Indie's interest in Xander, despite having already rejected him in favor of Ky.
  • Color-Coded for Your Convenience: Officials wear a white uniform, workers wear blue, students wear brown.
    • The pills:
      • Green - calming effects.
      • Blue - emergency hydration. Actually it makes you lose water faster. It was designed so that anyone who manages to escape the society cannot survive without them.
      • Red - erases your memory of the past twelve hours.
    • The books themselves. Matched featured a girl in a green dress in a green bubble, Crossed had a girl in a blue shirt and blue pants breaking out of a blue bubble, while Reached showed a girl in a red dress emerging from a red bubble. Of course, the colors on the covers are meant to correspond to the colors of the pills.
  • The Complainer Is Always Wrong: Lon, a classmate of Cassia's who irritates everyone with his constant questions. Later on Ky actually comes to appreciate his outspoken nature.
    • On a bigger scale, all of The Society functions like this.
  • Creative Sterility: Because very few people know how to write or draw, they have no originality and just create whatever the Society tells them to.
  • Crippling Overspecialization: One of the tenets of the Society. According to them, the previous society was overloaded with choices. People only learn what is required for their job, and every major life decision is left up to them.
    • In terms of skills, it is mentioned that some people know how to grow crops, some know how to harvest, and some know how cook food. But even in terms of simple thing like carrots or onions, nobody knows how to do everything, meaning they can't feed themselves.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: Ky's father associating with the rebels lead the family to be reclassified as Aberrations and moved to the desolate Outer Provinces. When the area was bombed Ky was the only survivor. He was taken away by Society officials before he could bury his parents. Since the memory-wiping drug doesn't affect him, he remembers all of this but can never speak to anyone about it.
  • Due to the Dead: Ky and Vick make a point of burying their fellow soldiers, reciting "Crossing The Bar" in lieu of a prayer.
    • Ky later reveals that his biggest regret is leaving his parents' bodies unburied.
  • Dystopia Is Hard: The Society is facing a shortage of manpower to monitor the Citizens, for one thing, and is struggling to find more efficient means of running things.
  • The Evils of Free Will: The Society believes that too many choices leads to stress.
  • Fiery Redhead: Averted. Cassia is an introvert. Even when she does get angry, she mostly keeps it to herself.
  • Fire-Forged Friends: Ky, Vick and Eli; Cassia and Indie.
  • Future Imperfect: Zig-zagged. The Society has picked one-hundred of the best of everything of the past for everyone to know, but they don't know about the rest.
  • Genre Savvy: Ky has evidently read Nineteen Eighty-Four, judging by his knowledge of how the Prisoner's Dilemma works.
  • Government Drug Enforcement: The pills everyone carries with them at all times, and are occasionally ordered to take by an official. The green pill is taken to calm people down, the blue pill is poison disguised as an emergency nutrient, and the red pill wipes your memory of the past 12 hours.
  • Grey-and-Gray Morality: Various characters note that the Rising and Society have a lot in common. It turns out that this is because the Society had infiltrated the Rising so deeply that by the time the rebellion actually occurred, it was simply the Society changing their name and then going about business as usual.
  • Hands-On Approach: Ky teaches Cassia how to write cursive by drawing the letters in the dirt with sticks.
  • Hidden Depths: Ky is a poet and can draw recognizable portraits even on a dirty napkin. Xander has a well hidden jealous streak: when they were younger, he dared Ky to take the red tablets without knowing what they did, which is how they find out about the memory-wipe effect.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: The Society created a virus as a means of destroying the Enemy, but it eventually mutated into the plague that nearly wiped out The Society.
  • Hysterical Woman: Cassia's friend Em, who is prone to anxiety attacks.
  • I Have This Friend: Indie tells Cassia how "her mother" tried to escape The Society by boat and failed.
  • Inconsistent Coloring: Ky's eyes appear to be different colors depending on his environment.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: As part of Cassia's job as a sorter, she's asked to sort a group of Aberration workers she's studying into two groups based on their efficiency. Ky happens to be one of them. While she's watching, she guesses The Society must need the best workers for something else, and also realizes the reason Aberrations tend not to live long is because the chemicals they're made to work with are highly toxic. Cassia moves Ky to the high-efficiency group, thinking she's spared him from an early death. The next day the officials comes for Ky, and it's revealed the high-efficiency group are being moved to the Outer Provinces to fight The Enemy, which is a guaranteed death sentence.
    • In Crossed Cassia gives an Aberration boy some of her blue hydration pills in return for helping her, not realizing the pills actually cause you to dehydrate faster. She later finds him dead in the canyon, with blue fluid staining his mouth.
  • No Hugging, No Kissing: Cassia and Ky. Justified, since their relationship is forbidden on multiple levels, they have to keep up the pretense of being just-friends. Getting caught would be extremely serious.
  • No Name Given: The boy who runs away from the village with Cassia and Indie.
  • No-Sell: On a rare occasion, someone might have a natural resistance to the red memory-erasing tablet, such as Xander, Ky, and Indie. However, they still have to act like it works on them so as not to catch The Society's attention.
  • Not in This for Your Revolution: Ky doesn't trust the Rising any more than The Society, since his father's revolutionary activity is what got their village destroyed and the Rising never came to help. He does join, but mostly for Cassia's sake.
  • Note to Self: Cassia writes "Remember" to herself right before being forced to take a red pill to know that she has forgotten something important.
  • Perfectly Arranged Marriage: The Society determines who will be the best partner for you based on statistics and "matches" you to them. And works! We don't see a single unhappy matched couple over the course of the trilogy.
  • Poor Communication Kills: Almost literally — neither the unnamed boy nor Indie tell Cassia that the blue tablets she carries around and refers to as the key to survival are actually poison. Despite what must seem like very strange statements about them, they assume she already knows.
  • Punchclock Villain: The Officials are predictably evil given the setting, but appear not to care about some disobedience. For instance, when Cassia crushes her red pill, the official looks at the ground and doesn't bother to check her hands. There are a number of other instances where they are effectively lax to an alarming degree (to the point of Nice Job Fixing It, Villain).
  • Refusal of the Call: Vick and Indie believe Ky to be the future "Pilot," the mythical leader of the Rising. He denies it.
  • Rule of Three: There are three books in the series, there are three pills. green, blue and red, and in Reached there are three narrators, Cassia, Ky and Xander.
  • Sacrificial Lion: Vick.
  • Scenery Porn: The descriptions of the Carving in Crossed, inspired by the canyons of southern Utah where Ally Condie grew up.
  • Single Girl Seeks Most Popular Guy: Xander is handsome, athletic and the best at everything he does.
  • Sole Survivor: Hunter is the last of his village.
    • Ky is also the only survivor in his village.
  • Switching P.O.V.: Crossed is narrated by both Cassia and Ky. Reached throws Xander into the mix.
  • Tall Poppy Syndrome: The more competent among the workers are drafted into the army and sent to war. Ky works hard to avoid this by being as average as possible.
    • Too bad it's subverted by Cassia (albeit she did it unknowingly and with good intentions) when she sorted him into the higher skilled group, only to cause him to be drafted.
  • Tomato in the Mirror: At the end of Matched Cassia is told that someone put the Aberrations into the matching pool, which is how Ky ended up on her microcard. During Reached Cassia remembers that it was actually her that did it.
  • Troubled, but Cute: Ky has a troubled past. While it isn't explicitly mentioned if he is attractive, it's pretty much implied anyway. And honestly, is there any male lead in young adult novels who isn't physically attractive?
  • Two Guys and a Girl: Cassia, Ky and Xander.
  • We Will Have Euthanasia in the Future: At the end of Matched Cassia finds out they poison you on your Eightieth Birthday meal, which is how they make sure you die at the age they decided.
  • We Will Use Manual Labor in the Future: Aberrations do all the hard, menial work. Usually it involves handling toxic chemicals that shorten their lifespan.
  • We Will Have Perfect Health in the Future: Everyone has personalized meals which are designed for their weight, age, and job.
  • Wham Line: "Xander is in the Rising."
  • What the Hell, Hero?: In Crossed Cassia calls Ky out for burning the map that leads to the Rising, taking her choice away from her. He retorts that she did the same thing when she sorted him at the nutrition center.
  • Wrong Genre Savvy: Vick and Indie both think they're joining the Magnetic Hero's set of True Companions in a Walking the Earth-style fantasy, that Ky and Cassia have chosen them to join them in La Résistance and are leading them to the Rising, and that Ky is The Chosen One.
  • Xanatos Gambit: Near the end of the first novel, it's revealed that The Society have known about Cassia's secret relationship with Ky the whole time, and have been using it as an experiment to prove that Matching indeed makes people fall in love, since without it she would never have known Ky. If she had picked Xander, then they would have known that she was willing to obey what was expected of her. Either way, the Society would get what they wanted. Ky was also told about him being matched to Cassia. While the Official tried to avoid admitting it, The Society weren't the ones who put Ky's image on the microcard. They more or less just ran with it and spun it whatever way proved their system worked.
    • Subverted somewhat in Reached when Xander mentioned that Ky already loved Cassia back when they were still kids.