Friday, October 28, 2011

Matched by Ally Condie

Yes, it's another YA trilogy with a young heroine coming into her own and beginning to question the society she has been raised in although, unlike The Hunger Games, children in Cassia's world aren't forced to fight to the death. In Cassia's world, they're just told what to eat, where to work, when to play, and who to marry. Everything is coordinated for optimization - even lifespan. Disease has been genetically eradicated, but these people don't even know how to write. History has been shaved down to almost nothing so people have no understanding of where they came from. So, it's a corrupt place, full of guarded secrets, but the inhabitants are still relatively happy - for now.

We meet Cassia just as she's about to attend her Matching Ceremony where she'll be paired off with the boy she'll marry. The matches are based on compatibility generated through a machine. To Cassia's surprise, she's matched with her best friend, Xander. Unfortunately, she discovers she's also matched with Ky, another boy she knows. This anomaly in the system creates a fissure in Cassia's certainty about the life she lives and whisper of rebellion begins.

The flames are fanned by discovery of a Dylan Thomas poem whose words urge Cassia to fight against complacency (that gentle goodnight) leading her to reach out to Ky. The relationship she forms with Ky is full of "illegal" actions and knowledge. Equipped with information she isn't supposed to have, having feelings for a boy she's not supposed to love, Cassia really beings to question the system that has mapped out her entire life. We leave Cassia at a fork in the road - only book #2 will tell us which path she decides to take and I have a feeling the choice isn't so cut and dry.

This is an incredibly fast but entertaining read; on par with the other YA trilogies gaining in popularity. What I liked about Matched was that our culture is still part of the story. Whittled down but not forgotten, our reality still influences this fictionalized one. This story also focuses on choice rather than setting up a battle between the establishment and the underdog. There isn't any evil bearing down on Cassia (yet) rather the story is full of individuals simply making their own choices even though it's not something encouraged by the Officials.

There's a lot we don't know about Cassia's world and where her story will lead, but Matched has definitely got me hooked and looking forward to book number two.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Eat. Pray. Love. by Elizabeth Gilbert

I wanted to live this book. A spiritual journey of self-discovery feels right up my alley. Didn't I go through a period of self-examination (doesn't everybody)? Granted, I wasn't divorced, in my mid-thirties, and didn't need to travel around the world to find inner-peace, but shouldn't I connect with this woman on some level? I thought, Yes, but in truth, not even a little bit.

Elizabeth Gilbert is a broken woman in this book and an overwhelming whiner. Her personal hardships have no sense of importance to me so I just never cared if her journey of eating, praying, and loving worked out or not. So you had an identity crisis, so you felt alone in the world, so your heart broke - so what! Never once does she mention the good in her life before she leaves for her year-long journey and even while traveling she constantly corrupts the beauty and joy of her experiences by needless, dark thoughts. I wanted to yell at her to get over it already before she even left Italy.

I realize this was just who she was and this book is just what she went through but I fail to see how this journey transformed into such a popular memoir. You want to care about the person you're reading about and I honestly never did. I also learned nothing and I feel like a memoir should, in some way, be instructive or inspiring. I mean how obvious is the lesson that being happy with you = a happy life? DUH!

So Liz, thank you for introducing me to all the people you met in Italy, India, and Bali - I enjoyed them and learning more about the cultures of three countries I've never visited, but your story just wasn't for me and I should have known this was going to happen. I didn't even like the version of you they created for the movie and she was much less of a basket case.