This is how Aberrations end. Looking down I see that the water has gone black with the sky. I don’t let go yet.
Citizens end with banquets. Last words. Stored tissue samples to give them a chance at immortality.
I can’t do anything about the food or the sample but I do have words. They’re always there rolling through my mind with the pictures and the numbers.
So I whisper some words that seem to fit the river and the death:
For tho’ from out our bourne of Time and Place
The flood may bear me far,
I hope to see my Pilot face to face
When I have crossed the bar.
Author: Ally Condie
Synopsis: Separated from Ky at the end of the previous book, Cassia puts herself into deadly work in the Outer Provinces to find him. As Ky makes a bold escape with two other young men, Cassia and a girl who seeks the rebellion—the Rising—attempt to do likewise. But even if they’re reunited, Cassia hopes to follow her grandfather’s lead into the Rising, and Ky wants nothing to do with it.
Notes: Dystopia usually intends to criticize some aspect of our own society. Often, as with The Hunger Games, the criticism is forceful, in-your-face and violent. Condie is a gentler writer, however, and despite the horror of what the Society does to the noncompliant, her tale comes off softer, more subtle.
In some ways, the story is more of a romance than anything else—particularly in this installment, which passes mostly at the outskirts of Society rule and beyond. Cassia doesn’t spend a lot of time thinking about the consequences of a world in which there is no choice; she wants to find Ky. And to somehow not hurt Xander in the process. Ky doesn’t bother much with the whys and ways of the civilization he despises; he has his own set of resentments, and as the Society has cast him off, he’s glad to do likewise for them. Cassia is literally his only hope.
As a dystopian societal critique, most of the interest of Crossed is in its context with the first book. As a love story, it’s sweet and nuanced and well-depicted. The love triangle is a heartbreaker, though. Both male leads are such good guys, and Cassia’s feeling for each is entirely believable, though Xander could be accused of having to love the YA heroine simply because she’s the heroine. Ky’s romance with Cassia is developed. Xander’s is somewhat taken for granted.
Readers may wish to be advised that, as with all dystopians, there is some violence; also that at one point Ky asks Cassia for "a night", though Condie leaves it unspoken and debatable whether that night results in a full physical relationship. Overall, however, the book is relatively clean for YA fiction.
Condie’s prose reads like rippling water, quiet and unobtrusive, with a hint of the poetry her characters love so much. It is beautiful, but it had one downfall: Ky and Cassia’s perspectives, which alternated by chapter, read so much alike that I constantly had to refer to the chapter heading to figure out who was speaking.
That said, Cassia is still an interesting character and a nice respite from the world of forceful, independent and angry heroines popular in dystopian fiction. Ky shows his imperfections in this book, managing to be a depressed yet good-hearted young man without turning into a Byronic hero.
The not-so-subtly-named Indie made an intriguing addition to the story. I still don’t know how far to trust her.
Dylan Thomas’ Do Not Go Gentle returns in this book, accompanied by Tennyson’s Crossing the Bar. I’ll be interested to see how the latter, which is tied to the hope of freedom from Society tyranny, develops.
As for the next book, it should close the trilogy, and will hopefully not end on a painful cliffhanger as the first two have. Condie left herself with a lot of threads to wrap up, including a mostly-unrevealed rebellion that strikes me as having the potential to go very District 13 on its participants. I intend to read it, of course, partly to see how Condie resolves the question of a Society that controls marriage and death and is attempting to cheat the latter entirely, and partly to see how the poetry affects the story. Most of all, however, like any other reader I want to see Cassia happy and safe with the man she loves.
Recommendation: Read it when you have an afternoon to devote to it. There are no good stopping places.