“You’ll need to be patient,” he said. “It may take some time.”
Which was a wise piece of advice, it seems, since I haven’t sorted anything out of the ordinary yet. Not that I remember, anyway. But that’s all right. I don’t need the Rising to tell me how to fight the Society.
Whenever I can, I write letters. I’ve made them in many ways: a K out of strands of grass; an X with two sticks crossed over each other, their wet bark black against a silvery metal bench in the greenspace near my workplace. I set out a little ring of stones in the shape of an O, like an open mouth, on the ground. And of course I write the way Ky taught me, too.
Wherever I go, I look to see if there are new letters. So far, no one else is writing, or if they are, I haven’t seen it. But it will happen. Maybe even now there’s someone charring sticks the way Ky told me he did, preparing to write the name of someone they love.
I know that I’m not the only one doing these things, committing small acts of rebellion. There are people swimming against the current and shadows moving slowly in the deep. I have been the one looking up when something dark passed before the sun. And I have been the shadow itself, slipping along the place where earth and water meet the sky.
Day after day, I push the rock that the Society has given me up the hill, over and over again. Inside me are the real things that give me strength—my thoughts, the small stones of my own choosing. They tumble in my mind, some polished from frequent turning, some new and rough, some that cut.
Author: Ally Condie
From Goodreads: After leaving Society and desperately searching for the Rising—and each other—Cassia and Ky have found what they were looking for, but at the cost of losing each other yet again: Cassia has been assigned to work for the Rising from within Society, while Ky has been stationed outside its borders. But nothing is as predicted, and all too soon the veil lifts and things shift once again.
In this gripping conclusion to the #1 New York Times-bestselling Matched trilogy, Cassia will reconcile the difficulties of challenging a life too confining, seeking a freedom she never dreamed possible, and honoring a love she cannot live without.
Notes: As I’ve mentioned from time to time and possibly harped on once or twice, I don’t generally get along with the dystopian subgenre. Much as I admired—even loved—The Giver, it didn’t send me to the library or the bookstore desperate for more like it. I don't often go looking for an ugly cry.
But when I swore off pop-dystopians a few months ago, overwhelmed by the garish violence common to the type, I knew I’d make an exception for the finale of Condie’s Matched trilogy. The undercurrent of peace in the story, despite all Cassia’s talk of raging with Dylan Thomas “against the dying of the light”, allowed me to give Reached a chance on the faint hope that it might go more gently on me than the Insurgents and the Mockingjays. I must admit, however, that I still expected a bloodbath.
To my great surprise and greater relief—it was not that.
It was also not a lot of other negatives it could have been. It was not confusing as to which of the young people was narrating at any given time, as Crossed was. It was not a hurrah-we-overthrew-the-big-bad-government tropefest. It was not a final grinding down of the heroine and her friends into postwar PTSD. I appreciated these things.
Better yet, however, are the things it was. It was a thoughtful story, with something to say about art and history, about loving and heartbreak and loving again, about the value of choice. It was a startling and hopeful resolution to the trilogy—perhaps too complex for its page count, but not complicated to the point of becoming really baffling. It was blessedly quiet, even peaceful beneath the surface—a reprieve, one I happened to need very much, from the nerve-grating amorality and brutality so common in fiction nowadays.
Tales of love triangles and competing tyrannies don’t often star heroines as gentle-spirited and artistic as Cassia Reyes. While undeniably passionate, her emotions are tempered by empathy and innocence, and while her poetry is not at the level of Tennyson or Thomas, it’s—as she puts it—her “first time feeling and telling”, and interesting as such. Her thoughtfulness is the quiet that underscores the story, trumping Xander’s fervor for the cause and Ky’s apathy and even her own idealism.
Her nature and the turn of events eventually softened the big objection I had at the beginning of the book, which was that Condie didn’t develop her world anywhere near thoroughly enough. The Society and the Rising both came off a little thin. By the end, however, while the individual storylines resolved, the world itself was left room to grow, which left me uninterested in complaining much about the lack of detail in the worldbuilding.
More than that cannot easily be said without spoilers, of course, so I’ll rein myself in. It's enough to say that Condie brought her tale to a resolution worthy of Cassia and her ideals. The story's stated goal of 'freedom to choose' is nicely handled; it's a popular enough theme among Americans and teenagers, but I suspect its place in the tale may also derive organically from the author's religious (LDS) belief in human agency and the natural yearning of the artist for license to create.
As for the prose: despite the use of present tense narrative mode, which I have never much liked, I thought it so beautiful that I’m half tempted to read the author’s earlier works, risking the likelihood that books written for the exhortation of Mormon teens will be about on par with books written for the exhortation of Catholics or Protestants of the same ages. Any writer can write a weak book, but Condie's work is empathetic and lovely enough that it's hard to imagine her writing an entirely flat one.
Regardless, I’ll be watching closely for what she does in the future.