1.09.2013

Currently Reading: Reached

Reached (Matched, #3)“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.

14 comments:

  1. Well, if I end up reading Condie's trilogy, it'll be entirely on account of your reviews.

    I've seen the books before since I peruse the YA shelves at bookstores & online trying to find new stuff to read. But I've always kind of had them on the back shelf of my wish list.

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    1. Well, I liked them enough that it's hard to imagine much disappointment, though I don't know what they cost on Kindle and how that might bring to bear on the response. ;)

      Arabella just read this one recently and said she'd try and comment--I don't know what she thought, so you might check back and see what she says, too.

      Anyway, at least if you read them now, you can read them all and therefore not get cliffhangered. :D

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    2. They run about $10 in Kindle format. :) Don't think I'd buy it yet although I might spend an Audible credit on it.

      I'll look forward to Arabella's thoughts on it.

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  2. I have to say that Reached surprised me. Not because I thought it would be violent and bloody, though. Here's what struck me (trying to do this without spoilers):

    1. Just as Crossed was a very different book from Matched in plot and tone, so was Reached from these two. I didn't expect to have such differing reading experiences each time, instead of the usual similarities such trilogy books have. Matched was about Cassia's growing awareness of the Society's evils. Crossed was a road trip. Reached was a plague story.

    2. In Matched Cassia is more like a compliant child. In Crossed she toughens up. In Reached we see a very a very adult person.

    3. It was nice to finally get into Xander's head and see that he was just as thoughtful and passionate as Cassia and Ky. To me he always seemed like a Peeta character and I wasn't disappointed in him at all. I really liked his growth arc, too.

    4. The respect and affection this tangled trio had for each other.

    5. Indie gets fleshed out more and her arc is very moving. I loved it and her.

    6. The unexpected complexity and nuance of both the Society and the Rising, instead of the usual white hats and black hats. Neither is entirely who you think they are. This empathetic treatment was a refreshing change.

    7. Although there's a romantic triangle, there was never any doubt for me whom Cassia would choose. This lack of tease was nice.

    8. The detailed plague story, which I felt got bogged down in the mountains. Also the cause, nature, and course of the plague.

    9. I was disappointed that we never learned who the Enemy was, the cause of the war, and how and why it ended. Given the Enemy's primacy in the story, I felt we should have been given more.

    Reached was a thoughtful, lyrical book about human longing for freedom, choice, creativity, and beauty. There are some new strong and likable characters, too, and i loved the ending. I plan on rereading it soon to absorb and contemplate more than I did on my riveted first read.

    This trilogy is a favorite I know I'll enjoy reading again.

    George, how about free from the library?

    --Arabella

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    1. Great comments. The three books really were different in tone, which was unusual--and I think that made them stronger in some ways than some of these trilogies run. I'd rather see someone introduce new magic than try to duplicate the old.

      And I loved seeing Xander in this one. I'd have been Team Xander if I hadn't been one hundred percent sure from the earliest connections with Ky that Ky was going to be The One.

      Indie turned out to be a favorite, and I liked Lei, too. Also the references to salmon, which are a big part of Pacific Northwest ecological interest.

      It would be an interesting series to re-read--which is the only difficult thing about that "free from the library" bit. :P

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    2. I too felt that the three different novels made for a stronger trilogy. Condie didn't merely expand into concentric, repetitive circles; each book was an expansion, but also an individual story, making the whole a more interesting experience.

      --Arabella

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    3. Library? I haven't used a library in over 8 years. :)

      Anyway, I doubt my small town library would have it, so I'd have to get it through library loan & that's more time than I want to invest in getting a book.

      Thanks too, Arabella, on the comments about the series. It really does sound interesting.

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  3. This is another trilogy I have yet to read. Have you read Lauren Oliver's Delirium yet?

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    1. I tried reading Delirium and couldn't stand it. There was no worldbuilding, the concept seemed silly, the story derivative and dull, and it dragged horribly; a quarter of the way through I was skimming and I soon gave it up. I didn't find her writing beautiful; she employed annoyingly repetitive adjectives or adverbs and the writing seemed forced into literary novel style.

      I found similar complaints in the Amazon one and two star reviews.

      --Arabella

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    2. I've been quite happy with the Matched trilogy, but have never tried Delirium. At this point, it would take some doing to sell me on another dystopian, especially one that's not a single, stand-alone novel.

      It's surprising to hear that there was no worldbuilding and the writing seemed forced, since part of the buzz over Oliver was that she was supposed to be a good writer. Looking over some reviews, I suspect I'd end up with mixed feelings, loving some things about it and disliking others.

      Kelly, did you read it? If so, what did you think?

      Arabella, I just read Phoebe North's Delirium review and found it thoughtful and interesting.

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  4. I actually haven't read it. I did read her latest middle grade book called The Spindlers and wasn't impressed, though I wasn't too annoyed either. The Delirium series is pretty popular with the teens that come in to the bookstore I work in, so it's been on my radar to read. I'm also kind tired of trilogies and series too and am relishing in stand alone books. For that reason The Scorpio Races is on my to-read list. Another stand alone book I recently read and liked was Splintered by A.G. Howard, an Alice in Wonderland reshaping.
    Thanks for the reviews, I think this will help me at work and has urged me to at least read a few chapters to get a feel for what her teen writing is about.

    It looks like I should certainly read Matched though!

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    1. I haven't read The Spindlers. Before I Fall is supposed to be good, but I'm always a little squeamish about those dead-teenager stories. ;)

      The Scorpio Races was a fantastic book, as far as I was concerned. If you read that, I'd love to hear what you think! The island of Thisby and the main characters, Puck and Sean, were more interesting--to me, anyway--than the average YA characters and setting by orders of magnitude. It made me want to read Stiefvater's werewolf series, and despite my affection for Twilight, I've little more love for paranormals than dystopians.

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    2. P.S. The Scorpio Races isn't much like Twilight. ;)

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    3. I read Before I Fall, and was impressed with the writing. Thus I was very surprised by the writing caliber of Delirium. It was hard to believe it was the same author.

      --Arabella

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