Back in 2011 I read the first book of this series, Matched, and wrote about it on this blog. It was one of my first book reviews, really. But, back then I said: "I think Condie has set a good foundation for a great series; I just think it has room to grow." Way to sum it up 2011 Courtney!
Warning: I can't promise this will be spoiler free. Not even a little. Particularly for Matched and Crossed. If you haven't read either of them yet, and want to, don't read this review. Okay? Here's the gist: Read them. Read all three of them. Getting to Reached is completely worth reading the first two books, promise. Then come back and read this review and let me know if you think I was right. You've been warned!
Okay, where was I....
Reached is a book completely unlike any of the others in this series.
The Matched Trilogy has all the markers of the perfect, best-selling, YA Dystopian Novel: a strong willed but sweet girl (Cassia), a post-present-day, over-controling and scary-involved government (The Society); a grassroots rebellion (The Rising); a solid love triangle that goes against everything the scary government has sought to control (Ky and Xander); and a potentially world-ending event (the Plague).
In Matched we are introduced to Cassia, Xander, and Ky in a society where everything in life is set and decided for you - including your job and who you are "matched" to. Cassia is looking for the ability to make her own choices in the midst of everything that is already decided for her. In Reached we follow Cassia and Ky on their adventure out of the Society to find the Rising which offers them hope of a better life than the Society offers (and a chance at choice and love) while obedient Xander is left behind, worried and concerned for the girl he still considers to be his Match.
In Reached we find Cassia, Xander, and Ky on the brink of the revolution orchestrated by the Rising. Ky is a pilot for the Rising forces and paired to fly with Indie. He's waiting for a call to fly into the cities and begin the Revolution. Xander is a Physic (or, a Doctor/Nurse/Pharmicist) taking care of patients in Central (the capital city) who have fallen ill with the Plague. He is waiting for a sign that the Revolution is beginning. And Cassia is a Sorter living in the capital city ("Central") waiting for a set of data to appear on her port to announce to her that the Revolution is starting.
Reached is when the Society and the Rising finally collide and search for a means to a new and better future. The Pilot is finally (sort of) revealed. However, the Plague is also a key player in this novel. The Society originally created it to deal with the Enemy. The Rising stole it, developed a cure, and then unleashes it onto the Society. But, like any virus, it mutates and it seems like everything the Rising worked towards was for nothing because the cure no longer works. Finding a cure for this mutated form of the Plague rises above any political conflict between the Society and the Rising. However, it does seem that whoever finds the cure will eventually become the leader of the new society. And Cassia, Ky, and Xander are front and center in this process. It's personal to them too, and they find that they have a limited amount of time before the Plague takes those whom they love.
The love triangle is also still going strong in this book: Ky and Xander love Cassia. Cassia loves both of them. And Ky and Xander are good, close friends who care deeply for each other. But, what I love about this love triangle is that it does not take away from the novel itself. It's just there. Present. It's important, but it's not the most important thing. It's so refreshing to see a YA novel where the relationship is not the most important part of the book (okay, this novel stands alone again, because yes, the romance & love triangle was pretty darn important in the first two books. But she scaled it back here). The three of them are fighting for the right to a choice: to be able to love who they love.
I am so glad that Ally Condie wrote this book. Because here's the thing: I was ready to write this series off after Crossed (The second book in the Matched Trilogy). I just didn't enjoy it all that much. It felt forced, predictable, and one of those books that's only purpose was to get you from Point A to Point B and doesn't really have a story of its own (much like how I felt about Catching Fire). I am not a huge fan of series where each book cannot stand alone; where, if someone were to accidentally pick up and read a book out of order, they'd have no idea what was going on. The Harry Potter series or any of Rick Riordan's books are the perfect example of a good series to me: you're better served reading from the first to the last book, but you're not stranded without any sense of understanding if you don't. That's a strong series in my mind.
There are so many things I liked about this novel. It surprised me in so many ways. Things I thought I knew or believed were going to happen were turned on their heads. I feel like Ally Condie grew leaps and bounds with the writing of Reached and I am so thankful for that. It's just such a far better novel than Matched and Crossed that I am in awe of what I just read. It's almost seems a crazy way to end the series. But I couldn't picture anything better. It is this novel that makes this series something different from the rest of the popular YA Dystopian novels out there.
I loved so many things about this novel, but two things stand out about the rest: I love that you're never quite sure who is Rising and who is Society. And that somehow in some places the two have become so interwoven that you're not really sure if the Rising is really fighting for a revolution or the Society itself orchestrated the uprising to appease the desires of its people. I love that we don't know where their lives will take them; that the vote isn't yet cast on who their next leader will be (Society, Rising, or Other) and that the only thing that matters is that they've finally been given a choice: in life, in their future, in love.
We may not know how their futures will play out, but they made it. And they made it together.
Author: Ally Condie
Genre: YA; Fantasy; Dystopian;
Medium: Hard Cover
Date Read: 8 February 2013
Source: Purchased, November 2012
First Line: A man pushed a rock up the hill.
Favorite Line: I realize now how much courage it takes to choose the life you want, whatever that might be.
Runner-Up Favorite Line: You cannot change your journey if you are unwilling to move at all.
Last Line: There is ebb and flow. Leaving and coming. Flight and fall. Sing and silent. Reaching and reached. [Whited out, for spoiler's sake]
Recommended: Yes, completely.
Recommended For: Those who have read the previous two books in the series (especially for those who might have written the series off after Crossed like I almost did); Lovers of dystopian fiction; If you loved The Giver or The Hunger Games;
Challenges: Goodreads, Off The Shelf Challenge