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In the tradition of ?The Hunger Games? comes this catchy portrait of a love triangle in a dystopian future
YOUNG ADULT novels have developed a pull of gravity of their own. When Suzanne Collins? ?The Hunger Games? was released in 2008, it pulled a solar system of other dystopian novels in its wake.

Dystopia?a twisted paradise?is a long-standing theme of fiction, as can be seen in George Orwell?s ?1984? and Ray Bradbury?s ?Fahrenheit 451.? What ?The Hunger Games? did was transport futuristic dictatorships to the best-selling bookcase, and very soon, there was a search for a book that would be the next ?Hunger Games.?

Perhaps the best current offering would be Ally Condie?s debut novel, ?Matched? (Dutton Books, New York, 2010, 370 pages). When Cassia Reyes turned 17, she was required by the all-powerful Society to be Matched: ?The goal of Matching is twofold: to provide the healthiest possible future citizens for our Society and to provide the best chances for interested citizens to experience successful Family life. It is of the utmost importance to the Society that the Matches be as optimal as possible.?

There is no other way to be together in Cassia?s high-tech but also heavily handed Society, a future version of our own world. At first Cassia is overjoyed to be Matched with her good friend, the smoothly handsome Xander Carrow, but when she plugged in the microcard she was given, another image shows up, that of the rugged, enigmatic Ky Markham.

Unlike Xander, Ky is an Aberration, an outsider in the Society and someone who can never be with a citizen like Cassia. But Cassia finds herself drawn to Ky even as she feels torn because of her feelings for Xander.

As Cassia explores her feelings, she discovers that the perfect world she lives in may not be so perfect. She lives in a world, after all, where everyone is Matched at 17 and dies at 80, where people are assigned jobs and places to live.

?No reason to rebel?

This is a place where only a hundred songs and a hundred poems?selected by the Society, of course?have been approved. All others have been destroyed. Cassia wonders just how much of their lives are being controlled by the Society through the ever-present Officials. ?And there?s no reason to rebel. Look what the Society gives us. Good lives. A chance at immortality. The only way it can be ruined is if we ruin it ourselves.?

That is exactly what Cassia seems to be doing. The headstrong protagonist is suddenly suspicious of everything around her, even as both Xander and Ky pull at different parts of her heart. ??Are you supposed to be my Match,?? Cassia asks in her head. ?Later, I realize the one question that didn?t even cross my mind was the most urgent one of all: Will you keep my secret??

The first thing that will strike readers is how much elements of ?Matched? bear a resemblance to ?Hunger Games,? most notably the young love triangle and the all-encompassing Society?s hold on its citizens? daily lives. Condie has an accessible prose style that is similar to Collins? own reader-friendly narrative. There?s also a pretty ingenious take on the role literature plays in any society.

But while ?Hunger Games? is primarily a sci-fi tale with romantic elements, ?Matched? is the exact polar opposite: a love story with sci-fi elements thrown in. Others will be correctly reminded of the 1997 sci-fi thriller ?Gattaca.?

Condie concentrates almost exclusively on what is happening to Cassia instead of what is happening around her, and the reader travels the same bumpy emotional narrative path as Cassia moves from complacency to suspicion, from surprise to resolution. The entire book happens in her head. No action hero, Cassia is a far less tortured, far more intellectual protagonist than Hunger Games? battle hardened Katniss Everdeen.

?Matched? is also the first book in a trilogy?yes, just like the Hunger Games?and the next volume, ?Crossed,? is due in November and should expand the reader?s view exponentially. In the meantime, ?Matched? by Ally Condie is an effective introduction to Cassia Reyes? world as well as a quick, catchy portrait of a young love triangle in the time of dystopia.

Available in hardcover from National Book Store.