Dystopia gets darker as the story goes on. Ally Condie’s Matched trilogy, which hit the ground running with 2010’s “Matched,” was a promising, gripping book. Of all the ambitious young adult series that tried to follow in the boot prints of Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games books, “Matched” came the closest without actually straight-out copying elements from Collins’ trilogy, the first chapter of which will be in theaters next year.
The biggest difference was that “Matched” was more a romance with a sci-fi setting rather than being sci-fi books with romantic subplots, which the Hunger Games books were. That quality is carried over to the second book in “Crossed” (Dutton Books, New York, 2011, 367 pages).
In the future, everything is controlled by the powerful Society, even who you’ll marry (you are Matched when you’re 17) and when you die (everyone dies at 80 whether they like it or not). During her Matching ceremony, Cassia Reyes was delighted to see the handsome face of her friend Xander Carrow—but then the image changed and she sees instead the enigmatic visage of Ky Markham. But unlike Cassia who is a Citizen, Ky is an Aberration, someone who does not belong in the Society. Cassia wants to put aside her feelings and tries to stick to the plan, but she can’t forget Ky.
Now, Ky has been banished to the dreaded Outer Provinces to die, but Cassia, determined to be reunited with Ky, gets herself declared an Aberrration so that she can be sent to the Outer Provinces as well. But will she be able to get there in time? No one ever comes back from the Outer Provinces.
“Crossed” lets the reader know immediately that Cassia and Ky are at the heart of the book because instead of merely being told by Cassia (as “Matched” was), “Crossed” is told in alternating chapters by both Cassia and Ky. Cassia returns sounding more desperate and vulnerable, while readers become acquainted with the grim Ky who seeks to find out more about his true background, among the mysterious Anomalies, the only thing worse than being an Aberration, those who choose to live away from the Society on purpose. “Eighty. Do you think it’s worth it,” someone asks them. “To have no choice, but to live so long.”
“Crossed” has the unenviable task of getting all the dramatic and expository pieces set for the grand finale, the yet untitled third book due in November 2012. In the process, a lot of stuff has to happen and so Cassia and Ky are swept up in the book’s relentless dramatic current. We learn a lot more about the Uprising but then are thrown even more curve balls about what the Society is really up to. Cassia, who wants to join up with the rebels, risks all that she has to find Ky: “In that moment I realized that loving each other felt more dangerous—more like a rebellion—than anything else ever could.” Cassia and Ky find themselves in an unexpected place due to a couple of late-chapter revelations that hit the novel like blows to the solar plexus. “Crossed” ends with a wistful, ambiguous scene that is the softest cliffhanger you’ve seen.
A lot more questions are asked then answered with Cassia and Ky being put through their paces in “Crossed,” as the book has just enough intrigue to keep its readers hoping Ally Condie has all the answers when the last chapter of the Matched trilogy arrives next year. For now, hang on and keep the red and blue tablets handy.