Mix the best friend vs. soulmate romance triangle of Twilight;the evil, controlling government of The Hunger Games; and the futuristic society of The Giver and you've got Matched by Ally Condie. Derivative? Perhaps.
Still, Matched is a good young adult novel all on its own. The writing isn't quite up to par with The Giver, but it is good. It's less lust-filled and certainly better written than Twilight, and it lacks the violence of The Hunger Games. The novel makes its own points, mostly having to do with freedom—or the lack of it—and what keeping the status quo means for the “invisible” people in society.
In this society, every aspect of life is monitored: dreams, garbage, food intake, exercise, and relationships. On her 17th birthday, Cassia Reyes celebrates her Match Banquet. This is the banquet at which her future husband is revealed to her. She is shocked and happy to learn that her Match is her best friend, Xander. Soon, though, she is unsettled to find that there may have been some mistake—she might have been matched with another friend, Ky. And so begins both her angst-ridden romantic life and her slow discovery of individual freedom.
This book could be used as a parallel for any sort of freedom-limiting society: communist China, Taliban-ruled Afghanistan, or a future U.S. where the government makes too many choices for us. It could also foster conspiracy theories, if you are so inclined. Who knows but that the proposed ban on unhealthy Happy Meals in San Francisco is the first step to having our food portioned out and delivered to us in our homes?
Time will tell if the succeeding volumes in the trilogy are worth reading. The second book, Crossed, is due out in November of this year. (Dutton Juvenile)