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You were swept up in the romance between Cassia and Ky and want to know if they end up together.
So-called dystopian books that have no business being dystopias bug you.
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Title: The Impossible Knife of Memory
Title: Coaltown Jesus
Author: Ron Koertge
Author: Ally Condie
Genre: Fiction (YA)
Year published: 2011
In this second book in Ally Condie’s dystopian trilogy, Cassia and Ky fan the flames of their relationship in the harsh world outside the Society. In the Carving—a canyon of sorts, allegedly home to some members of the resistance—they must confront life outside the safety of anything they’ve ever known. Though Book Two offers some surprises, much of Crossed feels like an endless trek through a wasteland between Books One and Three. Fans of Matched, though, will probably enjoy the blossoming relationship between Cassia and Ky—two characters who, against all odds, find a way to be together.
I know some people are going to hate me for finding something wrong with Matched and Crossed, just as thousands of people have hated me for failing to appreciate The Hunger Games. But I promise that my response to Condie’s books isn’t nearly as violent as Collins’s super-violent trilogy. Still, the two have something in common. It all has to do with stories about dystopias.
Actually, I’m a fan of dystopian fiction. The Giver, 1984, Fahrenheit 451. The dystopias in these exquisitely-crafted novels make a chilling and compelling point. Their characters have given up everything supposedly to gain everything. But in that quest for perfection, much more has been lost.
Although these three books tell three very different stories, and make three very different points, here’s something they share: Each one only works if it’s set in a dystopia. In other words, the dystopian setting is an outgrowth of the precise story the author is telling, the metaphor he or she is working with, the message he or she is trying to convey. The dystopian element links directly to the larger point of the story. It’s not just a setting; it’s a tool of communication. The dystopia is, itself, a metaphor.
And that’s what annoyed me about Matched, and made me cross about Crossed. These books are basically the story of Romeo and Juliet…but in a dystopia. It’s as though Condie wanted to write a romance about star-crossed lovers and figured that the easiest way to keep them apart would be to plop them into a society where even love is strictly regulated.
But why? Why is love regulated? Crossed was supposed to tell us more about The Society, and we do get a few hints. Like the real effect of the blue pills. (OK, that was a nice surprise.) Or the fact that The Society came to be as a result of a failed experiment to eradicate cancer.
Huh? CANCER? Seriously? I just read 500 pages to find out that Cassia and Ky are fated not to be together BECAUSE THEIR SOCIETY IS TRYING TO ERADICATE CANCER?
When I was finished laughing, I got crosser still. Where was the metaphor? What’s Condie’s larger point? What message does the dystopian setting exist to communicate?
The answer, so far at least, is: nothing. What began in Matched and what unspooled further in Crossed, was a scenario similar to the one in Delirium—another Pick of the Week that exploited dystopias to re-tell the Romeo and Juliet story. And that is, two teens torn apart by a set of circumstances…which add up to exactly zilch.
Maybe I shouldn’t judge a trilogy by its first two books. But so far, Condie has failed to convince me that these books have anything to say other than this: Matched and Crossed simply don’t belong in the canon of successful dystopian literature.