Matched by Ally Condie, narrated by Kate Simses
Published in audio by Penguin Audio, published in print by Dutton Juvenile, both imprints of Penguin
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Cassia has been looking forward to her Match banquet for a long, long time. The Sorters of Society have this sort of thing down by now, and Cassia is dying to see who her perfect Match is. Amazingly, when Cassia’s Match flashes on the screen at the banquet, it is her best friend, Xander. Almost nobody is Matched with anyone they know, let alone a best friend. Everything gets all the more improbable when she reviews her files later at home and sees the face of another acquaintance, Ky. She is told by the Society that it is all a mistake, that Ky should not have even been in the Matching pool. Initially, Cassia accepts this, but her feelings begin to grow complicated, and she begins questioning even the most basic aspect of the Society.
Thoughts on the story:
SUCH a good dystopian (or negative utopian) novel! Early on, the descriptions of the Society in which Cassia lives reminded me a lot of one of my favorite books, The Giver by Lois Lowry. I was worried that it would be derivative. Certainly there are a number of similarities in the basic setup of the society, both seem idyllic from the outside, or to more naive members of society, but there are very real problems that became obvious as one looks closer. There are moments when Cassia’s confused feelings grow slightly obnoxious (“Xander! Ky! Xander! Ky!”), but it was not overwhelming, and it fit very well with her character.
Actually, I quite appreciated that Matched avoided the ubiquitous YA love triangle even as it puts Cassia between who boys who both might be perfect for her. Yes, she was unsure who to choose, but to Cassia her choice between Xander and Ky is greater than just between the two boys, the choice instead represented remaining a loyal and productive member of Society, or questioning the decisions made by those in power around her. The plotting and characterizations were incredibly well done, and I was left craving the next installment in the series.
Thoughts on the audio production:
I’m certain I could track down an advance copy of Crossed, the next book in this series, if I really so desired. At this point I am purposely not doing so, in order to wait and see if Kate Simses narrates the second book as well. If she does, there is no question in my mind as to whether I will attempt this in print or audio. The pacing of young adult literature works really well in audio, but frequently narrator choice is an issue for me. So many narrators of YA either sound too old, or sound like they are trying too hard to sound young. It can be really awkward. Kate Simses, on the other hand, has both the bearing of a professional narrator and a youthful enough voice that I absolutely believed her as the teenaged Cassia. I would say that she is the absolute best narrator of a young adult book I have yet heard.
One interesting thing about Matched in audio is that Penguin audio used sound effects at certain times. I know for many listeners this can be a huge turnoff, but I thought it was done very well in this case. Occasionally it was used as an announcement over a loudspeaker, or similar things that set the scene of the Society. For more discussion about the issue of sound effects in audiobooks, see today’s Audiobook Week discussion post.
Matched is a fabulous specimen of YA dystopia/negative utopia, and Kate Simses narration turns the great book into a fabulous audiobook, I don’t think you could go wrong with print or audio.
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