Dystopian fiction is all the rage lately, ever since the success of The Hunger Games. And admittedly, I’ve been enjoying all the different takes on what an organized but ultimately negative future might entail. I picked up Ally Condie’s first novel, Matched, on a whim and really liked it. Sadly, the sequel falls victim to the dreaded “middle book syndrome” that strikes so many otherwise stellar tales.
(Description nicked from B&N.com.)
“In search of a future that may not exist and faced with the decision of who to share it with, Cassia journeys to the Outer Provinces in pursuit of Ky – taken by the Society to his certain death – only to find that he has escaped, leaving a series of clues in his wake.
Cassia’s quest leads her to question much of what she holds dear, even as she finds glimmers of a different life across the border. But as Cassia nears resolve and certainty about her future with Ky, an invitation for rebellion, an unexpected betrayal, and a surprise visit from Xander – who may hold the key to the uprising and, still, to Cassia’s heart – change the game once again. Nothing is as expected on the edge of Society, where crosses and double crosses make the path more twisted than ever.”
For me, a lot of what made the first novel so exciting was the development of the intricacies of the Society. Not only do readers see the slow unveiling of the rules by which everyone lives, but they also see how the characters live within those rules… and ultimately, how they go about circumventing or breaking them. What drew me to Cassia, Xander and Ky was those interactions, not only between the three of them, but between them and the way of life that they’re accustomed to.
In Crossed, most of that is erased. Both Cassia and Ky are on the fringes of the Society, working in labor camps in the Outer Provinces. While there are certainly some revelations about the Society and what its plans are for its population, a larger chunk of the novel takes place completely outside of and away from any of that. Cassia and Ky both find themselves, at different times, wandering in the wilderness (literally) with no connection to the world they left.
The author also begins to leave some tantalizing clues within the story as to who and what lies beyond the Society’s borders. It sounds as though there are other functioning societies in what remains of America, but readers get very little info about them. Since this appears to be a trilogy, I would have liked to get more about those different people now, so that the final novel doesn’t have an infodump. Even if that does happen, I do hope that the author explores these other groups, as the contrast between them and the Society could be fascinating.
I feel that it is a misnomer to describe the story as Ky leaving clues for Cassia, as that is not his intent. The two find each other through an incredible series of coincidences and lucky breaks, and it became too much for me to swallow. I have a dislike of stories where people wander overly long away from the driving elements of the tale, and that’s exactly what this one does. I think that could have been balanced if there had been some sections of the book devoted to Xander (who remains part of the Society), but that was neglected and Xander has almost no part in this story.
My overall feeling about this book is that it is rife with missed opportunities. Condie set things up so beautifully in Matched that I found it intensely frustrating to not get a worthy follow-up. Still, if you read Matched, you should read Crossed, and let’s all keep our fingers crossed that Condie pulls things together in the final novel.
Also by this author: Matched
This review appeared on Owlcat Mountain on January 4, 2012.