Reached is written by Ally Condie. It is the last book in the Matched trilogy (my reviews of Matched and Crossed can be found here and here, respectively). It was published in 2012 by Dutton Books. Condie’s website can be found here.
“Cassia’s journey began with an error, a momentary glitch in the otherwise perfect façade of the Society. After crossing canyons to break free, she waits, silk and paper smuggled against her skin, ready for the final chapter.
The wait is over.
One young woman has raged against those who threaten to keep away what matters most—family, love, choice. Her quiet revolution is about to explode into full-scale rebellion.”
“I stretch out my arms to make sure that nothing shows underneath the cuffs of my shirt. The red silk of the dress I’m wearing slips neatly under the unflattering lines of my plainclothes. It’s one of the hundred Dresses, possibly stolen, that came up in a trade. It was worth the price I paid—a poem—to have such a piece of color to hold up to the light and pull over my head, to feel so bright.
I sort for the Society here in their capital of Central, but I have a job to do for the Rising, and I trade with the Archivists. On the outside, I’m a Society girl wearing plainclothes. But underneath, I have silk and paper against my skin.”
The Pilot’s voice comes out over the ports. “This rebellion,” he says, “is different. It will begind and end with saving your blood, not spilling it.”
I close my eyes for a second.
The Pilot’s voice sounds right.
This is the Pilot and this is the Rising.
Recommended Age Range: 14+
What I Liked:
I enjoyed this book more than I enjoyed Crossed (if you remember, I found Crossed uneventful and even boring). It was more complicated and eventful than Crossed and kept the tone started in Matched while being more engaging.
It’s good to know that Xander is not, in fact, an idiot. At one point in the book, I said that he was, but then he proved me wrong. Obligatory happy ending is happy (which raises the question of whether or not an ending should be obligatorily happy…).
I liked the fact that, at the end of the book, Condie did not reveal who won the vote. It demonstrated the fact that the important thing isn’t who won the vote—it’s that the people got to choose who to vote for. This trilogy was all about having the freedom to choose, and the ending stays true to that.
What I Didn’t Like:
I had two problems with this book: 1.) Not enough action and 2.) my ambivalent reactions to big reveals.
Let’s start with the first. If you recall, my major complains about the first and second book is that there is little to no action. The same holds true for this book. The entire plot is basically the struggle to find a cure for the Plague. There is no heart-pounding, heart-stopping action and events. Arguably, there doesn’t necessarily need to be heart-pounding, heart-stopping action and events, as not every novel is a thriller/action novel, but there needs to be something to get the reader out of an ambivalent state and into the book, and that was lacking for me. I enjoyed reading the book, but there was nothing in there to make me want to read it again or, indeed, to even remember it after I was done. Sure, the writing was nice, and yes, there was a happy ending, but it lacked the action that would have made this book a little more memorable, a little more thrilling, and a little bit better. It was hard for me to get into the novel because there was no reason for me to: everything was just nicely laid out and spelled out and moseyed along nicely for 512 pages.
Which brings me to the second problem I had with the book. I feel that Condie missed out on some opportunities here in regards to her big reveals. There were a number of them in the book; two of them were fairly big and tied back to Matched and Crossed. Now, there are essentially four ways readers can respond to Big Reveals in books (complete with italics!):
1.) The reader does not expect the Reveal(s) at all, so when it happens, the reader is shocked/thrilled/surprised/whatever; essentially the Reveal (and the hints/red herrings/clues/foreshadowing leading up to the Reveal) draws the reader into the novel.
2.) The reader can expect the Reveal(s), having figured it out from the hints/red herrings/clues/foreshadowings leading up to it; again, this draws the reader into the novel.
3.) The reader can expect the Reveal(s) because it’s obvious (in the over-used, cliché type of obvious); the reader’s response to the Reveal as being obvious is based on their opinion of the book, plot, etc. (some people don’t mind an obvious Reveal if the writing/plot/etc. is good/great), therefore either drawing them in or pulling them out or making them ambivalent.
4.) The reader doesn’t expect the Reveal(s), but when the Reveal happens, the reader is ambivalent to its effect, no matter how Big or unexpected it is, because of the way the Reveal is delivered and the response of the characters to the Reveal in the novel; this is the This is unexpected, but I really don’t find myself caring/surprised/thrilled versus the“Wait, what?”/ “Oh my gosh!” / mouth dropping open type of response.
If you haven’t guessed already, Reached is full of #4 Reveal moments. There are two Big ones that I’m thinking of, and both times, instead of doing whatever it is people do when they come across something they’re not expecting (“WHAT?” or “Oh my gosh!” or mouth falling open or whatever), I was like, “Eh, okay.” And I didn’t want to feel that way. Those should have been mouth falling open Reveals, but the way Condie delivered it, and the way the characters responded, made me shrug and say, “Oh, yeah? Interesting” instead of the above options. I think it was partly because the characters did not react that way; Cassia in particular was more like, “Of course that’s what it is. No surprise here,” which made me react that way as well. I also think it was partly just the way Condie delivered it. I’ve mentioned that the book is uneventful and it just moseys along; that’s also the way Condie’s writing goes. It just moseys along, and so do all the Reveals that I feel could have (should have?) been a lot more reactive.
One final note: I was expecting the Rising to be more…rebellious. Then again, perhaps it wasn’t that rebellious because of what is revealed about the Society (again, another Reveal that could have been a lot more effective if it was delivered with more panache!)?
The Matched trilogy ends the way it began: some nice, poetic writing, little to no action, and themes of choice and love. It’s a decent dystopian trilogy, but it lacks the thrills and surprises that I enjoy reading, particularly in dystopian novels. It’s not a book series that I will probably ever read again, but, of course, you are free to enjoy it at your leisure—just make sure you pick up some other dystopian novels in comparison.
Coming Up Next: If I Lie by Corrine Jackson