Spoiler alert! If you haven’t read Ally Condie’s Matched and Crossed, do that before continuing with this post. As a matter of fact, even if you have read Matched and Crossed, you might want to reread them before proceeding with this post and, most especially, with Reached, book three in this series. I didn’t realize how much I forgot until I was well into reading this third book. You’ve been warned!
About a week ago, I started reading Reached, the third book in Ally Condie’s Matched series. I loved the first book (which just won the 12-13 South Carolina Young Adult Book Award), I thought the second was a pretty typical second book in a trilogy, and I had fairly high hopes for this third and final book. When I started reading Reached, though, I thought my hopes were sure to be dashed. It was really hard for me to get into this book, and I kept having to go back to Crossed to refresh my memory on what happened in the previous book (and how it related to what happened in this one). Things didn’t pick up for me until about halfway through the book. After that, my reading positively flew. To put this in perspective, it took me five days to get through the first half of the book and only one to read the second half. I guess, for me at least, the first part of the book had a lot of build-up to the events of the second half, and I felt that it could have been condensed a bit. I did enjoy the book, especially the second half. Was it my favorite of the trilogy? No. That honor goes to Matched. Did it answer some of my questions? Yes. Did it tie up everything in a neat little bow? Not exactly.
Cassia, Ky, and Xander are all part of the Rising, the group trying to overthrow the Society that has controlled their lives for so long, but they all have different roles to play in this struggle. Ky is a pilot for the Rising, and it’s his job to transport supplies, medicine, and anything else needed to further the Rising’s agenda. Cassia is continuing to sort for the Society while following the mysterious instructions from the Rising. She’s also working with the Archivists, making trades on behalf of others, and gathering artists, poets, writers, and musicians together to share their gifts that the Society has long repressed. Xander, once an Official for the Society, is now a valued medical professional who is treating those infected with a Plague that has infected much of the populace. Each of them is critical to the Rising, but they’re all about to learn just how important their work really is…
When the Plague begins to mutate, everything the Rising has worked for is in jeopardy. It is of paramount importance that a cure be found. The Plague has already reached pandemic proportions, and, if something doesn’t happen soon, this disease could wipe out most of the population. The leader of the Rising, the Pilot, gathers Ky, Xander, and Cassia together to work on finding a cure. Cassia’s sorting abilities (and attention to detail) could help to find the common factor that those immune to the Plague share. Xander’s medical and pharmacological knowledge could help to actually create a cure. And Ky…well, Ky is to serve as a test subject. (I don’t think I need to spell out what this means.)
As Cassia, Xander, and even Ky learn more about the Plague that is devastating all they’ve known, they are also learning more about the Rising, the Society, and their own stories. These three young people, whose lives are so interconnected, are discovering the truth about the Plague’s origins, the Rising’s true agenda, and what it really means to have the freedom to choose one’s own path in life. The answers they find will not be comfortable, and their quest for a cure will lead them to some disturbing truths. Will they be able to handle what they find? And how will their relationships be impacted by all of this? Is the cure a possibility, and what will a cure (or lack thereof) mean for the Rising, the Society, and any other groups of people (including those who are immune)? Can everyone reach for the freedom that they’ve been denied for so long, or will the Plague keep everything from their grasp? Read Reached, the conclusion to Ally Condie’s Matched trilogy, to discover the truth for yourself.
I haven’t even come close to covering all of the events that occurred in this book. There are some minor characters (Indie, Lei, the Pilot) who have a huge impact in what happens in this book, but I’ll leave that for you to discover. Like Requiem, the final book in Lauren Oliver’s Delirium series–which I prefer to this one, by the way–Reached doesn’t really resolve everything in a nice, tidy little package. There is a clear conclusion, but there’s also room to speculate what happens to the characters after the last page.
I’ve seen both Matched and Crossed in my school’s Scholastic Book Fairs, and I think some mature fifth graders might be able to handle it. The entire series is great for middle grade, high school, and even adult readers. Reached, in particular, could generate some interesting discussions about diseases, how diseases mutate over time, and how governments or other groups could use diseases–or fear of them–to control a population.
If you’d like more information about Reached, the whole Matched series, or author Ally Condie, visit her website at http://www.allysoncondie.com/. You may also want to check out the Reached book trailer below. (Don’t worry about spoilers here. It tells almost nothing about this book…or the others that preceded it.)
Having finished this entire trilogy now, I can finally reflect on where it fits into my list of favorite YA dystopian (and/or post-apocalyptic) series. As you can probably imagine, The Hunger Games is at the top of that list. Veronica Roth’s Divergent series is a close second. Lauren Oliver’s Delirium trilogy and James Dashner’s Maze Runner series are also pretty high up on the list. I’ve started a few series (Kimberly Derting’s The Pledge, Kiera Cass’ The Selection, Lauren DeStefano’s Chemical Garden trilogy, Ann Aguirre’s Razorland series, Caragh O’Brien’s Birthmarked trilogy, Marie Lu’s Legend series, Tahereh Mafi’s Shatter Me series, and a couple of others) that will probably end up somewhere on the list as well. The Matched series, though, is probably closer to the bottom of this list. Yes, I did like the series (or most of it), but it is not my favorite, especially when you consider just how many awesome YA dystopian series are out there. Feel free to disagree with me. I’m just giving you my opinion as a long-time reader of dystopian literature. (I think it started with Fahrenheit 451 when I was in the 8th grade. Thank you, Mrs. Galloway!)