Author: Ally Condie
Publisher: Dutton Books (Penguin)
Publication Date: 2010
Why I Read It
MiniQ suggested I read this one. She had it for almost a year before she started to read it. Then she devoured it within a few days. As a teacher, I knew it was a book many of my students were reading and after the experience I had with the Twilight books, I decided to forgo my desire to remain untrendy and read one of the books most of my students would be reading. So, I shook off my dislike of trendy and sat down to read the book. I really didn’t even know what it was about. MiniQ had told me about some of her favorite parts, but it was so long ago (ok just a few weeks) I didn’t remember any of the details. And, the book jacket was missing, so I couldn’t even read the synopsis. And instead of going online to read a summary, I just began reading.
What I Liked
Within the first chapter I was hooked. Condie grabbed me with her writing style, which I find to be succinct and descriptive to the point. No long, flowery passages to labor over. But, rather than be a boring, expected piece of writing, as some YA literature is becoming, Condie writes eloquently. She mirrors in her writing the simplicity of her setting–The Society. A simplicity complicated in its simplicity. However, not all is well in the greater Society. Condie alludes to the inevitable trouble to come for the novel’s main characters and the rest of their Society, largely through Ky’s story line.
From the first scene, where Cassia is thinking about flying, but acknowledges people in Society cannot fly, Condie begins pulling at the conscience in a manner similar to Lois Lowry’s in The Giver. Akin to Lowry, Condie builds a society built around the premise of We (Society) know what is best for You (the Citizens) because we have used logic (probability and statistics) to “create” the perfect society.
Cassia, the novel’s protagonist, understands why Society’s rules must be followed, and has in fact worked hard to make sure the rules are followed by her family, especially her little brother. But, as the novel progresses, she begins to experience what breaking the rules does.
One of my favorite quotes from Cassia:
Nothing I have written or done has made any difference in this world, and suddenly I know what it means to rage, and to crave.
She realizes through her being Matched to Xander, yet longing for a relationship with Ky, Society may not always know what is best. The rise of the individual, the desire for knowledge, and the quest for change drive this novel’s protagonist through some dark and difficult times.
I read this novel for enjoyment, but as a teacher, my mind is always looking for lessons/themes/ideas to use in my classroom or even with my own daughters. Here are some valuable lessons/ideas I look forward to using in my classroom:
- Society’s Hundred Rule (I will NOT explain more, because I hate spoilers, suffice it to say I could see using this as a writing/discussion prompt in many different ways)
- Writing-currently there is a debate going on about whether we should be encouraging and even teaching handwriting to school age children. This book brings to light some ideas about what it might be like if no one could actually write.
- Stories-why they are told. Ky tells the story of Sisyphus (according to Society’s telling, which I thought was brilliant!) and explains why one might want to know stories. As an English teacher I sometimes grapple with my students about why we read the things we do. Ky’s answer is perfect. I won’t quote it, but it’s on page 236.
- Female protagonists–LOVE working with strong female leads and so far Condie has not let me down!
- I will likely be teaching the Science Fiction class next year and look forward to incorporating all or parts of this novel in class. 🙂
What I Didn’t Like
The major drawback for me has nothing to do with the writing style, but rather with the love triangle angle. I have come to dislike the love triangle story line more and more, for a few reasons. First, why can’t YA novelists focus on functional boy/girl relationships where the boy/girl are merely friends? Why must the female character almost always fall in love with the main male character(s)? As a mother, and a teacher in high school, I see the detrimental effects of young girls believing falling in love with boys is more natural than becoming a friend. And I don’t mean a friend who then turns into a lover. I believe boys and girls/men and women can be platonic friends, but the media has made it hard for girls/women to know how these friendships work.
- Anyone who loved The Giver
- Dystopian novel lovers
- Love Triangle lovers (not me 😦 )
- YA Readers–that includes teachers!