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Let's Talk About "Matched" (Ally Condie) - Walking on the Edge
I don't really have a plan...
foresthouse
foresthouse
Let's Talk About "Matched" (Ally Condie)
Well why not? A lot of other people seem to be. I'm starting to see mentions of it all over the place. (And when io9 starts referencing something, I tend to think it's hit at least the pop-culture-savvy "mainstream"). Matched, by Ally Condie, is apparently being cited along with The Hunger Games1 as one of the to-read / most popular YA books of 2010, and I'm kind of puzzled as to why. Or actually really puzzled. See, I read Matched way back in May after picking up one of the ARCs at BEA, and, well...that was it. I read it, I finished it, and I put it on the shelf and never thought of it again (except to rant about how lame the ending was to a friend directly after finishing it because she happened to call just as I was closing the book). I didn't write about it here, or tell a friend to check it out, or talk about it to anyone else at all. Because, you see, reading it did not affect me.

What I mean by this is that truly good books, quality books, are those that affect the reader in some manner. The effect on the reader can be emotional (laughing, crying, getting excited, feeling scared or in suspense, feeling a kinship because of identifying with the character, etc.), philosophical (making one think, making one consider the world in a new way, bringing a self-realization), or what have you. A feeling of escapism or immersion is a common thread in these books as well - if the book draws you in so deeply that you get to the point where when you have to put it down all you want to do is pick it right up again to see what happens next, or where you read through the night even though you know you'll be dead tired at work the next day, or where you don't hear people coming up behind you because you are so deep in the story, that's a sign of a good book. But whatever the type, there has to be some sort of effect on the reader to make the book memorable. And if there isn't, then in my view, the book wasn't really worth reading - because you get nothing out of it, either while reading or to take away with you.

I realize that it might seem harsh of me to hold Matched up as one of these books that's not worth reading - harsh not because it's not true, but because there are probably much worse books out there that would fall in this category. But since Matched is the book being bandied about right now, I felt the need to give it a bit of thought: why was I so unimpressed with this book that's getting a lot of attention that I was surprised to hear it was getting recognition at all? At the very least, there are certainly more badly written books (haha, Twilight, for one); but I think that's part of what irked me so much about this book - it is actually fairly well-written, in a grammatical and structural sense - and so it bothers me so much more that there's absolutely nothing to it. It's like drooling over a well-formed chocolate truffle, and then biting into it and discovering there's no filling inside. Or, to be even more accurate, it's like opening up a book that has a pretty, iridescent cover with an intriguing picture of a girl in a green dress trapped in a bubble on it, and discovering the cover's the most interesting part of the whole thing.

In terms of plot, the story is fairly simple (WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD).

Cassia, the main character, lives in a boring-ass "Society" where they've intentionally destroyed most of the literature and knowledge and personal belongings of the members of society, and there's no outwardly permitted individuality, and everything they do is determined by statistically based systems, including how much they eat and sleep and exercise and who they're "matched" with. There's a reason for this, which I forget but vaguely think had something to do with, you know, war or world hardship or something that caused them to come up with this system to...oh hell, whatever. I know it's in there, but can't remember and frankly don't care. [Oh wait, I found the explanation, 30 pages in - the world before the Society was too "cluttered" with, like, knowledge and things, and people got "overwhelmed" by that and technology, so they decided to streamline each person's knowledge to a particular area and make all people's material and educational lives pretty much the same. Um...so that's one reason I don't find this book very believable - because I know I'm not the only one here who would only give up things like my books and DVDs and iPod and smartphone and internet and the like if they were pried out of my cold, dead hands. Or who would rebel against not knowing how to write or being allowed to create things or teach others to create things if I wanted to. Why in the hell would a whole society agree that less knowledge and tech would be awesome and helpful and solve problems? What? That's stupid. And Condie didn't go through the trouble of trying to convince me otherwise by using any sort of anecdotes or details of the past society that would change my view of this as a reader in today's world.]

So Cassia goes to her Matching party and gets matched with her best friend Xander, who's cute and clever and nice and almost a Marty Stu except he does actually have some personality (rarity!). Then (ZOUNDS!) she sees another face on the screen that's supposed to tell her her match, and realizes it's the outsider in their teen group, Ky. And then she spends a giant fistful of pages thinking about what this could mean, and whether she should act on what she saw, and whether she should be with Xander or Ky, while doing boring-ass activities like watching the same movie with the same people for the umpteenth time, and hiking up and down a hill (which in their Society, is majorly exciting), and doing her job of data entry. Also her grandfather dies, which is a shame, because as one of the only people left who remembers the old society where things were creative and interesting, he's an actually vaguely quirky character who tries to slyly make Cassia more interesting by giving her secret poems that were supposed to have been destroyed and telling her stuff she shouldn't know. Oh well. To make a long story short, eventually after lots of hiking and reading the poems and Ky teaching her to write (they aren't allowed to in the Society), she realizes she loves Ky, not Xander. Probably because he's one of the few people in the book who actually bothers to create stuff, although he's so grim that I still find him fairly unappealing. Xander, despite seeming to care about her, is totally fine with this change in events somehow, because, you know, he knows Ky's a decent guy and what are you gonna do, right? Anyway.

So after a million pages of this plot development, Cassia takes some data entry test related to her future job security (getting to be a data entry feeb is MUCH better than the other options in their society like working in a factory with things that can kill you), and as she "sorts" people into their future jobs (this is the test, believe it or not) she decides to sort Ky into a group she thinks will be better for him - but OH NO, it turns out the test folks have tricked her, and by putting him in the group that doesn't have to work with poisons that eventually kill you, he's now going to be sent off to fight a war. Oh, and also there's something weird going on with trees (that we never find out any more about) and Cassia realizes her Society poisons old people to keep them from getting too old. And that the Society Officials purposely let Ky know about the double-match with him and Xander and then sat back to see what would happen. So basically they contrived the love triangle that is the book's whole reason for existing, just for something to do. And skipping ahead, at the end of the book, Cassia's wound up out in the outer provinces of the world somewhere, gardening, and has decided to go look for Ky, who is on the war front. And...that's the book.

Now, I realize that a) Condie's monotonous world is written that way to try and make a point, i.e. Shucks, This Dystopia Is Really Pretty Dystopian And Bad; and b) there's apparently a sequel coming out, presumably so that Cassia can, you know, go find Ky and...stuff, so that might explain the completely bland ending slightly. But...see...I just don't care. About Cassia, about Xander and Ky, about the romance "triangle" of two-boys-who-love-one-girl-who-can't-decide-between-them (and can we please stop with that already, please?), or about how bad the world was. Because a) rather than being pulled into a traumatic or even stifling dystopia, I was just bored to death by the plodding structure of the storyline, and the inevitability of the main story thread's ending (come on, ANYbody read this book and tell me they couldn't figure out who she would choose to be with about two seconds after he's introduced). And b) even the plot twist of Ky getting sent off to war only got me a little; because I didn't really care enough about him as a character to be affected by that either, or to want to read a sequel all about Cassia going to find him. In part because I was really tired of reading her stunted thinking process for [*checks book*] 366 pages.

A big part of the problem here, I think, is that Condie really needs to learn the lesson of "show, not tell" - which I realize can seem odd to say when the medium is text, but there is a HUGE difference between, say:

"She's in bed, dying, very sick and dying, with the blankets pulled up, but is still very focused on watching him work on carpentry through the window."

(me)


and:


"The quilt is drawn up to her chin, hot as it is, with only her two hands and her face outside. She is propped on the pillow, with her head raised so she can see out the window, and we can hear him every time he takes up the adze or the saw. If we were deaf we could almost watch her face and hear him, see him. Her face is wasted away so that the bones draw just under the skin in white lines. Her eyes are like two candles when you watch them gutter down into the sockets of iron candlesticks. But the eternal and the everlasting salvation and grace is not upon her."

(William Faulkner, As I Lay Dying)


DAMN, what a difference. The difference between paint-by-number and Picasso.

Sadly, Matched only comes even close to the second type of description a very few times; the rest of the book's construction is so matter of fact and methodical (possibly intentionally as an attempt to convey how drab the society is, but it doesn't work; it just makes the writing dull) that the entire book plods along, in the vein of:

"There aren't two seats together. I find a seat first, and Ky sits across from me. He leans forward, resting his elbos on his knees. Someone, another worker, calls out a greeting to him and Ky calls back. The train is crowded and people pass between us, but I can watch him now and then in the gaps they leave. And it strikes me that this might be part of the reason I'm going to see my father today; not just to destroy the paper, but to ride on this train with Ky."

(Ally Condie, Matched)


I realize that this is just a fragment taken from the whole, but the whole book is written in this style (I got up, I put on my shirt, I put on my pants, I put on my shoes, I tied them, I went to breakfast, my brother came to breakfast, I had a vague insight or thought brought on by this whole process, you get the point), which means there's nothing exciting to stand out against this background of step-by-step description except for Cassia's occasional thoughts, and those are mostly commonplace. And the fact that this is the narrator's voice detaches me from the story; because Cassia is supposed to be different; slightly rebellious in her thinking, or...something - but Condie never really gives us a spark to hold on to. I mean, there's a reason we're following her story, right? So what is it? Condie never makes us feel it, unless the sole reason is, "because her match is an aberration in the system, hey let's see what she does with this situation." Seriously, that's the only thing that seems to make this girl different from the rest. Hell, I'd much rather follow Xander's story - at least he cracks a joke once or twice, making him infinitely more human-seeming and probably more fun as a narrator ("Cassia steps on the train with me. I wonder what she's thinking. Probably something about how people are walking slowly to the train, just like they do every day, and stepping onto it, one foot before the other, and sitting down in a row, and...wow, I am really glad she fell in love with that Ky dude instead. At least our Other Friend Em gets visibly nervous now and again. It's a change in the monotony. Maybe tomorrow she'll faint!").

This pedestrian tone is a failure in worldbuilding, which I use not just in the sense of creating a structure in which to place your story (i.e. small town; big futuristic city; terraformed universe for world-hopping renegade space cowboys (thank you Joss Whedon)) but also in the sense of creating such a tangible world that the character seems comfortable with it (whether happy in it, or not) and the reader is drawn in without having to make a conscious effort. I honestly think the problem here may be that Condie tried too hard. In a truly immersive book, what you have is a world that is so fully formed in the writer's mind that she is able to narrate the action and thoughts of the character as if everything in the world, which may be new to the reader, is not new to the character. Whereas Condie's narrator tells the story as if she knows she's talking to someone who's never seen her world before, but without the actual conceit of a character consciously explaining a different world to the reader. It's like Condie knew one has to build a world for a book, so she set out explaining it to us, piece by laborious piece. The result is jarring, since Cassia describes each and every thing that would work differently in her world than in ours, but without there being a reason for the descriptions other than, "this is different." For example, we find out in the first couple of chapters somewhere that each person gets special food delivered to them that has the right amount of nutrients and calories for that individual. On page 145 she repeats this information, unnecessarily. It's like she thinks maybe we the readers didn't get the point the first time or forgot, or that we actually care enough to read it twice. And she does this with lots of world details, re-explaining each way the Society is different from the real world over and over in slightly different contexts. As I said: trying too hard.

If you think that I'm being too harsh here, or picking on Condie's book too much, just pause for a moment, anyone who's read, say, 1984 or Brave New World, and think about how you felt while reading them. Did you feel downtrodden and depressed? Probably. Because damn, those books are depressing. But at least you didn't feel (if you were me, at least) like stifling a yawn and wondering if anything more exciting was ever going to happen. That's the difference between quality lit and this. Or, to use another example of a main character in a dystopian world where the members of society are sorted into occupations and stripped of individuality (sound familiar?):

"So we [main character Equality 7-2521] wished to be sent to the Home of the Scholars. We wished it so much that our hands trembled under our blankets in the night, and we bit our arm to stop that other pain which we could not endure. It was evil and we dared not face our brothers in the morning. For men may wish nothing for themselves. And we were punished when the Council of Vocations came to give us our life Mandates which tell those who reach their fifteenth year what their work is to be for the rest of their days."

(Ayn Rand, Anthem)


Gripping, isn't it? Just a tiny paragraph, but already we understand something of this character's core, and what drives him. And we want to know what happens next - like how is he punished, this poor guy who really, really wants to learn so badly that he's in physical discomfort from being stifled? We care because he is a strong personality in what we can already tell is going to be a difficult situation. And that brings me to the other problem with Matched: it lacks any kind of passion or force. It lacks that spark of empathy that pushes us as readers to care about the character like I care, after only a few pages, about poor Equality 7-2521.2

I only wish I cared that much about Cassia and her friends, or that there was a better book being held up as one of the "most popular books of 2010." Because when it comes down to it, I really want there to be more well-written and engaging books for teens. And though certainly at the very least Matched is innocuous, and it won't destroy a teen's ability to understand good sentence structure (Twilight, I'm looking at you) and it won't, again to use Twilight as an example, make teen girls think it's okay for their love interests to stalk them or something; on the other hand...it doesn't really have anything substantial to offer, either. I really wish it did.3


1. Nota bene: I haven't read The Hunger Games yet, but cleolinda discusses them here. They sound a lot more interesting.

ETA: Also, for two other reviews of Matched, check out the thoughts of r_a_black and cleolinda. And for another review of The Hunger Games, spectralbovine's thoughts.

2. And now I really want to go read Anthem again.

3. For some great YA books/books with teen protagonists or stories appropriate for kids/teens, there's always: T.A. Barron [Heartlight; The Ancient One]; Gene Stratton Porter [Freckles; Girl of the Limberlost]; Esther Friesner [Nobody's Princess; Nobody's Prize; etc.]; Terry Pratchett [Nation; The Tiffany Aching series; The Johnny Maxwell series; The Bromeliad Trilogy]; Susan Cooper [The Dark is Rising series]; C.S. Lewis [The Chronicles of Narnia series]; Ray Bradbury [Dandelion Wine and his other novels about young adults]; Diana Wynne Jones [the Chrestomanci and Howl groups of stories]; Orson Scott Card [Ender's Game]; and...so many more. I realize these are for the most part not the newest books out there, but at least I can assure you they're all quality.

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Comments
brainchild129 From: brainchild129 Date: January 8th, 2011 05:40 am (UTC) (current file)
Everything I've read about this book only makes me think "Wasn't this better done and more interesting when Lois Lowry did something like it in The Giver?" (to which the answer is YES. That and I really need to reread that, as I haven't done so since junior high)
foresthouse From: foresthouse Date: January 8th, 2011 05:43 am (UTC) (current file)
Yeah - I've heard that comparison too, several times. I have to admit (*shame*) I have not read The Giver yet (I have it! I meant to! Years ago! The cover of my copy was a close-up of a face and kind of freaked me out!) but I know that one's a classic.
ashcomp From: ashcomp Date: January 8th, 2011 05:43 am (UTC) (current file)
Don't think I'll be looking for that particular book, now. I also don't think you ever found an answer to your original questionl--"why to people seem to like this thing?"

I think that question is right in there with "How can people vote Republican?"

There's an answer to that one, and it isn't nice.
foresthouse From: foresthouse Date: January 8th, 2011 05:55 am (UTC) (current file)
I honestly can't figure out the answer to the original question. At least with Twilight, messed up as it is, the answer is that it's appealing to various primal urges or desires about wanting to be protected and loved above all else, or (later) wanting to be special (Bella the vampire), or...stuff like that. Again, weird and off as it may be, Twilight has that passion in it in some measure. This book...I just don't have a clue.

And next literary entry, to balance this one out, I will be talking about another YA book I picked up at BEA that I really liked and have actually been meaning to review for some time now.
r_a_black From: r_a_black Date: January 8th, 2011 06:14 am (UTC) (current file)
There were a few times where it wasn't even grammatically correct that. I remember now and then going, "What is this?" at a sentence because it made no sense. It wasn't often enough to be a huge issue though.

I actually thought the most interesting bits of this book were maybe the first couple of pages with the matching ceremony thing. That's all. :\ I wrote a review over hurr if you're interested (ignore everything I wrote before the review, just daily rambles).

You're right though. For the most part it's very.. unremarkable? It's just there, that's really it.

Edited at 2011-01-08 06:15 am (UTC)
foresthouse From: foresthouse Date: January 8th, 2011 06:24 am (UTC) (current file)
Ah, see, because I have the ARC, I just assumed some of that stuff would be fixed by the final. Heh.

Yeah, the matching ceremony and a few other distinct events were fairly interesting; it's too bad the whole book wasn't made up of more interesting action.

I agree so much with your review, too - everything you've said about what frustrated you frustrated me, too.
r_a_black From: r_a_black Date: January 8th, 2011 03:24 pm (UTC) (current file)
Oh snap, I just remembered I had the ARC too. Lol, I should check the final copy because I always forget I'm reading an ARC unless I notice simple spelling typos. XD
foresthouse From: foresthouse Date: January 8th, 2011 05:16 pm (UTC) (current file)
Hee!
spectralbovine From: spectralbovine Date: January 8th, 2011 06:34 am (UTC) (current file)
Read The Hunger Games now!
foresthouse From: foresthouse Date: January 8th, 2011 06:45 am (UTC) (current file)
I does not haz them! But maybe I will get them. There are just so many other books I already own but haven't read yet, heh.
pathology_doc From: pathology_doc Date: January 8th, 2011 12:07 pm (UTC) (current file)

Okay, take me as afflicted with terminal cynicism, but...

It sounds an awful lot to me like it was written to either (a) win a prize or (b) be picked as a class text.

Under those circumstances, the writing doesn't need to be good - it just needs to tick some committee's boxes somewhere. Just about every class text I ever read at high school sounds a lot like this book, in terms of the contrived nature of the world and the stodginess of its writing and characters (A Rag, A Bone and a Hank of Hair and Elidor, I'm looking at you).

In part because I was really tired of reading her stunted thinking process for [*checks book*] 366 pages.

Stunted thinking processes in a central female character? Sounds like it's got all sorts of things in common with Twilight to me!

Matched, by Ally Condie, is apparently being cited... as one of the to-read / most popular YA books of 2010

I wonder just who's doing the citing. Stultifying and patronising reading like this was one of the reasons I went out of my way to avoid "young adult" fiction unless the classroom forced it on me. I got into space opera - E.E. "Doc" Smith - instead, figuring that any SF author who could have his lead characters compare-and-contrast Kipling as a metaphor for their romance had to have something going for him.
foresthouse From: foresthouse Date: January 8th, 2011 05:22 pm (UTC) (current file)

Re: Okay, take me as afflicted with terminal cynicism, but...

Well, I was referring specifically to io9 here, but they are actually the last in a line of several times I've seen the book mentioned recently - I can't remember each place (trolling the internet is so random!), but I know there were at least 2-4 places besides io9. I see Publishers Weekly mentions it as a strong seller in 2010, and Disney's bought the movie rights.

I don't know what the context of the book being written is. All I know about the author's career is that she's a former English teacher. Hmm.
pathology_doc From: pathology_doc Date: January 9th, 2011 10:40 pm (UTC) (current file)

Re: Okay, take me as afflicted with terminal cynicism, but...

All I know about the author's career is that she's a former English teacher. Hmm.

Hmm indeed! Sounds more than ever to me like she's actually done it - started with a premise, ticked all the English-teacher lit-crit trope boxes and written a novel around it. See icon.
aimmyarrowshigh From: aimmyarrowshigh Date: January 8th, 2011 04:23 pm (UTC) (current file)
For the sake of your argument: all of your recommended "YA" are either very old, or no longer considered to be YA novels. Are there any current YA novels that you do respect, or is it easier to dismiss the genre as a whole now that you are an adult who reads over the expected level of YA comprehension?
cleolinda From: cleolinda Date: January 8th, 2011 05:32 pm (UTC) (current file)
Is she really dismissing the genre as a whole, though? I mean, I think there's a point to be made that none of her good-book examples are current, and maybe even the point that she doesn't like a current book because she's read it as an adult, but I don't see her dismissing the genre, even the current genre, as a whole.
aimmyarrowshigh From: aimmyarrowshigh Date: January 8th, 2011 06:33 pm (UTC) (current file)
I'm just curious to see whether she can name any current or recently released YA (not middle-grade, either, nor adult-book-starring-a-teen-protagonist; genre Young Adult) because, given that I'm guessing she is adult, it's not an active dismissal, but a natural gap between intended audience and adult expectation if not.
foresthouse From: foresthouse Date: January 8th, 2011 08:45 pm (UTC) (current file)
When I get finished with the write-up, I'll post my review of The DUFF, which fits all of your categories here and came out around the same time as Matched. Feel free to check that review out if you're interested.

Also if I have the time I'll go ahead and review Nation (2009), which, while not dystopian, is in a sense post-apocalyptic (to the main character). Again, definitely fits your definition of YA.

And I can name a lot more current YA, since I keep up with these things; but I will only give opinions, of course, on those I've had a chance to read. Also, I don't feel like having high expectations for the quality of the literature, whatever the intended audience, is ever a bad thing. It's not because I'm an adult that I expect good writing and compelling stories. It's because I am an avid reader who appreciates those qualities, and have ever since I was a small child.
aimmyarrowshigh From: aimmyarrowshigh Date: January 8th, 2011 06:34 pm (UTC) (current file)
And to disclaimer: I have not read Matched yet, and it may truly be bland and terrible. The lack of current YA that she deems as noteworthy, however, causes me to be skeptical of her expectations and understanding of what the level of writing in a mainstream-audience frontlist YA Dystopian would be.
cleolinda From: cleolinda Date: January 8th, 2011 07:08 pm (UTC) (current file)
Well, I mean, I know we both like Harry Potter. I don't know if she's read Lemony Snicket, but I know I liked those. I really liked The Hunger Games, His Dark Materials--there's probably something else that I'm not thinking of. Honestly, I'm terrible about keeping up with current fiction, but most of what I have bothered to keep up with is YA, now that I think of it.

I thought Matched was bland and half-baked, if not actually terrible. I've talked to a few people who did like Matched. Foresthouse's opinion is separate from mine (obviously), and may be affected by the fact that she has or has not read much current YA. However, I can attest that it is possible to criticize Matched and like current YA. In fact, I wrote about it Matched in comparison to Twilight and The Hunger Games (it was explicitly compared to both of them on the book jacket), not "adult" books.

Again, my opinion isn't hers, and no one's really asking about mine. I just think it's odd to claim that she doesn't like Matched because she doesn't get the current YA genre, particularly since she didn't criticize the genre as a whole. I'm just saying that I agree with her on a number of points re: Matched, and I *do* seem to have an understanding of YA.
aimmyarrowshigh From: aimmyarrowshigh Date: January 8th, 2011 07:21 pm (UTC) (current file)
Harry Potter, Lemony Snicket, His Dark Materials, and Narnia are all considered middle-grade by current standards, not YA, as far as I've been told by agents, publishers, and other writers in the genre. Middle-grade books have a distinctly different tone, thematic scope, and audience expectation than YA books. HDM veers into YA in some markets due to local censorship/guardianship moves, but generally only HBP and HPDH are considered YA-level materials as far as Harry Potter goes.

And like I said, my comment was purely to find out whether or not the review was by someone who does keep up with the similar genres of current YA (the Dystopian trend, the paranormals/urban fantasies, and perhaps most saliently, the Mainstream Frontlist push). It's a valid review in that all well-thought reviews are valid, and it's undoubtedly and educated, considered, and well-thought review -- I merely wanted to know the perspective from which it was written.
ilikeblue From: ilikeblue Date: January 8th, 2011 08:12 pm (UTC) (current file)

Middle Grade

I'm not familiar with the official distinction, but I can see early Harry Potter and Lemony Snickett being middle grade. I cant understand how His Dark Materials would fit into that same category though.
aimmyarrowshigh From: aimmyarrowshigh Date: January 8th, 2011 07:23 pm (UTC) (current file)
And obviously: I'm not an expert, and it was never my intention to make anyone feel maligned -- I just follow current YA very closely and was curious to see where the review's genesis originated. I question most glowing reviews of current YA releases, too. Especially those as pushed to a meteoric rise in mainstream coverage as Matched.
foresthouse From: foresthouse Date: January 8th, 2011 08:55 pm (UTC) (current file)
I'm honestly curious here - Why should my expectations and understanding of good writing be affected by what "a mainstream-audience frontlist YA Dystopian would be." I've read everything from picture books to deep philosophical treaties, and obviously understand the differences between them and temper my opinions of their quality accordingly. But I don't base my opinions of quality on what's making the most money or was written for the mainstream or is being pushed as a frontlist YA book; nor can I see any reason why I should. The level of writing should be: quality writing. No matter what the mainstream popular thing is.
foresthouse From: foresthouse Date: January 8th, 2011 06:20 pm (UTC) (current file)
I realize (and noted) that many of my reccs there are on the older side. This is chiefly because picking the top new books wasn't the point of my review, so to pick those I basically glanced at my bookshelf and quickly picked the most solidly good books sitting there to fit the definition (and because I see no problem in handing a young adult an older book, and know that I myself got a lot of educational benefits and a much larger worldview from reading novels besides the contemporary "it" thing. If I had a child, I'd certainly want them to read the good stuff, whether it were a year old or 100. Great books are like that - they last). That doesn't mean I've dismissed the genre or don't still read young adult fiction or that I'm not open to it being terrific. I certainly don't find it "easier" to dismiss the genre as a whole - I'm not some crotchety "back in my day, we had GOOD YA" reader. I've always read out of my age group, both older and younger, and continue to do so and enjoy well-written books for any age group. And I'm not actually making an argument anywhere that those are the only good YA books, though yes, I did state that I wish there were more good books for teens right now - but that's both true, and because what I mean there is that the ones we are hearing the most about, and thus the ones most teens are probably reading, are not of the best quality, either in content or (sometimes) also in writing style/quality. That doesn't mean I don't think there's anything good out there now.

Also, there are none listed that don't still fit the YA definition: novels written for, published for, or marketed to adolescents and adults ages approx. 12 - 18; novels that address sophisticated and challenging issues and include complex characters who are often approaching adulthood. Please do let me know which you refer to as no longer YA, as while some of these are classics, I don't believe that ever takes them from the category that is considered YA.

Regarding the pub date, some are actually quite new. For instance, I Shall Wear Midnight was published in Sept. 2010, and Nation (which won the Michael L. Prinz Honor Award for excellence in books for teens, and is WELL worth a read) was published in 2009. Diana Wynne Jones continues to publish excellent YA (House of Many Ways is from 2008), and Esther Friesner is definitely still going, having just finished drafting her newest (and see: Sphinx's Queen - 2010; Nobody's Prize - 2008; Nobody's Princess - 2007).

I would have mentioned Harry Potter too, except sometimes I forget that it's YA, given the worldwide impact it's had. :) But - I'd include Harry Potter. And while I didn't 100% like the Philip Pullman series enough to land it on my list of "best" books, I still found it far superior to things like Matched and Twilight, so it could get a mention - though I still feel it was missing something, possibly that undefinable thing sometimes referred to as "heart." At the very least it's still miles above Matched. Also, although I haven't had a chance to read the more recent ones, I know the first of the So You Want to Be a Wizard series by Diane Duane was fun, and that she's still going with that (or was last year) - so I'd infer those more recent ones are probably of fine quality too.

I will freely admit that I haven't read a ton of new YA lately, btw. But: a) it's mostly because I haven't had the time to read anything lately, and am focused at the moment on reading some more classic things I've bought but had not read yet, such as The Cryptonomicon and Farewell, Summer; and b) that makes my review of this book no less valid, so I don't really see that it matters to anything I'm saying about this particular book. Quality is quality; books can be better in comparison to others, but they can't be made good just because they're compared to another. I'd stand by my opinion of this book whether I'd read every YA book last year or none.

I'm actually planning to post a review of a different YA novel that came out at the same time as Matched, and, while it had flaws, I really liked that one. So that will be coming up if/when I have the time.
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