Thursday, March 26, 2020

Matched, by Ally Condie

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The Society has created a seemingly Utopian life for its citizens. People are "matched" with a partner at age 17. Their Match is chosen based on common interests, intelligence, and if the genes of each person pair nicely to create healthy offspring. The matched pair marry at 21, have children around the age of 24, and die at 80.

Teens learn important skills needed for a job assigned to them when they get older by practicing after school. Some get their work position while they are still 17.

The Society is divided into the Provinces and the Outer Provinces. Cassia Reyes lives in Oria Province. She is nervous. It's the night of her Match Banquet, a party thrown annually where all the 17-year-olds find out who their Match is. It's also her 17th birthday.

When Cassia learns her Match is her best friend Xander, she feels elated and relieved. It's a rarity to be Matched with someone from your Province, and even rarer to be Matched with someone you've known your whole life.

But when Cassia gets home, she plugs in the microcard she received, a small credit-card-like object that contains information about your Match. Cassia already knows everything about Xander but she plugs the card in anyway.

For a minute, it's Xander's face that appears on the portscreen, which takes up the greater portion of a wall. As his picture appears, a voice connected to the card announces, "Cassia Reyes, The Society is pleased to present you with your Match." She smiles, looking at his face. But then the screen goes dark. The voice says again, "Cassia Reyes, the Society is pleased to present you with your Match." And a new face appears. 

This face belongs to one of Cassia's classmates, a boy named Ky. This must be some sort of cruel trick. The Society makes no mistakes, and no one has two Matches. Later, she learns that Ky also couldn't have been Matched with anyone because of his classification. Ky is an Aberration, meaning that he or one of his close relatives broke the law and was caught. 

Cassia is told by an Official that there was simply a malfunction on the microcard and she has nothing to worry about. Cassia knows she should feel relieved, but instead, she feels sorry for Ky. 

As time goes on, however, she begins to have feelings for Ky, even though she's already Matched.

Ky begins to open up to her about his past, how his village in the Outer Provinces was attacked, how he now has to live with his aunt and uncle in Oria. He also shares forbidden knowledge; he shows her how to hand-write, and he gives her forbidden poems (The Society has preserved only 100 of certain things - the Hundred History Lessons and the Hundred Poems - the rest have been destroyed.)

Cassia knows that her feelings for Ky are illegal, but she can't help it. How can she be with her Match, but love another?

Matched is the first novel in a trilogy about a future, where everything is as it should be, people marry their (seemingly) perfect Match, early death is almost nonexistent, and even cancer has a cure. The Society governs all, keeping its citizens in a safe little bubble. However, everything is only great until it's not, when a flaw is found in the system... 

I would recommend this book for ages 12+, as the topics of forbidden love and a totalitarian government might be a bit much for pre-tweens. The Lincoln Journal Star, from Lincoln, Nebraska, compares it to The Giver, for those of you who have read that.

I enjoyed the story a lot, and can't wait to begin reading the sequel, Crossed

Monday, March 23, 2020

The Program, by Suzanne Young The Program (1) (8601404441714): Young, Suzanne: Books

Don't cry. Don't be upset. Mourn privately. Hide depression. These are the unspoken rules followed by every American aged 13-17. Showing that you are upset, acting depressed, or crying in public are all things that could land you in The Program, a six-week intense therapy session in a mental clinic. The Program is the only known cure for teen depression, and was started when teen suicide was declared a pandemic.

People never go to The Program willingly. They are turned in if they are suspected of being depressed. Then they are taken (or, more accurately, dragged away) to The Program from school, a friend's place, a vacation site, or even their own home, wherever they are. If a teen runs away from home, they are tracked down by The Program, and they become the subject of a national manhunt.

Patients leave The Program happy, carefree, relaxed. They leave, literally starting a new life, because The Program works by erasing memories. People leave remembering nothing except what they are told.

Sloane Barstow is having a hard time suppressing her emotions every day, acting calm filling out the depression assessment at school, acting happy talking with peers and family, not reacting when a student is dragged out of the school by the handlers, medical personnel who manage The Program. Her brother drowned himself. Her friend was taken away. One of her other friends ingested Quikdeath, a poison sold on the black market.

She can only reveal her true feelings when she is around James, her boyfriend. She can't tell her therapist (whom she sees to cope with her brother's suicide), she can't tell her teachers or peers, and she definitely can't tell her parents. Parents are the most likely to turn a teenager over to The Program, out of fear for losing them.

James had made Sloane a promise, that he'd do anything and everything to keep them out of The Program. But when that promise fails, and they both get caught, will they make it out, together?

The Program is the first dystopian novel in a series of six. It immerses us in a world where so many teens, 1 in 3, actually, have committed suicide, that traditional therapy has been abandoned as a means of treatment, and replaced with mind-altering drugs in a mental health facility.

Teens live in fear that they will be taken by the white-coated handlers, and have their mind erased. (Perhaps it is precisely that pressure and fear from The Program that has driven teen suicide  up?)

This book hits a bit closer to home than most. I will admit that I have struggled with depression on multiple occasions, and that I had been afraid to tell people, so I dealt with it in other ways. Sometimes I wished I could just forget everything.

Teen depression is becoming way too commonplace in everyday life, and something needs to be done. But maybe memory erasure is not the way to go. Teenagers, children, and adults of all ages need to know that it's okay to talk to someone if they are sad or scared. Needing help is not a weakness, asking for help makes a person strong, because it takes courage to admit it. Hiding suffering is a weakness, because a person is afraid of confronting it.

Teens, don't be afraid to talk to someone like I was. It is okay. You can tell someone. Your parents, your school counselor, a therapist, anyone. Even writing it down in a journal or diary can help relieve a bit of the pressure. Find a healthy outlet to make yourself feel better. Playing a sport, curling up with a good book, trying out a new recipe, writing a cool story, listening to your favorite songs, calling someone up just to chat, these are all great ways to release a bit of that pent-up emotion.

Parents and teachers, if you think that your kid/student is struggling with depression, don't be hesitant to talk to them about it. Even asking the simple question of "Are you feeling okay?" or "How are you?" will let them know that you are there for them and care about them. If they know that, then they feel like they can trust you and can come talk to you if they are having issues.

Deep and heartfelt, this novel is sure to win a spot among your favorites. I recommend this for an audience of 13+. 

Friday, March 20, 2020



I’d like to apologize for the long wait on new posts. 

I’ve just started high school and have been very busy juggling my classes and homework, as well as other stresses and pressures (I’m a 14-year-old girl in America, so you do the math…). I’ve also had swim practice to go to. 

But as of a week or two ago, my school shut down on account of the spread of COVID-19. I will be taking the opportunity to put up more posts in the near future, at least for a while!


Julia K.


WELCOME to my blog about books I have read, and books I recommend.

If you are looking for books in the age range of 9-16 (grades 4-10), then maybe I can help you decide which book to read! If you are a stude...