Since the conclusion of Suzanne Collins's Hunger Games trilogy, readers of dystopian YA fiction have been looking for something --- anything --- to fill the void. There are plenty of other dystopian novels out there, to be sure, some even with as compelling and complicated a heroine. But few have both captured readers' hearts and raised their pulse rates as convincingly as The Hunger Games did --- although Ally Condie's Matched trilogy comes pretty darn close. Now, with CROSSED, the second volume in the projected trilogy, Condie adds even more depth to the world she has created, and propels the action forward even as she offers additional insights into individual characters in crisis.
"With CROSSED, the second volume in the projected trilogy, Condie adds even more depth to the world she has created, and propels the action forward even as she offers additional insights into individual characters in crisis."
CROSSED opens with two poetic epigrams: "Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night" by Dylan Thomas and "Crossing the Bar" by Alfred Tennyson. The Tennyson poem, as it turns out, plays a major role in the novel's plot, particularly in the lives of those who are staging an underground rebellion against the authoritarian Society, for whom the Tennyson poem offers coded clues much as African-American spirituals offered hidden directions to those following the Underground Railroad. The Thomas poem, on the other hand, offers a more thematic gloss on the novel: "Rage, rage against the dying of the light" is one of its repeated lines, and this might be a motto of sorts for Cassia and her love interest, Ky, as they struggle to find the rebellion --- and reunite with each other.
At the end of MATCHED, Ky, who is a Society-rejected Aberration, was sent off to the Outer Colonies --- in part due to Cassia's own actions. Regretting her role in Ky's increasingly tenuous future, Cassia decides to stop at nothing to reunite with him, including posing as an Aberration herself so that she can share his exile. But finding Ky is not easy, and both Ky and Cassia soon learn that the rebellion and supports they had hoped to discover are difficult to find, especially since trying to escape detection by the Society. Meanwhile, Cassia --- while still pursuing Ky with single-minded dedication --- also struggles with her lingering feelings for her "official" Match, Xander, who, it turns out, may have secrets of his own.
In CROSSED, Condie is able to move beyond the (granted, fascinating) world-building that occupied much of MATCHED, instead focusing simultaneously on furthering both the romance and rebellion plots and on providing more nuanced characterizations for both her primary and secondary characters (including some key new ones introduced in CROSSED for the first time). Cassia and Ky narrate alternating chapters, building suspense and offering additional insights into their own thoughts and development. One of the most intriguing aspects of the world Condie has created is that cultural artifacts --- poems, artworks, even fragments of classic stories --- serve as the most powerful contraband currency in this underground world.
A ripping good story that is in large part about the power and relevance of story? That's a book any book lover can get behind --- and thousands will be waiting to see how Condie manages to bring the story full circle in the trilogy's third volume, due to be published in November 2012.
Reviewed by on November 21, 2011