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Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Ally Condie's "Reached"... or, the end is the beginning is the end

Here's the thing about trilogies (or any series of books, for that matter): there are only two ways you can feel about them once you start reading.  Reaction A is that you read the book, or the first couple of books, but you don't have any serious inclination to read the whole series.  This happens when either the series is not particularly good (would it be cruel to name names here?....), or something off-putting happens to turn you away from the series.  The later of these distasteful episodes happened to me with Game of Thrones (didn't like the uber-violence after book 2), and also happens to most people when they read Wheel of Time (book 7 wardrobe descriptions, anyone?).

Then there is Reaction B.  As opposed to the disinterest or turn-offs that happen in Reaction A, Reaction B is when you feel like YOU JUST MIGHT DIE if you don't find out what happens in the next book RIGHT THIS BLOODY MINUTE.  I refer to Reaction B as the "addict reaction"; you are so invested in the book and it's characters and then the author has the audacity to end the damn thing on a cliffhanger and make you wait four years until they write the next book.  (Or like twelve years... George R.R. Martin, I'm looking at you.)  Reaction B is tantamount to literary torture.  It leaves you sleepless at night and makes you constantly check the "books on order" list at the library on a daily basis until it finally arrives.  And when the book stork finally comes you crack open the first page with glee and feel the rush that comes with satisfying the addiction that the author has created. 

But then you get to the end.  And when you arrive at that end you have to face the fact that there will never be anymore of this series, ever.  And that's when (worst case scenario) you have to start talk therapy to deal with your loss (I'm sure Harry Potter made more than a few people feel this way).  Or for those less prone to dramatizing their literary experiences, maybe you just write a review.

And thus here we are.  I finally finished reading Ally Condie's Matched triology.  And while waiting for Reached to be released was a bit torturous, I can assure you that the final book is completely worth the wait. 

And I like the covers, too.

(PS - clickez-ici on the links to read my reviews of the first two books: Matched and Crossed.)

Reached brings the series to a dramatic (if somewhat a little predictable) conclusion.  After introducing multiple character perspectives in Crossed, Condie continues to add to the character voices, importantly adding Xander to the first-person rotation.  I was delighted to see this addition, as it finally makes Xander a main character in the work.  Despite his important roles in the other two books, he was very much a background character; the story advances greatly when his perspective is added.  When a devastating new strain of the plague breaks loose in the middle of the rebellion, Cassia, Ky and Xander all rise to fight it, each in their own way.  I found the three perspectives to be very complimentary and provided a wonderful, full picture of the events in the novel.  Cassia's perspective as trader and poet provides insight into both the Society and Rising, while Xander's overwhelming task of finding a cure lends realism to the story as he becomes increasingly burdened.  Even Ky's perspective, in a fugue state for a large portion of the book, is surprisingly revealing.  All of the perspectives allow for much greater character development (especially evident with Xander) and really aid in the storytelling and progression of the book. The only characters I struggled with were the Pilot and Hunter.  Their motivations were among the few mysteries that were not clearly resolved at the end of the story.  Considering his overall importance to the plot, the Pilot's appearance and actions were surprisingly emotionless and his character is never really revealed.  But this could be intentional, to pair with the idea that everyone has their own pilot therefore the Pilot never gains a specific identity of his own.  As for Hunter, his actions are both infuriating and thought-provoking. And while his motivations are not made directly obvious, I think this was used to demonstrate how broken a man he really was.

One trait of a "good book" (in my humble opinion) is knowing when to reveal.  Condie has great timing in this regard.  The reader is enticed through the work with cliffhanger chapter endings, and the big reveals are given out in a piecemeal fashion.  This not only keeps the reader going by rewarding them with the secrets of the work as they read, but it also prevents a massive blow-out of an ending.  Too many books I've read lack sufficient denouement, and end while the reader is still reeling from the climax and/or big reveal.  Condie's pacing and gradual reveals don't ruin the book's climax, but in fact make the book all the more suspenseful.   Just when the reader believes they understand what's going on, perspectives change and events jump and there is another surprise waiting.

And speaking of the ending.  While Reached may not end on a decisive note, it does effectively end by introducing a new beginning.  I'm a total sucker for this kind of ending (I'm sure it drives other people crazy), I love that the author can recognize that even though their telling of the story is over, the story itself goes on, just like life.  While I was a bit irked by how everyone coupled-off at the end, (no I'm not going to tell you whom with whom, read the damn book)  overall I was satisfied with the ending, and can leave the work in peace instead of needing an intensive book club session to mourn my loss.

So in conclusion, after reading all three books in the YA triology Matched, I feel like I can say that anyone who enjoys an exciting teen read should definitely commit the time and invest their hearts in this series.  All three are worthwhile reads, and I look forward to Ally Condie's next work.

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