"We seldom get into trouble when we speak softly. It is only when we raise our voices that the sparks fly and tiny molehills become great mountains of contention."
- - Gordon B. Hinckley
June 5, 2012
Crossed: A Relationship of Equals
by Erin Cowles

Many great novels start with a simple "what if..." question. For Ally Condie, it was when her economist husband asked, "What if the government could decide who people would marry, and what if that were a really great system?" Condie took that question and created Matched, the first novel of a very popular dystopian trilogy. The protagonist, Cassia, lives in a data-controlled world. The Society's database matches its citizens' skill sets with jobs they will excel in. Its database monitors their health statistics and regulates their diets and exercise to optimize health. Its database determines who each citizen's perfect spouse would be, and does an impressive job with its selections. But the database has failed Cassia. She's fallen in love with Ky, a boy the Society won't allow to marry because his parents broke society rules (although Xander, her romantic match from the database, is pretty amazing too). And as she pushes against Society rules, she learns to see the costs of the ordered and pristine world the Society offers.

The next installment in the series is Crossed. Cassia has rejected the world the Society chose for her, and she's decided to fight against the Society. At the novel's start, the Society has sent Ky to serve as unarmed cannon fodder in the conflict between the Society and the mysterious Enemy, and Cassia is working to locate him. The novel's action centers around Cassia and Ky's struggle to escape and search for each other, and their struggle to make their relationship work when they succeed. There are forces larger than themselves at play, and they have to decide who to trust and if they want to rebel against the Society in the same way. And don't worry, Team Xander--he's still in the game and more interesting than ever.

Confession: When I read Matched, I carried it around the house with me so I could sneak in a page while the soup simmered or my toddler occupied herself pulling all the toilet paper off the roll (hey, don't judge). Matched charmed me. It captured the thrill of first rebellion and first love.

Crossed has a very different feel from Matched, and many people are going to dislike it as a result. While it's true that it doesn't have the magic of the first, falling in love is always more glamorous than staying in love, and this is a book about staying in love. I like how the relationship between Ky and Cassia grows. In many books, the romance falls into one of two categories: boy solves all of girl's problems, or strong and faultless girl doesn't really need boy in any meaningful way. Matched is a different animal. Cassia and Ky both save each other, both make mistakes, both sacrifice for each other, but both fight for what matters to them. It's difficult to draw a realistic relationship of flawed equals, and Condie excels here.

Even beyond the romance, the two novels have different strengths. Matched's strength was in its character building; its world didn't feel very different from other dystopias I've read. Crossed's greatest strength is its world building. She introduces new elements to the mythology that make this world more of her own. Uncovering the mysteries about the world is part of the fun, so I'm not going to spoil them here. I'll just say the pacing of her revelations is spot on.

Condie's writing and her characters have matured a lot between the two books. I'll admit the book is not entirely satisfying in itself; it's more of a bridge to the trilogy's conclusion. But she's positioned herself extremely well for the final book, and I think I'm going to like where it ends up.

Read this book if …

  • You liked The Hunger Games but could do without the carnage.
  • You stopped pining for Prince Charming when you were too young to even date him--you want a realistic and healthy romance.
  • You want affirmation of the power of poetry, art and the great outdoors.

Target audience: ages 12 and up, female.

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About Erin Cowles

Erin Cowles is a mother of two, living in the Washington D.C. suburbs. Before motherhood, she used her masters in library and information science in a law firm library. Now she uses it to find good books for her family at her local public library. She teaches part time for a SAT prep company, where she enjoys the challenge of making rather dull subject matter interesting and making college a reality for her students. During women's history month, she profiles Mormon women that inspire her at ldswomenshistory.blogspot.com.

Erin currently serves as a counselor in her ward's primary presidency.

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