It’s been a long wait for fans of Ally Condie’s Matched-trilogy: The ultimate chapter, Reached finally reveals the fates of protagonists Cassia, Ky and Xander. They have grown up in a utopian society where all lives are fully controlled by the government; where you live, which career you will pursue or to whom you will be matched and start a family with. Cassia has long since found out that this is not right. Although she is officially ‘matched’ to her best friend Xander, she has fallen in love with Ky, a boy from their neighborhood without official citizen status. He is an Aberration, and is therefore not allowed to have a partner. Nonetheless, he secretly meets with Cassia and shares with her their scarce knowledge of mankind’s literature and poetry. The immense longing for freedom of speech and creativity is an ongoing theme, as the ‘Authorities’ only allow certain approved pieces of art.
Reached follows Xander while he is doing his official work as a medic in the Society’s major cities. Secretly, he has joined the rebellious movement called the Rising, and is waiting for a sign from their mysterious ‘Pilot’ to act. At that moment, Cassia and Ky are in the outer provinces, where they have also joined the Rising and wait for orders. Cassia is sent to work from inside the Society, while Ky must fly errands to several areas. This means a renewed separation for them, the sting of which continues throughout the story.
While Xander is deeply passionate about the Pilot and the Rising, Ky remains suspicious and doesn’t trust a new institution of power so easily. Cassia doesn’t know where to stand, but still continues her work for the Rising. She finds strength in following her own path by searching for any form of artistic expression. She discovers that people can sing, dance, write and paint, and that their feelings actually matter.
The Rising moves into action: they plan to spread the Plague, to demonstrate that the Society can’t control everything, and that people’s lives are in danger. Then the Pilot is to provide the cure to save the population, and win their trust. One doesn’t need a Nobel prize in Medicine to realize that this could go terribly wrong. And it does. A mutation of the virus spreads to many, and few are immune. Now it’s up to Xander, Ky and Cassia to help find a new cure, while the Society and the Rising both try to hold on to their power. It turns out that they are worryingly similar in their methods of preserving order. Cassia discovers that you should never hand over total control to any institute of power, but that you must think for yourself to keep your destiny in your own hands.
One cannot read the Matched-trilogy without recalling George Orwell’s 1984. Like this famous dystopian novel, it addresses the dangers of total governmental control most sharply. However, Reached offers not only the option of fighting for your freedom, but also holds on to a feeling of hope that is long gone in 1984. This does not make Cassia’s life in her Society less difficult, but it does give the main character some spirit to fight for values that are worth fighting for. Instead of leaving readers with an empty feeling of desperation, the novel defends the viewpoint that your own thoughts and actions do actually matter. It invites one to discuss and defend privacy and freedom, without making that effort a hopeless one.
Reached is wonderfully written, with a great sense for poetry, art, emotions and ways of exploring new paths. It’s a beautiful piece of children’s literature and would be a very good addition to any classroom.