(forgive the grammar and punctuation once I really start ranting)I'm not entirely sure why so many of my posting are prompted by books. Perhaps it's just because I seem to have a bit of time to read them now that I am between school terms, but that is not true. I always make time to read. I fuels my soul in a way. Even if I was under loads of homework, they would not have gotten done in the last 24 hours. I would have still read this book. Matched by Ally Condie.
It is one of those dystopia novels. There are others it reminds me of: the Uglies series by Scott Westerfield, The Hunger Games which are so popular now, Feed, that I read a long time ago, and others. They are of a society where some upper echelon makes the decisions to keep all the regular folks in line. Everything is designed to be perfect, no poverty, starvation or disease, etc. This particular novel focuses on "The Society"'s system of matching you to your perfect mate. Circumstances arise, and the main character balks at this, and falls in love with some other than her matched.
I asked myself why I loved this book even though there are so many dystopian novels like it? Why do these characters always decide to fight even at such great personal sacrifice? Why would you even need to write stories about these fictional places; they are so utopian who would want to fight? And of course, would I fight?
I dwelt on the last question first. Yes. Of course. It is why I crave these books, it is why I care to read, to teach, to want to make a difference in this non-utopian society we do have. I would fight. Funny, cause I always say if the end of the world turns out to be as rough as it sounds, please let me die in the first round of bullets. I'd rather not live through that trial. But the societies in these novels, I would fight. I would fight for my free will. I would fight for the opportunity to make MY mistakes if it meant being able to make MY decisions. So I get why these characters fight, because if you don't have free will, you have nothing.
My good friend recommended I read this book. It sounded intriguing, and I almost gave in and bought it for my kindle, but then I saw it on my niece's bookshelf yesterday and devoured it in one day. My friend recommended it during our conversation about Mormon culture and society. I am a devout Mormon by the way for anyone reading this and not knowing that. There were many similarities in the Society in this novel and the sort of idyllic Mormon society that people have tried time and time again to build in different places. I lived in Utah for 8 months in high school, and it reminded a bit of Utah. Also a bit of communism ideology too, with each receiving only what they needed for comfortable subsistence and doing professions as best they could that were best suited to their abilities (sorry communism, but greed screwed you up). But the part about these idyllic little families, with uniformity in culture, reminded me a bit of Utah. In this book, the Society had chosen to keep only 100 of the "best" songs, paintings, poems, etc (very 1984). Creating beauty in art was actually forbidden, doing anything non-conformist resulted in consequences. It reminded me of Utah in that doing anything non-conformist resulted in ostracism from its society. Yes, Utah prides itself on supporting the arts, but only certain kind of arts, only those deemed what I would call "wholesome for society". While not bad in and of itself, anything outside of those boundaries was considered equal to evil. I know I am generalizing a lot about Utah and Mormon culture, but this is the experience I had there. Yet, it was my devout Mormon friend who agreed with me about seeing the beauty in the dark and fringes of art and perfection in its imperfections.
(side note: had to pause writing this to pre-order the next book Crossed for my kindle. Nov 1st!)
We also talked about the Society's matching system. When she first told me about it, I balked. Love should be a bit messy. But over this past week since we talked, I can better see its allure. To be matched with someone you know you can love and have a good life with? To not have the heartbreak, the gut wrenching pain that comes with the messier parts of love? How can any person resist that allure. Yes, perhaps it's not as passionate, but it is safe. Isn't that what we are taught is best for real life? To not pretend like our lives are like romance movies, fairy tales, or romance novels? But then again, what is so wrong with wanting that passionate, messy love? The kind that grows with adversity and the kind with heartbreak that makes you stronger in yourself, because you know more who you are and what you can survive and what you deserve. Is there some balance of both out there? I hope so.
What I thought was interesting about the fact that Ally Condie, the author, is Mormon too, was that she is against the Society. It is the antagonist. She lives in Salt Lake City, Utah. She sees the good and bad from this. She can see the good things that come from trying to make these wholesome family societies. But she also sees that more important is the choice. Free will, or free agency as it is called in Mormon doctrine is vital to us. Honestly, I think it is vital to our souls, to have this choice. That is what these protagonists are all fighting for really. Free Agency. So I suppose that it is surprising that this is the first Mormon author's dystopian novel I've read. (wait, I think I read one called The Alliance when I was a kid, but is was more post-apocalyptic society) Because all the authors seem to get that Free Agency is the most important. It is what these characters sacrifice and fight for. So I guess I'm not surprised I would too.
Sooo making sure my niece finishes reading this book (but hopefully she never finds my blog!)