[Sci Fi Month] Series Reflection: Matched (Ally Condie)

Cassia has always trusted the Society to make the right choices for her: what to read, what to watch, what to believe. So when Xander’s face appears on-screen at her Matching ceremony, Cassia knows with complete certainty that he is her ideal mate… until she sees Ky Markham’s face flash for an instant before the screen fades to black.

The Society tells her it’s a glitch, a rare malfunction, and that she should focus on the happy life she’s destined to lead with Xander. But Cassia can’t stop thinking about Ky, and as they slowly fall in love, Cassia begins to doubt the Society’s infallibility and is faced with an impossible choice: between Xander and Ky, between the only life she’s known and a path that no one else has dared to follow.

Series stats

Author: Ally Condie
Number of books: 3
Total number of pages: 1281

Opening line:

Now that I’ve found the way to fly, which direction should I go into the night?

Status on my shelves:

I don’t actually own any of these – I borrowed all three from the library!

Why I picked this series up:

I spotted this in the library and picked it up just because it sounded interesting.  I hadn’t read any reviews for it or anything, literally just saw it in the library and decided to give it a go.

Why I liked it:

In Cassia’s world, science and the Society regulate everything, so that individuals’ lives are seemingly perfect.  Life in the Society is easy, and all very civilized.  Individuals have their whole lives regulated, from their career to their diets to their deaths; everything is moderated to the perfect balance for each individual.

On the night of her Match ceremony, Cassia sees her best friend Xander on-screen, exactly as she’d hoped.  What she didn’t expect was to also see a flash of another face: Ky Markham, a boy she knows but doesn’t exactly spend her time thinking about.  Told that the appearance of Ky’s face was a glitch (but not a mistake because the Society doesn’t make mistakes), Cassia is strongly encouraged to stay away from Ky.  She knows she should – why should she put her match with Xander at risk? Xander is fun-loving, witty and her best friend.  The Society has matched them because they’re a perfect match for each other, genetically and emotionally.  There is no logical reason to put that at jeopardy, and yet Cassia is curious about Ky.  She can’t resist getting to know him better, slowly developing stronger feelings that put all three of them in an awkward situation.  Legally she has to stick to her match, and to break that match for Ky would put both of them at risk and break Xander’s heart.
Matched, Crossed and Reached all read slightly differently for me.  In Matched, I really enjoyed the world building, and I loved reading about Cassia’s family.  I also grew to love Ky and Xander, but became concerned I may end up hating Cassia.  She sometimes came across as very shallow and inconsistent in her affections, and there were times I got fed up of her.

Crossed was a much slower book than Matched, and I’d say this was the book that showed off Ally Condie’s poetic writing to the greatest extent.  Crossed felt much more character driven than Matched, and I started to feel more like Cassia had genuine feelings for Xander and Ky.

Reached is probably the most dramatic book of the series, with chapters from multiple points of view and various dramatic plot twists I can’t mention!  I enjoyed all three books despite their differences, though  Crossed was my least favourite and felt like a good example of middle book syndrome.


The love triangle in Matched is remarkably well done.  Both Ky and Xander felt well-developed, with both good personality traits and some bad ones.  Each had some great moments, and there were times when I felt like one was a great choice and times when I felt like the other was better.  Although Cassia’s dilemma felt very shallow to begin with, as the series went on it became more plausible and believable.  My only criticism really is that the final ending to the triangle felt a bit too manufactured.

One more thing:
Crossed is a very easy dystopian series.  I found it easy to read through quickly, despite Condie’s sometimes flowery writing style.  Crossed felt like it was aimed at a slightly younger audience than some other dystopian series, although I can’t for the life of me pinpoint why! Although the science behind the series isn’t particularly taxing, the storyline isn’t juvenile, and there are still some dark twists (it’s still a dystopian after all)I found that the slightly simpler storyline and more poetic writing were unexpected, but also quite a refreshing change of pace once I got into the flow of it.

[Sci Fi Month] Series Reflection: Divergent (Veronica Roth)

In Beatrice Prior’s dystopian Chicago world, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue–Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is–she can’t have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself.

During the highly competitive initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris and struggles alongside her fellow initiates to live out the choice they have made. Together they must undergo extreme physical tests of endurance and intense psychological simulations, some with devastating consequences. As initiation transforms them all, Tris must determine who her friends really are–and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes exasperating boy fits into the life she’s chosen. But Tris also has a secret, one she’s kept hidden from everyone because she’s been warned it can mean death. And as she discovers unrest and growing conflict that threaten to unravel her seemingly perfect society, Tris also learns that her secret might help her save the ones she loves . . . or it might destroy her.

Series stats

Author: Veronica Roth
Number of books: 3 (5 novellas also available)
Total number of pages (novellas not included): 1538

Opening lines:

There is one mirror in my house.  It is behind a sliding panel in the hallway upstairs.  Our faction allows me to stand in front of it on the second day of every third month, the day my mother cuts my hair.

Status on my shelves:

I own books two and three of this series but don’t yet own a copy of Divergent since I borrowed a library copy.  Ironically I think Divergent is my favourite of the trilogy!

Why I picked this series up:

I confess – this is a series I picked up because of the hype! The series kept getting recommended to me by Goodreads and Amazon, and I’d heard lots of good things about it.  I reserved myself a library copy and that was that!

How I felt about it:

Sixteen-year olds in this dystopian world have to attend a Choosing Ceremony, where they choose the faction they will belong to for the rest of their lives.  There are five factions in this world, each dedicated to one trait.  Tris has grown up as part of the Abnegation, the selfless.  The other four factions are the Erudite, who value knowledge, the Candor, who value honesty, the Amity, who strive for peace and the Dauntless, who value bravery.  On her Choosing Day, she must decide whether to stay with her family, in the faction she’s always known, or whether she belongs somewhere else.

Divergent is packed with action and suspense, and Veronica Roth kept the story fast-paced throughout.  The writing and the drama kept my glued to the story, and I flew through the first book in a day!  The initiation into the factions, the training and the fight-scenes were all thrilling and dramatic, and kept me hooked.

The supporting characters, including Tris’ brother Caleb, her instructor Four, and the other initiates were fantastic.  Three-dimensional, believable and likeable, I genuinely cared what happened to each of them.  The characters introduced later on in the series were also really interesting, trying to figure out what made them tick and where their paths would lead next.

Tris is a very complex character.  She’s not perfect and she can at times make decisions for selfish reasons.  I didn’t mind that at all, because it made her seem real and believable – every one of us is guilty of doing the same occasionally.  She grew gradually throughout the series, as did many of the other characters.  Veronica Roth didn’t have any characters undergo sudden changes, and almost all had hidden depths to them.  My only disappointment was that Tris’ selfishness, the trait which made her so believable to begin with, seemed to become less of a part of her as the series went on.  I assume her increasing selflessness was designed to show character growth, but to me it began to feel forced and sometimes unbelievable (particularly that she’d already undergone plenty of character growth!).

I really enjoyed Divergent; learning about the Abnegation, the Choosing Day ceremony, the other factions and the initiation ceremonies.  I gave it a 4/5 overall.  I also really liked Insurgent, which I flew threw because it was thoroughly gripping.  The ending felt a bit predictable but I enjoyed it, and I gave that 4/5 too.  Whilst I really liked those two books, Allegiant for me, was a disappointment.  The ending has been widely shared all over the internet, but I won’t be going into it here!  All I’ll say about it is that I didn’t especially love the ending, but I can see why it ended the way it did.  The ending is not all that disappointed me about the final book in the trilogy. Written from two perspectives, it didn’t feel like these two voices were distinct enough, which was frustrating at times.  The plot and the world-building actually seemed to fall apart a bit in the final book as well.  For me, it felt like too many loose ends had tried to be tied up last minute, as a result of keeping the suspense up throughout the first two books.  This was not only sometimes confusing, but also left me with more questions than answers.

One more thing:

There’s not a love triangle in Divergent, which is wonderful!  There is a romance, but it grows in a believable, organic seeming way.  The relationship goes through ups, downs, is on and then off, and has some serious problems to get through.  But, none of those problems is an unwanted third wheel!

[Sci Fi Month] Series Reflection: Delirium (Lauren Oliver)

They say that the cure for love will make me happy and safe forever. And I’ve always believed them.

Until now.

Now everything has changed. Now, I’d rather be infected with love for the tiniest sliver of a second than live a hundred years suffocated by a lie.

There was a time when love was the most important thing in the world. People would go to the end of the earth to find it. They would tell lies for it. Even kill for it.

Then, at last, they found the cure.

Series stats

Author: Lauren Oliver
Number of books: 3 (4 novellas also available)
Total number of pages (novellas not included): 1216

Opening line:

It has been sixty-four years since the president and the Consortium identified love as a disease, and forty-three since the scientists perfected a cure.

Status on my shelves:

I own books one and two of this series but don’t yet own a copy of Requiem since I borrowed a library copy.

Why I picked this series up:

In all honesty, I picked this up in ASDA not long after it was released just because it was cheap and I was looking for something new to read.  The blurb drew me in and there was no way I could leave without buying it!

Why I liked it:

In a similar vein to Scott Westerfeld’s twist on beauty, Lauren Oliver has taken love and given it a dramatic twist!  In this futuristic tale set in Portland, love has been identified as a disease, and a cure identified.  At the age of eighteen, everyone is given the cure, matched to their future profession and partner.  The concept that love, something pretty much everyone we know today wants, is a disease, reviled and banned, is so intriguing and unique.

As always, one of the biggest drivers for me is the cast of characters that Oliver has created.  I’ve never been able to really love a series without at least likeable characters, and Delirium is no exception!  There are three characters we see most throughout Delirium: Lena, Hana and Alex.  Lena, the main character, has been following the rules, counting down until the day of her cure.  She’s never really doubted the need for a cure, or questioned whether she wants one.  Hana, Lena’s best friend, is the more outspoken, visibly passionate character.  Intrigued by talk of the Wilds, and the possibility of life without a cure, Hana occasionally makes Lena think about things that makes her feel uncomfortable, bending the rules beyond Lena’s comfort zone.  Although occasionally frustrating, they are believable three-dimensional characters who grow and develop really well throughout the series.

Despite their differences, Lena and Hana are best friends.  They go running together, they hang out discussing their future job or match possibilities and they support each other.   Alex, a mysterious dark eyed boy, skews Hana and Lena’s carefully balanced lives.  Drawn to him despite the rules and warnings she’s been listening to all her life, Lena must decide how she really feels about the society she lives in, and the disease they call amor deliria nervosa.

Lauren Oliver’s her emotional, thought-provoking writing kept me glued right the way through this series.  The quotes from government documentation on amor deliria nervosa are fantastic, simultaneously baffling and yet oddly believable.  Although the idea of love being illegal sounds absurd at first, the idea makes a lot of sense in the way that Lauren Oliver has portrayed it.  Heartbreak over the end of a relationship, pain over the loss of a family member; all fixed with the cure at eighteen. Life, pain free.  The problem with that of course, is that without the lows, you never appreciate the highs, and so the story really comes down to that simple choice: are the ups are worth getting through the downs, or is a safe, steady life of no pain better?

The series isn’t perfect, and one of my biggest limitations with it was the world building – although I can completely believe the world that Lena lives in, I’d have liked to see more about how that society formed. How did they completely reverse opinion regarding love?  I also felt that for a story about love, the romance let the story down at times.  It’s pretty much impossible to say more on the topic without spoilers!

One more thing:

It’s very hard to comment on this without spoilers, but there’s a love triangle in this series.  For me personally, that triangle just didn’t work.  I think that’s mostly because I had a long gap between Delirium and Pandemonium, which meant the latter love interest was fresher in my mind, and I spent a lot of the series very strongly biased towards one side of the triangle.  I’m not much of a love triangle fan anyways, but I especially don’t want to feel like I love one of the options and hate the other because that leaves me frustrated however it’s resolved!  Either she’ll choose the guy I like (in which case I feel like there was no competition, so why even have a love triangle?!) or she’ll choose the other guy/pick neither (in which case I feel like the girl made the wrong choice).

[Sci Fi Month] Series Reflection: Uglies (Scott Westerfeld)

Everybody gets to be supermodel gorgeous. What could be wrong with that?

Tally is about to turn sixteen, and she can’t wait. Not for her license – for turning pretty. In Tally’s world, your sixteenth birthday brings an operation that turns you from a repellent ugly into a stunningly attractive pretty and catapults you into a high-tech paradise where your only job is to have a really great time. In just a few weeks Tally will be there.

But Tally’s new friend Shay isn’t sure she wants to be pretty. She’d rather risk life on the outside. When Shay runs away, Tally learns about a whole new side of the pretty world and it isn’t very pretty. The authorities offer Tally the worst choice she can imagine: find her friend and turn her in, or never turn pretty at all.

The choice Tally makes changes her world forever…

Series stats
Author: Scott Westerfeld
Number of books: 4
Total number of pages: 1596

Opening line:

The early summer sky was the color of cat vomit.

Status on my shelves:

I own this whole series.  This was one of (if not the), first dystopian series I picked up and I loved it from the beginning.  It was a long time before I learnt more about dystopians or even went back to the genre, but even now, ten years or so later, this remains one of my favourite sci-fi series, despite some flaws.

Why I picked this series up:

Firstly, I should mention that I have the really old editions of these, like the one above, and I was drawn to the cover instantly.  I’ve always been drawn to simpler covers, and the neon colours stood out brilliantly against the standard black and other dark colours that were dominating my fantasy-laden shelves.  I picked Uglies up from a Waterstones shelf on a whim one day, expecting it to be a cliche ‘girly teenager’ book, about eating disorders book, or a girl trying to fit in and coping with the pressure to be pretty etc.  What I actually picked up was nothing like that!  The blurb drew me in instantly – how could you resist a blurb like that?

Why I liked it:

Scott Westerfeld has taken a societal pressure we see examples of every day (beauty) and given it a novel and dramatic twist, creating a premise that’s completely unique whilst still being believable.

I didn’t necessarily love the characters, though I thought they were all interesting and likeable.  I really enjoyed how the characters Westerfeld had created fitted in with the storyline and world he’d built.  Tally’s eagerness to become Pretty never felt forced, because for her surgery to become Pretty is just the way things work in her world.  I also felt the characters developed really well, growing and becoming more and more easy to like as the series continued.

Uglies is a really easy read. The writing just sucks you in, and although the plot pacing isn’t always racing, the ease of reading does go a long way to balancing it out, because it’ll never take you long to get to a more dramatic scene!

The romance in Uglies is not overwhelming, a comfortable addition to the story rather than a dominating feature, which makes a refreshing change!  Similarly, although there is romance, Tally and Shay’s friendship also plays a huge role in the series, and it’s nice to see some non-romantic relationships also getting plot-time.

One more thing:

For me personally, Extras (the final book of the series) was a bit of a let down.  It was okay, but I didn’t think it lived up to the rest of the series.  Since this was originally a trilogy, I wouldn’t stress about reading it!