The Mountains of Instead

Championing fiction as an escape from pandemics, politics and bad TV.

Like Dust, I Rise (Review: Crossed by Ally Condie)

Ally Condie
Puffin 2011

Crossed is the second book in the trilogy that started with Matched. If you have not read Matched then this review will contain spoilers for the first title. You have been warned. 

Three months on from the events of Matched, Cassia has endured the manual labour of several work camps.  Her Match, Xander, remains a constant presence in her life, hovering constantly on the edges of her vision, a supportive and sometimes tempting alternative to the elusive Ky.  However, when an opportunity presents itself to search for Ky, Cassia grasps it leaving behind the safety of Society in favour of the mysterious Outer Provinces.  Ky himself has spent months living a life fraught with danger, burying the dead and chanting a continual mantra over their bodies.  He is lost without Cassia and, like her, takes the first opportunity to search for her, yearning for their shared language and lost future.

Cassia is fierce in her determination to find Ky, yet every step she takes is underwritten by a quiet shock as she processes what she now knows about Society.  At first she seems torn -while she understands that Society is highly manipulative she is also aware that it has, to an extent, protected her throughout her life.  However, as the novel progresses the balance tips as she encounters evidence of real cruelty. Her angry reaction to this speaks perfectly of her feelings of betrayal and her character development is always believable.

Ky, though, is of far greater interest.  While in Matched he was an alluring yet ultimately mysterious enigma, here he becomes fully three-dimensional.  His is a story steeped in loss, propaganda, guilt and blood and as a result his views of Society and any rebellion against it are painted in shades of grey.  For Ky, the most important aspect of life has become Cassia who grants him his only real solace. As he watches her slow metamorphosis from Society member to potential rebel he finds himself in conflict, torn between his love for her and his desire to remove them both from any faction that might wish to control them.  He is, from start to finish, a joy to read.

Other characters in Crossed add texture to Condie’s story, subtly adding both variety also contributing to her vision of the world.  Vick, Indie and Eli stand almost as alternative versions of Xander, Cassia and Bram – illustrations of how the other half have lived.  Indie is a particularly clever character, her motivations constantly unclear, adding an edge to every scene she appears in.  Hunter represents a faction in the world of Matched and Crossed that has not been explored previously and which adds depth and sadness.  Xander, while appearing only briefly in Crossed is ever present, not only for Ky and Cassia but also for others in their group and slowly emerges as one of the most interesting aspects of the story.

Crossed, in comparison to Matched, is a rather quiet read. The characters all find themselves in a state of flux, moving from one mindset to another and this is mirrored by a literal journey.  Finding themselves in the Outer Provinces, they begin a journey through the Carving, a vast labyrinth of canyons on which one side lies Society and on the other a mythical rebellion, known only as The Rising.  There isn’t a moment where they deviate from their quest but, for all that, very little happens with the focus being the relationship between Ky and Cassia and their joint relationship with the obstacles they continue to face.  It’s a rather bold to move the overall story along so slowly, yet Crossed ends beautifully with Condie neatly arriving at what is clearly beginning of the end, promising intriguing things in next year’s final instalment. However, Crossed doesn’t always read quite as smoothly as its triumphant predecessor.  The duel narrative structure, while successful in allowing reader’s insight to Ky, is often confusing with their individual voices lacking strong enough differentiation. Another sticking point is the poetry used to such great effect in Matched which now occasionally seems forced.  Condie has a tendency to rather hammer a point home and the use of Tennyson’s beautiful poetry and its link to the Rising is referenced to the point of inanity.

These are small gripes, however, when set against the ongoing trilogy as a whole.  As with Matched, Condie’s writing is gorgeous.  Sometimes stark, sometimes lyrical, frequently mesmerising she is infinitely readable.  She bravely explores, through Cassia and Ky, the nature of love and what it truly means to be together in the face of hardship giving her books a maturity not always seen in Young Adult fiction.  With Matched, Condie upped the stakes as far as dystopian fiction was concerned and she continues to do so in Matched – certainly her trilogy is sure to stand above many others when concluded in 2012 and I highly recommend that everyone continue to read through to a finale that is impossible to predict.

Crossed is available from 24th November.  Many thanks to the publisher for sending me this title to review.

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