The Mountains of Instead

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

Specimens of Song (review of Reached by Ally Condie)

Reached (Matched, #3)Reached
Ally Condie
Penguin 2012

Reached is the final book in the trilogy that started with Matched and progressed with Crossed. If you haven't read the first two books, then this review will contain spoilers of the story up to this point.

Cassia, Ky and Xander have returned to the Society. Cassia to sorting, Xander as a medical Official and Ky as a pilot. All working for the Rising, the rebellion waits for the right moment to make its move. That moment turns out to be the onset of a deadly plague, one which leaves sufferers motionless and irresponsive as their bodies slowly shut down. As the Rising appears with the cure, the Society seems to fall without sound yet the war is far from over with the illness mutating and the lines between Society and Rising becoming vaguer than ever. While Ky and Cassia fight to find each other, Xander tries to heal the sick. Finally, the Pilot appears pushing all three together, leaving two to fight for the life of one – and of many.  

In this, the resolution of her inaugural trilogy, Ally Condie has given each of her characters a voice.  Just as Crossed expanded from Cassia to Cassia and Ky, Reached expands the narrative to include Xander. While working for the Rising, Cassia finds herself doing the job that she would have done in the Society, in much the same place, living much the same life. It’s a clever place to put her, as Cassia’s story, more than any other, allows Condie to blur the line between the Society and the. As the story progresses, though, Cassia finds herself able – for the first time – to be openly creative and the side story of her Gallery is beautiful. Her focus on the future she desires can leave her seeming almost emotionless at times (when, in fact, the opposite is true) but the story of her respect, friendship and love for Ky and Xander is always believable and her honesty admirably consistent.

Xander himself is extremely well. He’s incredibly principled and extremely loyal, not to mention moral. Condie’s placement of him in the role of what is essentially a doctor works extremely well and of the three characters he is the one who seems the most…real. It is through Xander that we see how both the Society and the Rising function and through Xander that the core storyline is really progressed. Towards the end of the book he emerges a as a character who has been truly changed by what he has experienced, being older, wiser and sadder without every really losing hope. His inner conflict regarding Cassia and Ky is never anything less than believable as are all the (often difficult) decisions that he makes.

Ky is as fascinating in Reached as he was in the previous two books. Trying to make peace with a difficult past while dealing with an uncertain future, he thinks about things deeply. His friendship with the mercurial Indie is extremely well realised (as is Indie as a character in her own right) and his devotion to Cassia never becomes over-sentimentalised. His interactions with Xander are also fascinating to read as the fact that they have a shared history and genuine friendship comes into focus as it hasn’t previously. While Cassia and Xander look to the Rising for reassurance of a better future, Ky never really trusts the Pilot, choosing instead to focus on Cassia as the only path he can be truly sure of.

The story that Ally Condie started in Matched is pleasingly resolved in Reached. Sort of. Many questions remain, I suspect intentionally, unanswered. Who are the Society?  Who are the Rising? Why did the Plague spread and mutate so quickly? Theories are muted by all the characters on these issues and Condie excels in the sinister undertones that suggest no-one can really be trusted. While we finally meet the elusive Pilot he remains an almost faceless figurehead leaving the Rising as mysterious as the Society ever was. Many other questions, however, are beautifully resolved – not least the mystery of how Cassia came to be Matched with both Xander and Ky, the answer to which is clever, satisfying and moving.

As with the previous titles in the series, Condie’s writing is extremely good. She imbues language with great lyricism and her prose stands up proudly to the beautiful poetry that she weaves into the heart of her story. If there is one flaw, it is that her triple narrative doesn’t always work, with the voices Cassia and Xander sometimes being indistinguishable from one another. It is testament to her skill in storytelling that this issue doesn’t counteract either the flow of the plot nor the character development of the three protagonists.  

As one of the front runners in the YA dystopian cannon, Condie has created an unusual and unique world and her story, now complete, feels both original and reminiscent of classic dystopia. It has, ultimately, emerged triumphant and anyone who loves language should be keen to read whatever Condie writes (assuredly beautifully) next.

This review was brought to you by Splendibird.  Reached is published in the UK tomorrow (30th November 2012). Thank you to the publisher for providing us with this title to review.


Emily said…
Beautifully put. I loved this entire series.
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