I’ll admit it. That was my reaction to Ally Condie’s second book in her Matched series. Crossed picks up where the first story left off, with Ky sent out to die in the Outer Provinces from whence he came, leaving Cassia to pick up a new ally in pursuit of finding her love. And thus begins the next part in our three part series of rebellion!
Now, I loved Matched. It was a breath of fresh air! I’d just finished the Hunger Games series and I actually felt kinda into the whole dystopian vibe, so I went to the library, saw the green cover, and there went the rest of my week. Really it took me only two days to finish that bad boy, and at the end I squeed. Hardcore squeed. A satisfying love triangle within a 1984-esque society that’s actually not a hackneyed mess? It was a dream come true. I was invested from the first chapter and finished the book in record time, laughing, crying, and wriggling in my bus seat as I finished the last chapter, people seemingly too freaked out to sit next to me. Matched made a true fangirl out of me, and so I anxiously waited to get to the next book.
So a few days later I finally get Crossed. And from that point onward I felt as if the story was for some reason going by much slower than I had anticipated.
Now I’ll admit that Crossed was sort of disappointing. I was expecting more, with better scenery than the first movie since now they’re in the wild, and a much bolder and engaging romance between our two narrators. But I found that I actually had some gripes with the story:
- The pace was so slow, it took me longer than usual to get through just a few chapters. Reading across the span of 60 pages took longer than i felt it should have. This is my biggest complaint, and the biggest one I’ve heard so far from fans.
- The setting was rather disappointing Now, I can see how this sort of thing might be very new and invigorating for someone like Cassia who’s been sheltered all her life, but to the audience it just ends up reminding us of The Host, just with a better written romance. All of this potential and it’s spent it in a cave?
- Questions, oh so many questions! While I thought that the book was pretty decently paced, for what it is, I thought that there were some questions best in this story, not what is surely to come in Reached. Why did Xander give those blue pills to Cassia? What happened to Laney? Who was the Enemy?! This last one I actually did expect an answer too, and was greatly surprised when we got nothing more than a simple hint from Ky at the end about one possibility: could it be the Rising?
- Some character gripes. I really hated it when Vick died. I didn’t feel that it was entirely necessary. And while Eli is a likable enough character (they all are, thankfully), I feel like he’s really just there for the shallow purpose of assuaging Ky’s guilt for leaving the camp decoy’s behind. He didn’t really change the game or have anything significant to contribute to the plot. If he had ended up dying at some point I would have felt sad because he is a nice kid, but I wouldn’t have been distraught. Kind of a wasted opportunity and I’m still trying to figure out what exactly he lent to the story. But I’m sure he won’t disappoint in Reached.
But for my complaints I will say there there was a lot that I enjoyed in this story:
- The scenery, though a bland choice in my opinion, was beautifully described and Condie really, truly pulls out the beauty in everything. The musings of the characters gave me insight into the landscape. I’m a tried-and-true city girl, but I’ll be damned if I didn’t feel, at least once, that I myself was in that canyon, writing poetry to myself about the walls of the caves or the plants of the valley.
- People have complained about how the characters are actually far too reflective, stopping the plot at every chance to ponder their past or the mysteries of the cavern and how it might relate to their own lives and situations. But I actually appreciated this. For one thing, Condie is a master at her craft and she writes amazing prose and poetry. Every time Ky went back into his own story, his observations about the environment always played perfectly with the narration. These two elements really complemented each other and while the book did have me falling asleep at some points, I can forgive it because of the payoff of this wonderful, introspective writing. It’s hard not to appreciate beauty.
- The romance, while not as enthralling as I would have liked, is very realistic. More realistic than the whole Hey let’s give Katniss three books to play around and finally settle on one of us thing from the Hunger Games series. The protagonists kissed, they never took each other’s touch for granted, and they argued. Nothing sexual and raunchy or over the top. It was wonderfully balanced, and the tone was very much in line with the way it started in Matched. And I actually like the role Xander played as suitor much more in this book. He was suave and mysterious, an equal match for Ky. I respected him more in this book. And believe it or not, I can actually see Cassia ending up with him in the end of it all. This series can go in a few different directions and still get a satisfying ending, I believe. Condie’s set this up very well and I commend her for that.
In my opinion these points push the book into a rather favorable light, overall. This wasn’t a bad book! I would even say that it was a good book, though not quite up to par with its Matched predecessor. There was a lot of mystery that I would have liked to see unraveled, and so I was a bit disappointed with the story itself. But I do think that this book is rather well paced for the sake of the series as a whole, even though it the plot moved as slow as molasses at some points. While I would say I had to plod through parts of it I had to never force myself to actually start reading it again.
There is a wonderful promise waiting at the end of the Condie rainbow and it’s the final, hopefully revealing book of Reached, where we should get the unraveling of all of the mysteries of the Society, its motives, and maybe even its origins. Despite the short-comings of this sequel, I feel that just leaves us with more anticipation for the final part of this dystopian trilogy.
So if I had to rate this book, I would give it a 3/5. No more, no less. A good book, but it didn’t quite fulfill our expectations and it certainly did not live up to Matched. A good effort sadly suffering from a slight case of sequelitis. But the series is so worth a read.
Now, I don’t usually write reviews, but I felt compelled to for two reasons. A) Writing helps me figure out my own honest opinion about the book, and B) I recently read some reviews that just pissed me off.
It takes a lot of effort to write a book! That I’m sure of, and I’m tiring of seeing people sh*t on Crossed because it didn’t completely bend to their desires or answer every question that they had. Good stories take time and pacing, and this book at least gives us some beautiful insight into Ky’s past and his own thoughts. I actually felt like Cassia was a secondary character to him in this one, but I’m OK with that. The two person perspective worked and I don’t think people are giving any of this credit for what it is. It’s like people are somehow reading with their eyes closed! There was so much subtext and so much mystery to it. You can’t take every line, every work at face value. This series is deeper than that.
But even more than that, I’m just sick and tired or reading reviews like “OMG this book sucks where’s Xander????” and “Condie f-ed this up, what was she thinking this is not the romance I wanted!!!1!!!1”. It’s upsetting because I love seeing criticism from both sides. But at least do it respectfully. Some reviews just seem like folks decided to ride the hateful bandwagon together, insisting that Condie just pushed through the second book in an attempt to make money and cheat her readers. That she can’t write. That she wasted our time.
And I’m not trying to shoot anyone down for their opinion. We’re all entitled to what we think and how we feel. But when you start attacking the author (and not even in a well-presented manner), I’m done. Your review has just crossed a line. We’re here to critique the book itself and not throw uneducated accusations at someone who wanted to give you a good experience. It just hurts me to see people who obviously didn’t take anything from this book trying to blindly tear it down.
Let’s open our eyes when we read. Remember, we get what we take away; at least make the experience count.