Reached – by Ally Condie
Matched, the first book in this trilogy by Ally Condie, was a favourite of mine. I wasn’t as impressed by Crossed, the second in the series, but I was already invested enough in this world and these characters to want to follow their journeys to their conclusion in Reached. This is what I thought of the final volume in Condie’s trilogy:
Cassia’s come a long way from the obedient Society member who never asked questions or deviated from the expected. After falling in love with Ky rather than her Society-decreed Match, Xander, Cassia was forced to stop accepting the Society’s word as gospel, instead making her own choices – even when they have huge consequences.
Now Cassia’s one of an increasingly powerful rebellion called the Rising who refuse to believe that the controlled, bland, cookie cutter lifestyle maintained so fanatically by the Society is the only way to live. They want freedom – they want choices. After years of biding their time with small refusals to conform, the Rising is now in a position to enact their plan, and challenge the Society for control. After a move this big, nothing will ever be the same: for the unquestioning Society members, for the Rising, or for the outcasts.
Reached was an ambitious story in the same way as Suzanne Collins’ Mockingjay, in that it had to follow through on the budding rebellion. Not only does the seisure of power have to be realistic and satisfying, but that after the ‘others’ have succeeded in taking charge, they must be able to run their society, in a way that is both:
- A marked improvement on the system they overthrew, and
- Worth all the struggles faced by our protagonists.
Reached managed this well, for the most part. I really appreciated the devastating and unintended consequences of the way they gained power, as their plan takes a turn no one had anticipated. Choice, we see, comes with a cost. And the question is whether having a choice in the first place is worth it. The Rising’s choice means they have a lot to prove, and fast, as they scramble to fix the situation. It also sees new and old members of the rebellion working together towards a common, crucial goal. Bonds grow fast and strongly under such circumstances. New members of the Rising becoming important parts of the new order and making friends with people – like Xander and Lei – was a great example of how much better this new era could be, fostering co-operation and unity rather than compliance and isolation.
One of my favourite aspects of Cassia’s role in Reached was the idea that value was not only found in rare, old poems and stories, but in new ones created by people today. The Gallery, set up near a dying lake in one of the Society’s districts, becomes a hub of creation and art. Something as simple as the learning to write has such value to Cassia’s society. These repressed people realising that writing stories, poems, songs, painting, drawing, sculpting and so on were even possible – and allowed! – was absolutely wonderful.
If I have any problems with Reached they stem from one main area: the love triangle. Can we be done with these now, please? As a community of Young Adult fiction readers, can we say: enough! Let’s just have a lovely girl and a lovely guy who have their obstacles and their challenges but there’s no third spoke to complicate the situation just because. My main gripe with the Triangle is that someone will always get very hurt, and also, while it does happen in reality sometimes, it’s hugely out of proportion. Oh, all right, there’s a third reason. They’re just really annoying!
That’s clearly a very general issue I’m having with YA at the moment (because, really, is it a requirement in any new YA series now? If it’s not in the pitch they just won’t sell?!), but it is again a factor in Reached, because at this point I’m finding the storylines dealing with Triangles quite tedious, which affects my enjoyment of the book. I’ll end by saying that for a love triangle, this one was handled in as well-nuanced and reasoned a manner as possible, which was its saving grace.
The other key strength of Reached was the character of the Pilot. As we travel with Cassia, Xander and Ky, the Pilot is developed as much more than simply the figure pulling the strings of the rebellion, and this realisation is a rich layer underneath a finely crafted plot line. The ideas underpinning Reached were the best part of this book. Condie does her readers credit by focusing on more than the mechanics behind a society in rebellion, but also on what they’re really fighting for.
I was really impressed by Reached. The plot was well executed, each point of view was distinct and fascinating, and the themes in particular were above and beyond any standard YA Fantasy. Ally Condie has crafted an exceptional finish to her trilogy.
Have you met Cassia and co? What do you think of the Obligatory YA Love Triangle (TM)?