Today’s review: Crossed, Ally Condie – The second book in a dystopian YA series that began with Matched, one of my all-time favorite YA novels. I remember shivering with anticipation when Amazon.com emailed to let me know my pre-ordered copy of Crossed was only a few days away. I tore open the cardboard box and dove in.
Matched may not have invented the concept of a dystopian government that strictly enforces conformity, but Ally Condie wove a fast-paced, high-stakes story with prose that is pure poetry. When I read Matched I was on a plane to a fundraising event in Florida or Massachusetts or somewhere like that, and I ate it up from cover to cover during our five hour journey. I blubbered for the entire second half of the book—which now that I look back on it is probably why the gentleman sitting next to me decided against making conversation after I’d finished.
You’re probably already getting the gist of my review today, which is this: Crossed does not live up to its predecessor. The series begins to feel a lot like The Hunger Games; we learn early on there are rumors of a rebellion, and a secret hideout where it can be found. The narration has been split between Ky and Cassia. This feels disjointed after Matched, which only spoke from Cassia’s point of view. Change in perspective is especially jarring when the characters speaking are in the same room together, observing the same people and things. Many times I lost the momentum of the story because I was trying to figure out who was feeling what.
While Condie’s prose is fluid and brilliant as ever, Crossed just dragged on and on and on. By reading it I lingered eternally in purgatory; there was a hint of Act I (see this post about the three acts of story structure), and we only saw a glimpse of Act III. Instead Condie strands her reader in Act II, but instead of ratcheting the tension higher as the middle of a story ought to do, Crossed feels episodic and interminable. We learn bits and pieces of the past, but I was never truly shocked by Ky’s revelations. Long story short, Condie’s “Rising” seems to me a second-thought rip-off of Suzanne Collins’s “District Thirteen,” but without the subtlety.
My one last gripe with Crossed was the painful spelling-out of the romance. As always, Condie paints the scene with eloquence and spirit:
I look over at him, at his dark profile lit faintly by the flashlight he carries. The Society would never know how to put this on a microcard. Belongs to the land. Knows how to run. They would never be able to write what he is.
There are ups and downs in the relationship’s development, but it never really tugs at your gut. There are sweet nothings but little substance. I never cried during Crossed like I did in Matched.
However, the appreciation for literature and poetry that developed in Matched carries beautifully to Crossed. A world deprived of original work, where you are taught only to sort what exists, never to create new things—Condie captures the frustration of a creative individual captured in that world with aplomb.
Other than that, though, I would say that Crossed does nothing to enhance Matched. The first book may be better off read by itself, unless the third book in this series makes up the difference.
This book gets: ♥♥ out of 5