Matched is the Jessica Simpson of Dystopian novels.
Matched is pretty, overproduced, and soulless. It is, in fact, the Jessica Simpson. And that's probably not fair to say. Standing on it's own, Matched isn't a bad book. It just has the misfortune of being marketed and promoted as the next Hunger Games.
Matched compares itself to HG, by it's present tense, its love triangle, and it's corrupt society.
But these are the ways it fails in comparison,
1. The lead girl. Katniss Everdeen, is a warrior who scrapes to survive, and battle an empire of evil. Tris Prior, pushes off her own upbringing and family to stand on her own.
2. The book boyfriends. Peeta, the boy with the bread, or Gale the best friend who protects her family. FOUR. FOUR! The powerful, fearless(ish), revolutionary with a twisted upbringing.
In Matched, you have Xander, the perfect Ken doll of a best friend, and Ky, a boy who was so boring and unimpressive, that even Cassia can't remember him. The romance did not work for me. I did kind of sort of grow to like Ky, I like his poems very much, but I just didn't care which of these too perfect boys she ended up with. There were no stakes here, no relationships that felt real, or important.
3. The stakes. In The Hunger Games, children were killing children for the Capital's amusement. In Divergent, children were taken from their families to keep the order.
In Matched, they took away someone's watch.
4. The society. The villains in The Hunger Games had mutant creatures made out of the bodies of dead contestants. The villain in Divergent used mind control, to force innocents to kill friends and family.
In Matched, the capital pulled the trees out from the front yards.
The other two are dystopian societies. Matched is more like a really bad HOA.
Yes, there's the whole poison thing, but honestly, there is a difference between children in peril and an 80 year old in peril.
Also, it's kind of stupid. The whole plot wouldn't have happened if the bad guys didn't make it happen. Cassia had no influence on the story whatsoever. The capital, or whatever they were called, were the ones who created the glitch in the Matching, and when Cassia was too obedient and boring to do anything about the glitch, they pulled her out of class, and then told her, expressly, to ignore the glitch...which she was clearly already doing. They pushed her to go after Ky. They gave her an assignment that meant chapter after chapter of nothing happening except pointlessly walking up a hill.
The bad guys pushed the story forward, to their own demise.
Also, there were a bunch of times when characters responded to thoughts Cassia never expressed. And I'm like, "No, you're not reading the narrative, so why are you talking about this random thing right now?" But there were some really cool moments in the book. I dug Ky's poetry, and her descriptions are really clear and interesting. All the notes are sung, and sung well. It's pretty. It's polished. It's just forgettable. It's the Jessica Simpson of Dystopian novels.
To sum up. Matched is a well written book, standing in the shadow of several AWESOME books. If I could only have a hundred books, this wouldn't make the cut. However, if you have a very sheltered young daughter who wants to read a dystopian novel, but can't handle violence, or kissing, then Matched is a good option.
And in case you were wondering, Scott Westerfield's Ugly, Pretties, Specials, and Extras are the Pink of Dystopian novels. Cooler, sometimes messier, but still relevant ten years later.
Matched gets 3 stars from me, and several million dollars from its publisher.