What If You Couldn’t Choose Who To Love?

I couldn’t put this book down.  It embodied all the things I loved about Lois Lowry’s The Giver, The Hunger Games and The Handmaid’s Tale.  Which are more important, safety or freedom and where to the two meet to create a productive society?  Ally Condie created a world free from cancer by controlling how humans breed.  Each teen is matched with a perfect genetic counterpart to create healthy children for the Society.  You meals are prepared for your custom dietary needs.  No one cooks in their own home, your meals arrive prepared for you and you have no choice of what it is.  Your job is chosen for you, perfectly matched to your skills.  Cassia does little to question her life.  It is the night of her Matching Banquet.  When her turn comes, a familiar face flashes on the screen.  Her perfect match is her best childhood friend, Xander.  She is delighted with the choice.  But when she looks at the match card on her home computer, another face flashes on the screen.  She knows Ky.  Could he really be her match?  The Society does not make mistakes.  So why did he flash on her screen?  This glitch in Cassia’s otherwise perfect world makes her start to ask questions.  On her grandfather’s death day, he gives Cassia two forbidden poems, Lord Alfred Tennyson’s Crossing The Bar and Dylan Thomas’s Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night.  They are forbidden because the Society only allows people to listen to the Hundred Songs, read the Hundred Poems or look at one of the Hundred Paintings.  The Society has chosen these because people were too inundated with too many different choices and were overwhelmed.  No new art is to be created.  It was really shocking to me when I learned the members of the Society cannot even write.  They just tap on screens.  Condie did a great job of world building.  I could see the stark world of the Society very clearly in my mind.  I am really looking forward to the sequel, Crossed that will be released in November of 2011.

Some ideas for discussing with teens:

Take turns and read the forbidden Thomas and Tennyson poems out loud and discuss.

If you could give up freedoms to cure cancer, would it be worth it?

Are there any aspects of the society you did like?  What was the worst in your opinion?

Who would you choose, Xander or Ky?

Talk about arrainged marriages in the modern world.

Talk about Cassia’s grandfather’s final act of rebellion.  How he died on his own terms by not choosing to leave a sample.

Compare this dystopian society with others they have read.

Talk about the act of handwriting.  Could the need to do this eventually go away?  What would that mean?  How often do they use cursive writing?

Do you think she loved Ky because he was forbidden or the Society do a perfect job of finding her match?

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