Monday, January 16, 2012

Crossed by Ally Condie

As in Matched, Crossed continues the saga of Ky and Cassia, this time told through both of their voices. As we learned in the first book, Ky as an Aberration has been sent out to the Outer Provinces supposedly for six months. But we learn in Crossed that he is a decoy villager. He along with other Aberrations are placed in specific areas in an attempt to make the Enemy believe that the Society still occupies these areas. They are given a warm coat, but only enough water and provisions to keep them alive until the Enemy kills them. The Society promises the Aberrations that after a six month tour of duty, they will be given "Citizen" status. However, no one has ever survived long enough to achieve this.
But for Ky, the Outer Provinces are his home. And he doesn't plan on sticking around to die. One night Ky along with Vick Roberts and a young boy name Eli escape into the Carving - a large series of canyons, during an Enemy attack. Ky's intent is to make it back into the Society to meet up with Cassia. But what he doesn't know is that Cassia is on her way to try to meet up with him.

Meanwhile, Cassia is on her work assignment at a camp in Tana Province. Her parents requested the work assignments as a way to let her attempt to locate Ky, but she's not been able to get near to the Outer Provinces, which is where Ky has been sent. She also learns about a movement called the Rising, and their leader named the Pilot who will lead a rebellion to confront the Society. After this next assignment, Cassia's final work position will be in one of the sorting centers in Central, the largest city in the Society. Cassia comes to the realization that she may have to escape and travel on her own to the Outer Provinces to find Ky.

Xander came to see Cassia before she left on her assignment and gave her several dozen of the blue tablets which Cassia believes will help her survive out in the wilds of the Outer Provinces. Cassia is careful to keep them safe and hidden. When she is getting ready for her last assignment before leaving for Central, Xander mysteriously shows up at the camp. He is passing through Tana on his way to Camas Province adjacent to the Outer Provinces. She meets with him and still feels an attraction for her old childhood friend. But she is determined to find Ky, despite having strong feelings for Xander. Although Xander appears to help Cassia get what she needs one has the feeling that there is something about him we don't know.

Eventually Cassia escapes her work detail by sneaking onto a transport to the Outer Provinces. She is accompanied by a girl she doesn't know named Indie. When Cassia and Indie are dropped off at their location, they meet a boy who knew Ky and saw him escape into the Carving. This boy shows them the way into the Carving and they go their separate ways, but not after Cassia offers him a few blue tablets.

Eventually Cassia and Indie meet up with Ky and Eli on the other side of the Carving. Cassia is not well and Ky, Indie and Eli discover that she has taken one of the blue tablets believing that they will help her survive. They tell her to her disbelief, that she is poisoning herself.

The canyons in the Carving are full of surprises. Ky has discovered the township - a village of farmers that has been recently abandoned. In caves far above the canyon walls he and Vick also find caves filled with artifacts - books, pamphlets and maps from the time before when people were allowed to create.

Ky and Cassia, as well as Indie and Eli decide to return to the township for food and supplies and the artifacts. At this time they meet a lone farmer, named Hunter who shows them a hidden cave containing something completely unanticipated. The significance of this discovery is not readily apparent, even by the end of this second novel. They also locate a map showing them were The Rising is based.

As a result of all of this new information, everyone's plans change. Cassia and Ky make discoveries about each other that both fill in gaps but also lead to new questions. Cassia whose sole intent was to find Ky now wants to join the Rising. Ky doesn't want this for himself or for Cassia. Indie also wants to find the Rising. Hunter wants to find the farmers who fled the township to safety. The novel ends with Cassia, Indie and Ky traveling downriver to the Rising.

Condie does an excellent job of maintaining suspense throughout Crossed. As the novel progresses there are plenty of mysteries. Did Xander know the truth about the blue pills? Is Xander working for the Society's and is the Society still manipulating what is happening to Cassia and Ky in some way? But we also learn more about each of the characters and the Society.

Matched and Crossed have a number of themes; government control, identity, life ethics, control of information. How much government control should there be? In the Society, the government controls every aspect of life, including what and how much food is consumed, the job you do and the person you marry, in order to achieve a long life span. This is no choice in love and relationships and social responsibility is coerced.

The issue of life ethics is a dominant theme in both novels which is not surprising given that they are dystopias. The elderly are euthanized at age eighty, political prisoners are murdered covertly, drugs are used to manipulate the general population and there is the deliberate poisoning of rivers to prevent rebellion. Not to mention that Cassia and Ky are part of an elaborate experiment that was undertaken without their consent or knowledge.

The Society also completely controls the flow of information to its people. All historical artifacts are destroyed leading to a black market trade in artifacts. In an attempt to obliterate the practice, there are random raids in neighbourhoods to locate and destroy artifacts. The general population doesn't know how to write and therefore cannot create or express. Any paper produced degrades quickly. Thus, no history is created for future generations.

Crossed wasn't as thrilling as Matched, but it was still a very good book. We see Cassia beginning to make decisions about what she wants in life - breaking out of the bubble that the Society creates for all its citizens. At times the book is slow mainly when we are reading about Ky and Cassia in their journey through the canyons. Overall though, the mystery of the Rising and the actions of the Society in the Outer Provinces as well as the conflict between Ky, Cassia and Xander make for an excellent read.

The book trailer by Penguin Young Readers is below:

Book Details:
Crossed by Ally Condie
New York: Dutton Books 2011
367 pp.

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