Seventeen year-old Cassia lives in a futuristic, seemingly utopian Society in which the citizens' lives are strictly controlled by the government - the government decides where they live, where they work, who they care about and even when they die (all citizens die at the age of 80). At the age of seventeen, citizens undergo the process of being "matched"- becoming paired up with another boy/girl selected by the authorities. Typically, young men and women are Matched with someone from another town, sometimes even another province; they generally do not know their Match ahead of time, but are shown their face over a television screen and subsequently provided with a picture and information about the match on a "microcard" - a piece of storage similar to a floppy disk or flash drive. Matched couples are given a period of courtship, and are then married when they turn 21. The system was devised to give couples their best chance at having healthy children. In return, citizens of the Society "live longer and better than any other citizens in the history of the world."
At the beginning of the novel, Cassia is led to the Match Banquet by her parents, an elaborate event that happens across her country in different towns at the same time. When Cassia's name is called at the Banquet, the TV screen stays dark - which means that her Match is somewhere in the same room, from her own town of Mapletree Borough, which rarely happens. She becomes overjoyed when she realizes that her Match is her best friend, Xander Carrow, who goes to her Second School (high school) and grew up on the same street as she. Cassia is excited about their future together, although her excitement is tempered a bit by disappointment that she already knows everything about Xander and will not have the exciting experience of meeting him for the first time.
As the novel progresses, the Society is increasingly portrayed as dystopian. Families are provided with tasteless rationed food, controlled for calories and nutrition; there is strict population control, and every family has a "port" in their household - a two-way television that allows the government to monitor their behavior, as well as for them to respond to government questions. The ports are also how people read microcards with stored information on them. All people are revealed to have to die on their 80th birthday - in order to make this happen, the Society slowly starts to poison the seniors' food when they are reaching the end of their 79th year. The Society has also decided that their former culture was too "cluttered" and thus eliminated most traces of culture, saving only 100 of everything - the Hundred Poems, Hundred Paintings, Hundred Stories, Hundred Songs, etc. At night, citizens take turn with their family members wearing "data tags", which collect information on their dreams to help predict their behavior. Every citizen must also carry three pills on them - one blue, one green, and one red - although initially it is not revealed what the tablets do. Cassia carries her pills in an 'artifact' - a possession from the past that was given to her by her grandfather - that used to be a powder compact used by her great-grandmother. People's actions are predicted using sophisticated psychological and statistical techniques, referred to as "sorting." Cassia's assigned adult job is as a sorter, and she is noted to be gifted at this particular job. Cassia enjoys it, but notes that she does not want to sort real people - such as sorting them into jobs or Matches.
After school and practicing her trade, Cassia returns home and decides to view the information about Xander on her microcard on the port. When she inserts the microcard, Xander's face pops up, but then the screen glitches and displays another face: that of Ky Markham, another young man who lives in her borough. Ky is an aberration, which is a person who has been revoked of citizen status. Ky was adopted by his aunt and uncle, Aida and Patrick Markham, after their own son was killed by a dangerous Anomaly, an outcast member of society. Ky is good-looking, but he is very quiet and keeps to himself, having left school early to accept his work assignment at the nutrition disposal center, a notoriously difficult job. The Official confides in Cassia that Ky is not meant to be Matched with anyone, as he is an Aberration: a semi-outcast member of society who usually acquires this identity through committing an "Infraction." A Society Official tells Cassia that Ky's father committed a serious Infraction, and although Ky was allowed to be adopted by his aunt and uncle at a young age, he had to retain his identity as an Aberration and therefore cannot be Matched with anyone. Cassia only tells her beloved grandfather, a man nearing his 80th birthday and therefore his death - as all Society citizens die on their 80th birthday, which was mentioned before. Her grandfather encourages her to find the words within her and gives her a forbidden piece of paper.
Cassia has chosen hiking as her summer recreation activity, and while in the woods she peeks at her grandfather's paper. On it are two poems that are not in the Society's allotted Hundred Poems, a dangerous infraction. Coincidentally, Ky Markham has also chosen hiking, and he spots her in the woods reading the paper. He promises to keep her secret and help her destroy the poems after she memorizes them. As he helps her first destroy the poems then preserve the memory of them - and teaches her how to write words in the dirt - Cassia slowly falls in love with Ky, and he with her. Her growing feelings for Ky make her question her relationship with Xander and the wisdom of the Matching system; over time, she grows more and more frustrated with the Society's control over her relationship and her ability to express herself through poetry and writing, which is forbidden.
Gradually, Cassia begins to discover that the Society is not as utopian as she had once thought - in that people's freedoms are severely restricted, and the people are not allowed to make choices about their own desires and wants - including who they want to spend their lives with and whether they would like to be preserved for science at all. Cassia struggles with her inner desire to rebel and her more overt desire to remain docile, give into the Society and allow it to take care of her basic needs in return for a loss of freedom. It is also gradually revealed what the three tablets do: the green is a sort of sedative that calms people when they have anxiety. The blue tablet is described as providing nourishment for people who may be separated from food for a long time. And the red tablet causes people to forget anything that has happened in the last 12 hours, though it is revealed that it has no effect on some people, like Xander and Ky. The Officials take all the artifacts because they are considered "Unequal". Cassia later gets news that she is being forced to leave Maple Tree borough. Casseia soon gives birth to a baby, and she is unsure of who the father is. She believes it to be Ky, but soon finds out its Xander. Xander is forced to leave Maple Tree borough, because the Society forbids fathers to live in the Provinces.
The 17-year-old female protagonist of the novel. Cassia lives within the Society with her parents, Abran and Molly Reyes, and her younger brother, Bram. Upon her 17th birthday, she is Matched, as is every other citizen who isn't an aberration/related to one. She has been matched with Xander Thomas Carrow, a fun, intelligent boy whom she has known her entire life. But, when a glitch in the matching system appears, Cassia sees Ky's face instead of Xander. She wonders who she will choose, between perfection or passion. Now she questions, does she want Xander? Or does she want Ky? What will her choice be?
Xander is Cassia's childhood best friend, and has been Matched with Cassia. In the beginning Cassia cannot believe her fortune: that she is matched with her best friend that she has known for 17 years and it is unusual for people who already know each other to be matched, and Xander is her borough's golden boy - a handsome, intelligent, kind and caring young man who follows all of the rules. Xander has always loved her for as long as he can remember. He is also acquainted with Ky Markham; they both belong to the same social circle with Cassia and a few others. As the novel progresses, more of Xander's underlying character is revealed, and he turns out to be much different than he seems to be on the surface and will reveal his true self in the next book in the series, "Crossed."
Ky is an Aberration, a person who has been revoked of Citizen status because of his father's acts against the Society. Ky was adopted by his paternal aunt Aida Markham, and her husband Patrick Markham as a replacement for their son who was murdered, something that almost never happens in the Society. Because of his status as an Aberration, Ky has dropped out of high school early and taken up a work assignment as a nutrition disposal worker. In addition, he will never be allowed put himself into the official Matching pool, and is thus not supposed to be Matched with anyone. Nonetheless, his face briefly appears on Cassia's microcard, which arises curiosity and results in an increased interest in him. Ky secretly harbors strong feelings for Cassia, even though she has been matched with Xander. They begin to spend more time together in their summer recreational activity - hiking. As Ky helps Cassia cover up some illicit activity, the two begin to fall in love.
As each citizen is poisoned to die on their 80th birthday, Cassia witnesses her grandfather's death early on in the book. He was an Official and a sorter before he retired but shows a small piece of rebellion toward the Society when he gives Cassia the poem and then asks his son, Cassia's Father, not to hand in the tissue sample to the Society that may be used to recreate the dead if the Society ever finds a way. His wife, Cassia's grandmother died young from one of the last types of cancer that the Society had not cured. He also had children late, making him slightly different to the ordinary citizen.
Bram is Cassia's little brother and he is 10 years old. He is kind and an ordinary kid. He loved his grandfather very deeply. Before his grandfather died, he gave Bram his watch. Bram treasured this gift and used it to remember his grandfather. Bram was in First School during this book.
Molly Reyes is Cassia's mother and is originally from the farmlands. She works in agriculture and goes on 2 business trips throughout the book. She is married to Abran Reyes and is also the mother of Bram. She expresses love to her husband and children. She's always looking out for them. She's devoted to her work and rule following. She considers herself lucky to have such a great husband. Not everyone's matched to the right person. She's aware of what's going on around her and her family.
The idea for Matched was presented in 2008 when Condie's husband asked her, "What if someone wrote the perfect algorithm for lining people up, and the government used it to decide who you married, when you married, etc.?" Condie was also inspired by a time when she chaperoned a high school prom as well as other experiences, such as falling in love and becoming a parent. It took her about nine and a half months to write the book.
Matched received a starred review from Kirkus Reviews, who praised Condie for "[peeling] back layer after dystopic layer at breakneck speed". The reviewers noted its similarity to The Giver but said it is "a fierce, unforgettable page-turner in its own right". Susan Carpenter of the Los Angeles Times called it a "wonderful debut," praising the way Condie used the style of writing to reflect Cassia's feelings. Darienne Hosley Stewart, reviewing for Common Sense Media, gave Matched four out of four stars, praising Condie for "[crafting] a fine addition to the genre" that was a "great coming-of-age story" rather than a "hand-wringing love triangle, or a ho-hum story of teen rebellion". She also thought the characters were "complex and surprising" and Cassia's awakening and understanding of the Society "[felt] authentic".
Disney purchased the film rights to the Matched trilogy on September 16, 2010, Ally Condie's birthday, before the book had been released. Paramount Pictures had taken part in the bidding war, but Disney eventually won. Adam Shankman (who directed A Walk To Remember and directed and produced Hairspray) and Jennifer Gibgot have signed on to produce the film. The production has begun. Kieran Mulroney is hired to write the screenplay, which Jon Chu will direct after.