Book Review: Reached by Ally Condie

Cover of Reached by Ally CondieReached by Ally Condie
Hardcover, 369 pages
Published November 30th, 2010 by Dutton Books for Young Readers

Rating: Three & a half stars.
Warning: this review contains possible spoilers.

Reached is the final book in the Matched trilogy by Ally Condie. I bought each book at my local bookstore and I bought this one in hardback (which I rarely buy) so I could finish the series.

The series is set in our world in the future, with the dystopian usual set up: after a societal breakdown in what appears to be North America (sego lilies and kona salmon make an appearance), people form The Society, with rigorous rules keeping everyone safe, health, and in line. Opposed to the Society Officials is the Rising, a rebellion made of Anomalies, Aberrations, and ex-Society citizens who have seen the monster underneath the utopian. Stuck navigating the two are Cassia, Ky, and Xander, three childhood friends seeking survival, freedom, and a future for the people they love. You can read more (and probably a better summary) on the Goodreads page for Matched.

Overall, Reached is an enjoyable read, and the last quarter of the book held me to the end with continual suspense and whirlwind reveals. I’m glad I finished the series, though I liked this and the second book less than the first. I loved the emphasis on choice and the places our choices lead; our choices have consequences, good or bad, and the effects can change in the long-term. Shielding ourselves from the realities of choice can be as bad as believing that letting others make your choices is the best way–both perspectives are blind. Cassia, Ky, and Xander witness this firsthand and learn to navigate the freedoms and pitfalls of choice.

I did put the book down for a couple of weeks mid-way because I lost interest in all the build up–each of the three narrators explaining their every feeling about Society, the Rising, their missions, and each other, and then saying how they thought the other two felt as well. It led to an overload unnecessary repetition and the unique details and plot got lost.

As with many YA dystopian fiction series these days, there’s a love triangle. I appreciated Condie’s handling of the emotional intricacies of this one, allowing her three main characters to have enough emotional maturity and growth to remain friends. Their friendship is believable and perhaps even enviable. Despite the love complications, they are loyal and considerate (for the most part). However, my belief in Ky and Cassia’s chemistry wavered in this book. The depth Ky had in Matched and Crossed seemed to drain away, and I had a hard time emotionally connecting to him at all, even when he fell ill.

Xander is the character that shines by the end of the book. He has to undergo trial after trial, each of his belief systems proving false when a new factor arises. His strength is in adapting to each new situation and finding a new goal to work towards, someone new to follow, a new Pilot. By the end, I think he’s shakily learning to lean on his own understanding and guidance. His observation on love is simple but brave:

When we fall in love the first time, we don’t know anything. We risk a lot less than we do if we choose to love again. (504)

It was a joy to watch Cassia discover the wonders of community art. Description is where Condie shines, so when Cassia takes the mosaic and feather bird in her hand, and imagines it flying, I could too. I could here the woman singing in the Gallery and I wanted to read more of Cassia learning to dance! So I’m glad there was a dance scene at the end. Normally I don’t like dance scenes because they never seem to capture the movement and energy right, but the author does it right. She does wonderfully with settings/environments, too. With Condie’s depth of description, it was easy to imagine the quarantine rooms where the still lay, the poisoned lake, the Gallery, the sego lily flowers. The biggest flaw in this book (and series) is where that penchant for description carries over into the characters’ interiority, where I would rather be shown than told how the characters are feeling.

The protagonists’ interiority also contains poignant pockets of poetry and simple truths. I will end with this one, from Ky:

If you let hope inside, it takes you over. It feeds on your insides and uses your bones to climb and grow. Eventually it becomes the thing that is your bones, that holds you together. Holds you up until you don’t know how to live without it anymore. To pull it out of you would kill you entirely. (255)

If you want to learn more about Ally Condie, check out her Goodreads author page, where you can view book trailers, see her other books, ask her questions, and follow her blog.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


After a summer-long hiatus from reading anything but blog posts, I’ve finally fallen back in love with books. I just finished Johannes Cabal The Necromancer by Jonathan L. Howard and Reboot by Amy Tintera and was delighted to find out they each have sequel! I will be writing a longer review for each of them, but for now:

Johannes Cabal The Necromancer is a macabre delight. Howard’s prose is intelligently sarcastic, always finding something ironic and humorous in the most serious of situations. The protagonist Cabal is an angsty yet determined villain, who despite all his despicable acts, still finds a way to be a sympathetic character. Quite a feat!

Reboot is a unique addition to the well-saturated Young Adult Dystopian Sci-Fi/Fantasy genre, borrowing recognizable wisps of zombie lore and placing it within the context of medical experimentation and the pharmaceutical industrial complex. Though the intended audience is obvious at times by the simplicity of the prose, I still found myself fully absorbed into Tintera’s post-apocalyptic world and the plight of her characters. I could barely put this book down and read it in less than two days. Fans of Marie Lu’s Legend series might love Reboot even more, since the characters, world, and plot are more developed and unpredictable.

I’ve also just finished the third season of The Walking Dead (huge kudos to the scriptwriters, editors, and sound production team, especially for the last few episodes — this was an excellent comeback after the dragging, dead plot and characters of season two) and am currently reading The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle.


P.S. What have you been reading? What do you recommend I read next?

Spring Cleaning

Apparently it’s almost summer, despite the gray sky we’ve had for most of the day. And it’s time for me to go through all the papers, old clothes, and random things (what Jess calls my “junk”) that have accumulated in our room.

But spring cleaning doesn’t just apply to the house. It’s also time to give this blog a face lift! I will be cleaning up categories, sorting posts, moving links and widgets around, and hopefully by the end I will have a more exciting, more easily navigable website. So please forgive any craziness for the next week. Things always get messier before they’re clean, right?


P.S. Oh yeah, I graduated!

Some Book-related Fun – June 8th, 2013

This came up in my feed and I had to share. There are some great benefits to e-books, including being able to word search for a passage while in class or instantly share favorite quotes with friends. But if you ever visited me and saw my three overflowing, double stacked bookshelves, you’d know I prefer the kind without batteries.

I love the weight, texture, and smell of books, and the physical sensation of turning a page. My progress is visible, and my well-loved books are dog-eared and sometimes chewed around the corners (by my cat). With the ability to store almost everything in “the cloud,” I still like keeping my dusty loves around.

Epic Fantasy For All Audiences


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Review: Bloglovin’

I’m loving the blog aggregate Bloglovin‘! Rather than having to join multiple blog websites or wrangle RSS feeds to keep up with my favorite blogs, I joined one site that compiles all of my favorite blogs in one visually pleasing feed. I also had the option to get a daily email update on my feed, and Bloglovin’ just released a mobile app so can stay up-to-date wherever I am.

Though I’m fairly new to the site, all the functions seem simple and straightforward. I can mark posts as read and like them (with an adorable heart graphic). I stay signed in over multiple browser sessions, so I don’t have to waste time signing in. Bloglovin’ also provides ways for users to connect to other readers and bloggers. I spent hours searching for the perfect blog aggregate, and I chose this site over Google Reader and the hundreds of other apps and websites I found.

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

What do you use to keep up with your favorite posts?

How do you say goodbye and hello in the same breath?

On Monday, I found myself wandering about on campus, over Leona Creek past the piled tree branches from last week’s windstorms, into the sudden warm sun by the Alumnae House, trailing my way between trees and archways of the art building.

It was only when I found myself standing next to the koi pond betwixt the first year dorms, where I spent many meditative hours and late night ramblings, when I realized–

I was saying goodbye.


Convocation, Roses, Zines: A Quick Update

Convocation, Roses, Zines, A Birthday: A Quick Update

Whew! These past few weeks have been screamingly busy. I feel like I haven’t had a true “weekend” in weeks–if by weekend you mean that glorious mythological space of time where one can sleep in, lazily wake up and sip tea in bed while watching Netflix, go on long walks, and read books for pleasure, and never fully get dressed.

Fridays usually are the start of my weekend, but two weeks ago (Sept 26) I had to wake up incredibly early for Convocation, and despite my early rising, I missed the breakfast–just as I was about to eat my first bite, they told us to line up (I must have spent too long curling my hair). Convocation is a sort of pre-Commencement ceremony at Mills, steeped in lots of traditions. It’s a way to welcome the new semester, announce awards, and give the senior class a glimpse into what it will feel like to walk to our seats for Commencement. I rather like all the old traditions; it makes me feel like I’m going to an Ivy League school, or like I’m one of a long history of people.

Recently I’ve had a penchant for roses, especially vintage rose patterns and photographs. I adore the little rose garden in front of the Campanil bell tower on campus. There are so many colors: glowing peach, vibrant maroon, buttery pink, and that sweet sherbet mixture that looks like a dawn or sunset. I tried to show a little bit of them all in the picture. I also was able to include them in a recent project I just finished this morning.

I made a one-page zine! It’s titled “A Brief History of the Engagement Ring” and has both a general history and my personal history with engagement rings. I’ll be posting pictures, and printable PDF of it, and a how to so you can make your own. They are so simple and fun, and a low-cost DIY expression of creativity. Yay for self-publication! Be on the lookout.

Ta-ta for now,


Keep Calm and Live Rowing


No matter how many years I’ve been away, I will always remember the sense of peace and calm that came with the perfect stroke. The stroke that made all the stress and sore muscles worth it. The irreplaceable camaraderie between crew mates because we were witnesses to our mutual pains and individual sacrifices and successes. There is something magical in that bond that slowly fades away when someone is no longer officially part of the team. That part stings. But I still remember those perfect strokes. Those moments of perfect synchronicity between nine bodies. The squaring twist of the wrist. The catch. The fierce kick of the stroke. The last pull to get maximum inches. And then those floating moments of rest, multitasking breath intake and a deep appreciating for balance. The perfect stroke.

What does “queer” mean (to you)?

A little something I wrote on Tumblr to answer a friend’s question about the word “queer,” and why I use it as an identity term. Hardly covers everything, but it’s a start. What does “queer” mean (to you)? How have you heard it defined, or used?


Favorite Fictional Foods Come to Life!

I have discovered a new blog whose pages I’ll be haunting frequently. Do you remember reading Lord of the Rings and wishing you could taste Lembas or take part of the great Hobbit feasts? Or what about the Redwall series: feast after feast after glorious 10-page feast. This blogger/book reviewer is making those wishes come true! Despite a day job, they spend long hours researching historical recipes and toiling in the kitchen, making fictional foods come to life. Then they share their detailed, custom recipes, fully equipped with photos and delicious descriptions.

The Butter Beer recipe (from Harry Potter, of course!) will be my first try. I think October will be the perfect time to have a marathon movie night, surrounded by flickering candles, and mugs of butter beer to warm us up.

Food Through the Pages



I’ve never really held with the idea that the Butterbeer in Harry Potter is basically some sort of cream soda. No way. To me, that’s a very American interpretation, with artificial flavoring, and so much sugar that it becomes horrible.

My approach, probably unsurprising to many of you, was to dip into the historical cookbooks for my inspiration. And lo, from the late 1500s, there’s a recipe for “Buttered Beere”. Clearly this was what I needed to try.

My first reaction to the finished historical brew was one of surprise: The smell doesn’t quite match the flavor, so the first sip is not what you’ll be expecting. It almost smells like a sweet dough, as you might make for cinnamon rolls, with that combination of yeast, butter, and eggs. However, the flavor itself is one of creamy, spiced beer, with all the residual hops and tinge of bitterness…

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The Big DayMay 25, 2013
College is over! I have my degree!
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