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The Ninja Reader

High-brow or downright pretentious, good PNR or sparkly vampires, I don't care about the premise so long as it entertains me.

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Bullying: The Social Destruction of Self
Laura Martocci
Matched - Ally Condie I admit it straight off the bat - I went about this book with very low expectations (then again, my expectations are low to begin with). Reviews weren't all that glowing, and the general theme was that it was a boring ripoff of "The Giver".Which, in a way is true. A lot of elements, like the medication, the social structure, the pre-made matchings, the pre-arranged deaths and the ultra-controlling Society, are things from "The Giver". However, while "The Giver" terrified me with its polite society, their insincere apologies and the smiles that didn't leave their faces even as they killed newborns and elderly, the Society in "Matched" never really managed that. The reader knows straight off the bat that they're rotten, and in no way throughout the book did I try and argue: "But they're so nice. They're so thoughtful. How can it be that they're evil." Oh, sure, the Utopic scenery with people living longer and happier lives is fine, but I never bought into that "if we fall, chaos will ensue" story offcials kept spinning.From the above, you may think that I did not like it, which is not true. I did enjoy this book. Ally Condie's writing style is rich and poetic, and I really enjoyed the way she described Cassia's life, the setting, the people. The characters were sensible enough, if slightly dull.Because the thing about the love story in this book is that it's... bland. I mean, we get all this amazing build up, with Cassia wondering about the rightness of her Match, and how she's attracted to Ky, and how she wants to touch him, and how he gives her his story, and then what do we get? A chaste kiss. Really?Let's look at [b:The Replacement|7507908|The Replacement|Brenna Yovanoff|http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51YK5JMd-WL._SL75_.jpg|6911742], one of my favorite books of 2010. There, we get Mackie and Tate, two characters that bond through tragedy. They don't even know each other all that well, yet they don't beat around the bush when it comes to getting physical (Tate is terribly straightforward, but Mackie doesn't question her intelligence by rejecting her). You might say that it's not the same thing - Mackie and Tate don't live under the threat of being seperated forcefully and killed, but in a way, "The Replacement" is also a dystopia - a little city living prosperous lives thanks to the offering it makes to the creatures who live under. Mackie and Tate do rebel against the set order, and they do succeed. Their relationship is just as dengerous as Cassia and Ky's, but they're physically attracted to one another and aren't afraid to act on it.Finally, as an economist-in-training, I'd like to applaud Condie for using the Prisoner's Dilemma game in the book... but I need to make a correction. For those of you who don't know, that's a game played by companies when they decide to collaborate. It goes like this - two criminals are caught and seperated after they robbed a bank together. They have no way of communication. They have to decide whether to deny or confess. If both deny, they get two years in prison. If both confess, they get five. If one denies and the other confesses, the confessor gets one year and the one who denied - ten. Both can deny, but they're more likely to confess, hoping that the other denies and they end up with less time to serve. That happens because it is in human nature to seek the best way out, and denying just holds too much risk. What Ky tells Cassia is that they can both deny and that this would be their best shot, thus putting enormous faith in her. But the truth is that it goes against human nature. Then again, the Society clearly cheats in these games, since Cassia's mother was put in a similar situation and still lost. Pity.All in all, it's a good book. But the love story? Meh... I'll be looking forward to Crossed though.