In Crossed, the sequel to Matched, the dystopian love triangle continues. Cassia has left Society to search for Ky who was sent out to fight against the Enemy. The point of view alternates between Cassia and Ky, although it’s always in first person present tense. Occasionally I found myself forgetting whose point of view I was reading, but luckily each chapter is labeled so I could always check quickly.
This is very much a sequel and very much a middle book of a trilogy. It makes no sense unless you’ve already read Matched, and its primary purpose is to set up Reached. We learn a lot more about Ky and a good bit more about Xander, but Cassia is kind of frustratingly stagnant despite her feeling that she’s changing and growing tremendously. Certainly she’s taking on things she never expected to, but she’s a lot more surprised than the reader probably will be.
Although it’s well paced—I read through it in just a few days despite a hectic schedule because the chapters are short and the action keeps moving—there’s also not a lot to it aside from love, death, and secrets. We learn a little more about the history of the Society and how it came about. But mostly Cassia and then Ky are reflecting on how much they love each other and on the tremendous amounts of death that surround them. The book feels like little more than a bridge to the next and final novel.
SPOILER ALERT: Things you might want to know before suggesting this to your kid
So much death, starting with two poems about death and then jumping right in on the first page of the story. Lots of it is faceless death, mostly of teenaged boys sent to “fight” the Enemy. All of the deaths mentioned in Matched are reflected on again, sometimes at length. Several characters we meet in passing die. Several times scenes of many deaths are encountered—they are essentially in a war zone. A father buries his five year old daughter. A close friend of Ky’s is killed.
Although the main characters never actively kill anyone, they do have to allow other people to die in order to save themselves. Or they realize that they could have saved someone if they’d made a different choice. These decisions don’t rest easily on them—they feel responsibility and have to move forward anyway.
Love and Sex
Ky and Cassia spend a night talking, kissing, and holding on to each other. We don’t see this in detail—it’s left up to the reader’s imagination what all that involves.
Different definitions and ideas about love continue to be explored. Cassia started to wear on me. I mean, Ky is a nice guy and I get that loving him is a form of rebellion, but I was hoping to see more of who she is besides someone besotted with a boy she shouldn’t love. I’m still not sure exactly what Ky and Xander see in her, even though in this book we get to see her through Ky’s eyes.
I appreciate that Xander still hasn’t turned into a jerk—he’s still a good match for Cassia, and she knows it. We learn more about Xander in this book (although Cassia doesn’t learn much except that he’s not as uncomplicated as she assumed) and it makes him more interesting, even though we hardly see his character at all.
Oh, the secrets. Everyone is keeping them. Since the book is first person, the characters can’t even talk about what those secrets are because then the reader would know them. It started to get annoying, and I was not shocked by the revelations when they finally came. Luckily the book kept moving, so it didn’t feel like that long until they were revealed, but it was long enough that it started to bug me. It also bugged some of the characters, resulting in some manufactured tension.
Meet the New Boss…
…same as the old boss. Yes, there’s a rebellion (the Rising). But as Ky knows, it’s also a big organization and it’s not all that much better than the Society. Anyone who’s read Mockingjay will recognize the tropes (although the revelation is sitting better with me in this series than it did in The Hunger Games series because it’s not intended to be a shock—it reveals a tough decision the characters need to make and continues exploring the theme of what sacrifices are worth making and why).
The Rising and the Society are both responsible for atrocities that result in the deaths of innocent people. We find out more about the Society which makes it clear that they’ve purposefully tried to exterminate people they found less than useful. The Rising has also made some really questionable decisions and it certainly allows people to die when it isn’t convenient to save them. It’s also possible that they’ve purposefully exterminated people who won’t join them. There’s a certain underlying theme of not trusting any organization to do what’s best for the people—an organization looks out for itself.
Strong (or not) Female Characters
Oddly, seeing the story from a point of view besides Cassia’s actually weakened her character for me. She’s kind of unaware and self-centered. I can’t find a motivation for her besides needing to find Ky again. It’s stated that she enjoys the freedom of not being watched and being able to make her own decisions, but mostly all she does is look for Ky. She’s utterly defined by her love for him. She’s learning how sheltered and naïve she was, but that revelation doesn’t do much to make her more interesting in my eyes when there are so many other characters who seem to have more depth to them.
Indie is a new character who I guess is supposed to be a counterpoint to Cassia. She’s a survivor, willing to do what it takes to just hang in there. She’s been through a lot and Ky doesn’t trust her because he sees himself in her. He knows she’ll steal or lie or do whatever it takes to survive. However, she’s also a good friend to Cassia in the end, coming clean, at least for the most part, about the secrets she’s hiding.
Creativity and Poetry
One of the greatest things to Cassia is the ability to create—to make your own pictures, write your own words. Books, especially poems, play a meaningful role in the story. Even individual pages torn from books that aren’t part of the Hundred are valuable as trade. “Crossing the Bar” by Tennyson is a sort of code and anthem for the Rising. Cassia loves poetry—she tries to write a poem for Ky, which she doesn’t quite pull off. But I did notice that her view of the world got more poetical as the story went on. She describes things poetically and concentrates on subjects that often intrigue poets, like different kinds and stages of love. Ironically, I think this made it harder for me to identify with her.
The focus on death won’t appeal to every reader who enjoyed Matched. My daughter talked to some of her friends who’ve read the series, and they didn’t like this book as much. I can see why. It feels like it doesn’t challenge the reader as much—Matched got us talking a lot. I’m not sure Crossed will. I’m curious to see if this book is worth reading to get to Reached—if not, then I’ll probably recommend my daughter use her limited reading time on something I think she’ll like better.
Update: Having read Reached, it’s a satisfying trilogy and I don’t think it gets too dark. I’ll be handing both Crossed and Reached to my daughter if she wants to read them.
You definitely need to have read Matched before you read this. I’d recommend this for fans of the characters who won’t mind a darker turn and the unrelenting presence of death.