by Allie Condie
Cassia is excited, dressed up and riding the air train with her best friend, Xander, to attend the matching ceremony that falls on her birthday. When they arrive, Cassie sits with her family for dinner. She wants to take her cake home to her little brother, Bram, but knows she cannot break the rules. She watches girls get matched to boys throughout the country via video screens. They are handed silver boxes that contain their match’s information. When it is her turn, the screen stay blank.
It is uncommon for a couple to be matched from the same location, but Cassia is matched with Xander. Their parents are thrilled and they seem to be as well. Cassia realizes she looses all of the mystery and excitement of getting to know someone new, but realizes they still have a lot to discover. They are given special guidelines since they won’t be married for a few years. Everything in the society is planned out for efficiency. Xander helps her onto the air train to go home. She doesn’t want the night to end, but has to be in by curfew. She takes her blue, green, and red tablets from her artifact (an old compact) and puts them in their normal container. She goes to bed to be prepared for her trial work position.
Cassia wakes up and puts away the dream equipment so that her brother can use it later that night. As her mother admires the dress they have to return, Cassia remembers picking it out. Her brother barely makes the train for school, and has to break the “no running in public” rule to make it. Cassia says she is going to visit her grandfather with some of her rec time later. His final banquet is the next night. Cassia goes to work and sorts numbers (sometimes it is other things) be recognizing patterns, which she does very quickly and efficiently. When she gets home, she is alone and eats dinner. She puts her micro card into the port to read about Xander. It shows his face, but then it restarts and shows someone else.
Xander comes to get Cassia, and they head out for rec time. His card didn’t do anything strange, and he tells her they are allowed to be affectionate. Cassia is distracted as the other girls stare in jealousy. She can’t help thinking about the other face that showed up on her micro card, someone she knows.
Xander goes to play a game and Cassia’s friend, Em, asks her what it is like to be matched to someone she knows. Cassia says it is great. Shortly after Em is called away, an official comes to talk to Cassia in private. She asks about the glitch with her micro card and Cassia tells her everything. The official explains that the other boy that appeared, Ky Markham, is an Aberration (classification due to an infraction and cannot be matched) because of his father, and therefore couldn’t possibly be matched to her. She asks that the official not tell anyone, but asks if she can tell her grandfather. The official agrees and promises to find out who is responsible. Cassia returns to Xander. A little while later, everyone has to stop everything because someone lost their tablet container. She remembers the day she met Ky. Xander had lost his container in the pool and dove to find it. She was worried that he was under too long and Ky jumped in to help, almost drowning himself. Cassia comes back to the present and sees Ky. She goes to take a step towards him, but crushes the lost container. When she looks up, Ky is gone.
After Cassia explains to an official what happened with the tablet container, she goes to visit her grandfather. She tells him about the mistake with the micro card and is surprised when he is angry. He says he wants to protect her, and she remembers him chiding her into jumping off the high-dive board. He asks her to bring the compact to his final banquet.
The family goes to Grandfather’s apartment for his final banquet. The committee comes in to finalize everything and leave Cassia’s father, Abran, a tissue sample for preservation Grandfather’s friends arrive and they eat all desserts for his last meal. He then visits with each family member individually. When it is Cassia’s turn, she gives him her gift: a letter that she pieced together from other works. He tells her to use her own words. He asks for the compact and takes out a small hidden piece of paper. He says it is for her, and she puts it away before the rest of the family returns for their last goodbyes. Grandfather dies with Cassia holding his hand.
Cassia and her friends--including Xander and Ky--try to decide what to do with their rec time. They agree on a showing that only Ky hasn’t seen and Cassia sits between the two boys. She notices that Ky has an awed expression at the beginning cinematic. When they show the dramatization of life before the Society, she sees Ky tear up. She doesn’t say anything.
When it is time for her summer activity, Cassia reports to the hiking instructor at the arboretum. He tells them to get to the top of the hill without any training or instruction. Everyone goes off on their own. Cassia realizes this is the perfect time to read the paper she took out of the compact and is now in her pocket. She finds a poem about rage and fighting for what you want. She puts it away, knowing she will have to destroy it. She reaches the top of the hill by running. Ky is there. She asks about how his mom (not the aunt who adopted him and he calls mother) died. He doesn’t answer, but asks who she lost. She tells him and Ky says that he saw her reading in the woods and offers to help destroy the paper. Cassia declines and starts to wonder more about Ky.
Cassia steps off the air train to see an official’s air car in front of their house. She goes inside, panicked about the paper in her pocket. Bram tells her that their father lost the sample of Grandfather. She quickly goes to her room to change and puts the poem away in the compact. The officials search Abran and warn him that if he makes another mistake, it will result in an infraction. Cassia is a little upset that since the sample is gone, they will not be able to bring her grandfather back to life (when they figure out how to). She thinks while she runs on the tracker (treadmill). Bram contacts an official to see if his artifact (Grandfather’s pocket watch) could be used to collect a new sample. They say it is not enough. The little boy asks Cassia to keep the watch in her match box. She dreams of her grandfather that night. She has never taken the green calming tablet because he thought she was too strong to need it. She dreams of the poems.
The next morning, Cassia’s father is already gone when she gets up. Hiking activities have been canceled due to rain, so she decides to visit her father at work so that she can get rid of the poems. They are incinerating unnecessary books they found and have torn apart (only 100 of each type of art has been allowed to exist). Cassia lets her page float in the wind with the other loose pages. When she gets to school, Xander tells her about a new rec activity he signed them both up for. They get to class and she learns that their friend, Piper, has been assigned her vocation. Cassia starts thinking about telling Xander everything, but decides not to. She thinks of Ky on the hill.
Later at work, Norah (Cassia’s supervisor) tells her that she will do practice sorts for matching. She will also be observed by the officials soon, which is a good sign for getting a higher up vocation. While sorting, she thinks of Ky and makes a mistake, which is unusual for her. When she gets off the air train, her father meets her to talk about her visit. She tells him about the paper. He tells her that Grandfather requested that he destroy the sample. Cassia is determined to get her act together and follow the rules.
Cassia and Xander attend the new activity together. They have a picnic with friends and then plant newroses at the First School. Afterwards, they are served ice cream. Xander gives Cassia her first real kiss. By the time it is all over, they still have an hour of rec time. Em Joins them at a music hall. Ky is already there and joins their group. Cassia offers to let Em borrow her compact for her matching banquet. Xander starts telling her about his experience. Cassia thinks about Ky and the next thing she knows, Em is having an anxiety attack. Xander suggests that she take her green pill, but Cassia informs him that Em took her earlier that day (they are not allowed more than 1 per week). Ky suggests that Xander giver her his (Ky, as an Aberration, can’t have his own) and he does.
The officials come to watch Cassia sort. She lets her troubles go so that she can be her best and they are impressed. They say that they will have their eye on her, which is unsettling. The night of Em’s matching, Cassia has a nightmare. she goes to use the port, but her mom has a call on it. She has to go on a trip because of a problem with some crops. Cassia is suspicious. She eavesdrops on her parents to find out her dad didn’t tell her mom, Molly, about Grandfather’s request. The next morning, Hiking is cancelled again due to weather. Cassia goes to school early and searches through the 100 poems. At lunch, Em tells everyone about her match. Cassia is jealous that no one gave her that much attention because they already know Xander. Em asks if Ky gave her back the compact. Cassia is slightly worried, but tries to not let it show.
Ky gives Cassia the artifact before they start hiking, but it is a compass rather than the compact. They separately reach the top of the hill. A boy comes to inform the official that someone is hurt. Cassia is asked to keep track of who reaches the top and when. Ky shows Cassia that he knows how to write and she asks him to teach her. Before he can answer, people start making it to them. Back at the bottom of the hill, Ky says yes.
Cassia shows Ky her progress in writing the letter “C.” He wants her to learn her name, but Cassia wants to write out the poem from her grandfather. He agrees to teach her cursive and she will tell him a little of the poem each day. He gives her a napkin with writing on it to study and says to destroy it after. Back at home, she studies the words. “Two lives” with two drawings of Ky. Her father says she has a message from a match official and she goes to answer it. They want her and Xander to have a supervised outing. Xander comes over shortly after the call to discuss it. Cassia thinks that she disappoints him because she daydreamed of her match prior to the banquet. She wonders if he had only daydreamed about her. He leaves and Ky gets off the last train. he gives her an envelope that contains her compact and tells her to look at the compass.
On the next hiking trip, a girl named Livy makes it to the top before Cassia. Ky is sitting with the other girl showing her how to write. Cassia is jealous and when he asks, she refuses to give him any more words. Later that night, Xander and an official pick her up for their first outing. They eat their normal food in a restaurant like setting. Xander points out that police-type officials have been around all the boroughs lately. Cassia wonders if that is why Ky keeps his distance. She thinks she might be falling in love with him.
When they get out of the air train in their neighborhood, officials are at Em’s house. When they leave her house, she sees Xander and Cassia. She runs to tell them that they are collecting artifacts because they create inequality. Cassia excuses herself, knowing she has to hide the compass. Xander joins her and tells her he will hide her compact for her. She runs inside to get the compass from her room. Running back out to see Xander, she drops it down his shirt as he instructed. Her compact was register, but Ky’s artifact is illegal. Bram wants to hide his watch, but Cassia convinces him that it is no use. When the officials arrive, the house is searched and they give up their prized possessions. Cassia finds another note and drawing from Ky on the envelope he used to give her the compact.
The next day, Xander tells Cassia that he buried the compass in Ky’s garden. For hiking, the group is paired off by skill. Ky and Cassia are together. He asks her about the compass because he was worried she would get into trouble. Cassia tells him where Xander hid it and asks about his interaction with Livy. The girl saw them writing, so he said he was teaching Cassia how to draw tress and then showed Livy. He likes that she is jealous. Cassia tells him the whole poem and Ky teaches her the rest of her name.
Cassia’s mom returns home from her work trip, but can’t give much detail because the information is classified. Cassia goes with Xander and her friends to the games for rec time. Xander takes Ky to a table for one-on-one to play a game of chance. Xander pulls Cassia aside to point out that Ky looses games of skill on purpose. Xander challenges Ky again to a game of skill this time. Cassia notices Ky’s careful planning to get to a winning position, just to give the game up to Xander.
The officials come to Cassia at work again to let her know she will move onto the next phase of testing: sorting real things. On the next hike, she expresses her sympathies for Ky loosing his parents. He tells her about Sisyphus (rebelled and forced to push a boulder up a hill continually). She asks why he looses the games on purpose, but he just says he has to. he knows that Xander knows. He starts showing her how to write his name. He admits that he can’t be matched, but thinks he would’ve ended up with someone like her.
At school, Cassia is pulled out of class for an infraction. She walks out of the building to find the official that told her about the error with her micro card. She warns her that (although affairs are common) if she messes around with Ky, she can become an Aberration herself, and he would be sent back to the Outer Provinces. The infraction was another error as this instance was only to serve as a warning. Back at home, Cassia receives a package containing a scrap from the dress show wore to her matching ceremony. Bram had hoped it was his watch. She reads the latest note from Ky and realizes the official came for him too. She has to end it with him.
The officials cut down the maple trees in the neighborhood. Cassia thinks it is a warning to her, but her mom, Molly, thinks it is directed at her for some reason. When they start hiking, Cassia tells Ky about the official warning her. he also had a visit. He gives her a piece of a poem he traded something for (though he doesn’t say what). He kisses her on the cheek.
Ky and Cassia enjoy their time together, but know they can’t have more right now. That night, Cassia dreams of having a normal life with him. The next day, Ky tells Cassia that he first knew her when she helped her brother get over his fear of going to school on his first day. Cassia can’t tell him about his face on the micro card, so she says it was the first hike. She realizes that their lives are intertwined.
Ky tells Cassia about the Archivists. When works started being destroyed, some people kept them to sell. That is how he was able to get her a poem for her birthday. He tells her how to contact them if she ever has need and to sell the poem her grandfather gave her. They get ride of the paper with the birthday poem on it (bury some, tear up and release some to the wind). She asks him about his tears during the showing. He explains that what they saw wasn’t a dramatization but what actually happens in the Outer Provinces. She writes “I Love You” in the dirt and he says it back before they have to report to the official.
Officials are at the bottom of the hill to take Cassia to her next sorting test. She is taken to the nutrition disposal center and made to sort Ky’s shift. The higher performers will be reassigned to a better vocation. Ky is directly in the middle. The official tells her that her sort will be used and that those that have this vocation tend to die early. She realizes the Society poisons the elderly’s food. She puts Ky in the high group and hopes it was the right choice.
After running (and falling) on the tracker, Cassia gets a call on the port. She passed her sorting test and will have her position soon. She talks to her mom about her trips out of town. Farmers have been growing illegal crops that can be used as food. The government thinks this is a sign of rebellion. Ky admits that the officials came to him to tell him his information was accidentally added to the matching pool. They show him that Cassia would’ve been his match. Cassia realizes that the government is messing with them. She tells Xander what happened and that she loves Ky. He is hurt. Cassia feels abandoned.
Cassia smashes the frame that holds the scrap of fabric from her dress. When she arrives at the hill, the new officer tells them it is their last day of hiking. Ky and Cassia decide to ignore their task to take down their markers and go to the top. Cassia expresses her concern about the officials arranging their love and the sort moving him away. Ky doesn’t care how it started, just that they have it. He gives her the last piece of his history to read later and tells her to use his artifact (Xander can teach her) to always be able to find him. They kiss.
Cassia is woken up in the middle of the night from Ky’s mom, Aida, screaming. Ky is being taken away with his wrists bound. Cassia runs to be able to say her goodbye. His dad, Patrick, says he is being sent to the Outside Providences to fight the enemy because all the villagers are already dead. The officials have everyone take their red tablet to forget what happened. Cassia doesn’t take hers and her official knows it, but wants her to get away with it.
Everyone who took the red tablet has forgotten the last 12 hours. Molly gets a private message on the port saying that their family is being relocated to farmlands in another province. Em tells Cassia that Patrick was selected to work in the capital and Ky’s family is already gone. Cassia goes to city hall, but realizes they won’t tell her anything. She goes to the Archivists, but again, realizes they won’t have the information she needs to find Ky. She looks at a map and finds the Sisyphus River (rumored to have been toxic). She thinks Ky will be near there. Outside the museum, her official waits for her. The woman says that the whole thing was an experiment. Cassia knows that the officials did not put Ky in the matching pool as the official says. She has hope.
Xander is waiting for Cassia when she gets home. He has taken some things that will help her find Ky (compass, blue nutrition pills) and gives her an envelope with them inside. He reveals that the red pills don’t work on him or Ky. He was jealous of the way she looked at Ky when they were younger and caught him with his illegal compass. He dared him to steal two red pills, so that he wouldn’t tell on him. Ky stole Xander’s parents pills and brought them to him. Xander’s parents got in trouble. Ky offered to start over and they both took a red pill. Ky taught him how to use the compass. He will send her directions disguised as a love letter. Cassia and her family board a train to be relocated. her father knows that she loves Ky and is willing to help her get the life she wants.
Cassia’s parents have her sent to a camp out west for kids showing signs of rebellion. She is closer to Ky and her parents and Xander keep her updated with any information they can. She practices writing whenever she can so that she will have the right words when she is reunited with Ky.