Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Review: Crossed by Ally Condie

Crossed by Ally Condie was, for me, a dud. It had to have some redeeming qualities as I continued to listen to it (more on that below), but overall it just wasn't a fit.

I started reading Crossed randomly without any clue to its content. I quickly realized that it was in the Distopian-Young-Adult genre, à la Hunger Games. The problem is, the Hunger Games series ended up being so awful that anything I read that's remotely similar triggers a bad reaction. This, of course, is totally unfair to Crossed. For all I know Crossed could have been written well before Hunger Games (checks Amazon: nope, Crossed was published years after Hunger Games).

The other strike against Crossed is the whole young-adult aspect. I get it; you're a teenager and you're wrestling with your feelings. And you've got a crush on someone, and you so want to hold their hand and get that first kiss. Yes, it's cute. But apparently, I'm so over it.

Perhaps I need to track down an adventure story about a couple who's been married for decades. They've had crushes on each other, and their share of blow-out-fights. There's no question of will-they or won't-they end up together, because the are together. It isn't cutesy, but it's effective. By now, they're an unstoppable team that can read each other's minds and anticipate each other's moves. What they lack in fawning over each other, they make up for in support, love and respect. I'd so read that.

The final strike against Crossed was that it's book #2 in a trilogy, so by its very nature it has to be a transitional story. In other words, for all the action nothing really happens. Clearly reading book #2 first was a mistake, and that's what I get for going in cold. I suppose if the story had been riveting, I would be inspired to read the the other two. But alas, it was just OK, so I'll pass on the series.

Kvetching aside, Crossed isn't without its redeeming qualities. The characters are pretty likable, even if they are a bit insufferable. And the story didn't descend into the pointless abyss that the Hunger Games did. I also enjoyed using the clues provided to figure out the rules of the distopian society, an exercises needed because I skipped the first book.

While I don't totally get why, I thought it was clever to emphasize the beauty and power of poetry. I for one found myself Googling various poems, inspired by the book. If Crossed manages to get teens to read and think about poetry then I'll gladly take back any and all of my complaints.

I also liked the suggestions that the distopian society evolved not out of pure evil, but out of the intention to do good. Again, I didn't read the first book, so my interpretation of this may be wrong. It seems that in an attempt to cure cancer and most likely other woes, humans have backed themselves into a corner. Ah yes, the power of unintended consequences. Like the emphasis on poetry, this is another great topic for teens to encounter and explore.

For the right (and intended) audience, Crossed and the other books in the series are almost certainly a winner. Kids should dig the love story, and parents should appreciate that their kids are being exposed to important themes. It's a win-win. Just not for me.

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