Warning: This book is the third in a series and the review necessarily contains spoilers for Matched and Crossed.
“Ky, I know that you’re going to want to come find me, that you’re going to want to save me. But I need you to trust me to save myself.”
In Reached, Ally Condie brings her dystopian YA trilogy to a dramatic close as the Rising finally confronts the Society. Cassia, Xander and Ky are scattered, each attempting to fulfill their own role in overthrowing the oppressive regime. Cassia is working undercover within Central, the heart of the Society, while Ky serves as a an airship pilot and Xander works as a medic. But the long-awaited Rising is not at all what they expected. Told from the alternating perspectives of all three main characters, we follow Xander first and discover that The Plague which the Society originally unleashed against the Enemy has come back to infect its own citizens, and the Rising is leveraging the effects of the illness against the Society at the expense of lives. Instead of a violent war or a bloodless coup, Condie sets up a complicated confrontation filled with grey areas. The struggle to contain the Plague further blurs the lines between the Society and the Rising, and with reason to question the Pilot’s leadership, Cassia, Xander and Ky realize that they must save themselves. And, of course, Cassia must choose, once and for all, between Xander and Ky.
Condie’s decision to allow all three characters to narrate allows us to get a better look at their different feelings and perspectives. It was especially important to include Xander, whose role as a medic reveals crucial information about the Plague. We also get a window into Xander’s thoughts as he undergoes significant character development in the course of this volume. Not everyone—Team Ky fans—will be happy to be hearing from Xander so much, but he provides a crucial POV for the finale. However, the necessity of following all three characters in their different locations does provide a bit of drag to the plot, resulting in some slow going through the middle of the story. Luckily, Condie’s beautiful integration of poetry and art weren’t sacrificed for the sake of streamlining the story.
One of the great things about this trilogy is Condie’s determination to break a number of annoying YA stereotypes (despite using a love triangle as a key plot feature). YA romances are often—and often rightly—critiqued on feminist grounds. Condie has obviously made an effort to avoid these pitfalls. The importance of Cassia’s right to choose her partner is emphasized, as well as Xander and Ky’s respect for her decision. Condie accomplishes this with without sacrificing tension or making their rivalry seem flat. Similarly, while some characters fall in love quickly (verging on the dreaded insta-love), Condie is the rare YA writer for whom not everyone ends up with their first love. Characters grieve lost love and unrequited feelings, but move on. Just as she addresses the grey areas between the Society and the Rising, Condie depicts realistic and complex human emotions rather than settling for the over-simplification seen in some YA series.