Interview: Ally Condie talks 'Crossed'
In Ally Condie's young-adult fiction debut, "Matched," the government arranges a marriage between 17-year-old Cassia and her lifelong friend Xander, a good-looking nice guy most girls would be thrilled to betrothe. Or was Cassia really meant to be with Ky, the strong and silent poet? In "Crossed," the highly anticipated follow-up to the bestselling dystopian trilogy, due out Tuesday, Cassia leaves the constraints of the Society and heads into the Outer Provinces to search for Ky. Susan Carpenter, who writes our regular young-adult literature column "Not Just for Kids," caught up with Condie to talk about the series.
Jacket Copy: You've said the "Matched" trilogy is about a girl learning how to choose. What drew you to that idea?
Ally Condie: I had really great parents who always gave me lots of opportunity for choice, but I didn't always realize how rare that was for a girl for them to say, "You can be a mom or have a career or do both or do something we haven't thought of yet." It's something I feel so strongly about personally.
JC: Most of the action in the first book takes place inside the Society, where everything from the food people eat to the music they hear to the people they marry has been pre-selected. Why does Cassia need to escape the Society in "Crossed?"
AC: It's one thing to say, "I choose love, I choose freedom," but we need to see her doing something about that. Within the constraints of the Society, it's hard. I wanted her to break free and sort of feel the pain and the difficulty of the choices she'd made and also the freedom.
JC: The choices Cassia faces are about obeying Society rules and also choosing her true love -- Xander or Ky, both of whom are really likable. You've said you patterned both characters after your husband. Can you tell us more about that?
AC:In my own life, I'm pretty good at choosing between good and bad. It's the choices between good and good I find the most difficult to make. I wanted the characters to be appealing and interesting so it would be a difficult decision, not just a shoo-in. One of the things I've always liked about my husband is he's very good at lots of stuff. He was an English teacher when I met him. He wrote poetry and played the guitar. As time went on, he decided to go into economics, so he's very analytical and mathematical in addition to his artsy side. I gave Xander the more analytical and charismatic characteristics and Ky is the more mysterious, Renaissance man.
AC: I was born and raised in southern Utah. I still live in Utah [in Salt Lake City], but the landscape of my childhood was the red rock country, all the slot canyons and all of the places that you see in apocalyptic movies like "Planet of the Apes" and "2001: A Space Odyssey." It's this really stark and beautiful environment, but there's always a sense of impending danger. One large rainstorm and everything could be washed away. I like the sense of urgency that has. Cassia finds herself spending a lot of time hiking in a very large formation she calls the Carvings -- a hybrid of Zion canyon and other places I grew up hiking as a child.
JC: Cassia says the Outer Provinces are a place where the world changes. It's both a beginning and an ending -- a place where a person can be everything or nothing. Why does this sort of landscape create that sort of duality?
AC: That's from personal experience too, hiking those canyons. My parents took us there every weekend from the time we were tiny. I remember looking at the canyons and thinking, "I am really small," having that awed feeling of how unimportant you are. It's kind of daunting and frightening a little bit, even though it was a place I was familiar with and loved. At the same time, hiking those canyons makes you who you are and in some ways you're more yourself and more confident there. The canyon doesn't care at all. I use that line in the book. It doesn't care who I am or what I am, but it's that interesting juxtaposition that makes you feel very small and is also very empowering.
-- Susan Carpenter
Photos: "Matched" cover, author Ally Condie, Outer Provinces painting. Credits: Penguin Young Readers Group, Arlene Braithwaite.