A Dystopian Romance book pack, Review and Giveaway

by 5 Minutes for Books

This week 5 Minutes for Books reviewer Elizabeth takes a look at 2 new books that are taking advantage of the dystopian craze in YA literature (equally enjoyed by adults) that Hunger Games did not originate, but certainly popularized.

My daughter, Ilsa, who’s 14, loves dystopian fiction, and is not averse to a little romance mixed in. For me, someone who grew up in the 70s and 80s worrying about communist invasions and gulags (I had a very vivid imagination), this mystifies me—at her age, I hated the thought of creepy Societies watching my every move, or a world without enough food or fresh water and with no opportunity for advancement.

Ilsa persuaded me to check out Scholastic’s Dystopian Romance pack** and then, ironically, had so much homework that she hasn’t had a chance to read them yet. This is unusual, as my daughter tends to devour books and has been longing to read Matched. I had to read them for her, and tell her how good they were while strictly informing her she’d better finish her homework and get good grades on her exams! So it’s been a fun week at our house as she waits for her opportunity.

If you, like me, are a little mystified by your daughter’s taste in worlds governed by faceless Big Brother-like societies, I would encourage you to check out these two books. Both feature strong heroines who decide things for themselves, who have to think and imagine worlds unlike what they’ve experienced – and yet are ready to meet a guy who’ll help them along the way. You just might finally get what your own daughter finds so attractive about this genre.


Cassia lives in a world governed by The Society, which decides where you’ll work, what you’ll wear, what and how much you’ll eat, who you’ll marry and when you’ll die. It does this under the guise of caring about people; they’ve worked out optimal caloric intake, for example, and the clothes are utilitarian which cuts down on people feeling envious of other’s fashion choices. Art and Literature are made easy—only the top 100 poems and paintings of all time have been preserved, and the rest destroyed. No one really creates any more, just manages things. And at 17, people are “matched” by personality, genes, and other criteria to their perfect mate; at 21 they marry, and they are allowed to have children until the age of 32, after which “optimal” child-rearing age is past.

The novel opens with Cassia on her way to her matching banquet on the night of her 17th birthday. She has been allowed to choose a dress to wear and later will receive a snippet of the fabric in a frame to keep as a memento. She is amazed when she is matched to her close friend Xander, whom she’s known since childhood—it’s rare to know to your match ahead of time.

However, when she puts her flashcard in later to read more about her match, another face and name flash on the screen. Oddly, it’s another person she knows in real life—Ky, who came originally from the Outer Provinces and was adopted by a family in the neighbourhood when they were all about 12. Cassia has never thought much about Ky before, but she’s intrigued—which boy is her true match? She begins to spend time with Ky, and to learn about him.

Her grandfather is also dying. That is, he is approaching his 80th birthday, at which point he will die, because The Society has determined that 80 is the optimal age to die—before health really deteriorates, while the mind is still sharp. Before he dies, he gives Cassia a present, not to mention an example, to not just blindly follow all that The Society says is good.

I must admit that I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Cassia is a believable and likable heroine, and I enjoyed the development of her character from mindless obedience to something a bit braver. I am dying to read the next in the series, Crossed (recently reviewed by my colleague Jennifer at 5 Minutes for Books). I especially loved the use of the poem Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night to give Cassia the beginnings of the courage she needed to go against the flow.

Restoring Harmony:

The year is 2041, which means that we could all still be alive. Molly has grown up on a farm on a small island just off Vancouver Island in Canada. The world has changed—there’s no more oil, food is scarce, bridges are collapsing and organized crime has pretty much taken over from a weak government. Molly’s family, worried about her grandfather, send her to pick him up in Portland, Oregon, and persuade him to come home with her.

I live in Portland, so the setting of this novel was fun for me. Molly has to be smuggled across the border, since she’s only 16. She’s faced with one obstacle after another, from losing her shoes and having to hike barefoot, to being cheated out of her money by a con man and having to busk for spare change, but she uses her native wit and ingenuity to figure out solutions. When she reaches Portland, she’s helped by a handsome young man who calls himself “Spill.” He proves to have some interesting connections, ones that Molly doesn’t want to think about. Spill helps Molly, her grandparents, and their young neighbours to figure out how to navigate life in this brave new world. Molly’s running out of time to persuade her grandfather to return home with her. With the mob breathing down her back, and her mother desperately ill back in Canada, will she manage to make it home in time?

**The 5 Minutes for Books team are happy to a part of Scholastic’s Parent Circle. Each month, one of our reviewers will select a book from that month’s Scholastic Book Club flyers. Ilsa and I selected this Dystopian Romance pack from February’s TAB flyer.

We are happy to offer one of you (U.S. shipping only) both of these books, as featured in the Scholastic book club flyer. Leave a comment to enter. We’ll announce the winner in our book column on February 13.

Elizabeth read 1984 at an impressionable age which has forever tinged her view of dystopian fiction. That didn’t stop her from enjoying these two, however. Read more at her blog Planet Nomad.

Email Author    |    Website About 5 Minutes for Books

5 Minutes for Books is the 5 Minutes for Mom sister site devoted to reviewing books for adults -- fiction, memoir, and nonfiction -- and kids of all ages. Managed by Jennifer Donovan, other contributors are Dawn, Lauren, Nancy, and Elizabeth. Follow us @5M4B on twitter and subscribe to our feed or like us on Facebook so you don't miss a thing!

View all articles by

{ 47 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Leilani January 29, 2012 at 10:18 pm

Oooh, I love dystopian romances. I’ve heard good things about these books. Thanks for the giveaway!


2 Pamk January 29, 2012 at 10:43 pm

these sound good. I am always on the lookout for books I can share with my teen son. He’s a voracious reader too.


3 jennifer orozco January 29, 2012 at 10:51 pm

I’m not big on YA, but ive had my eye on these!


4 LaVonne January 29, 2012 at 10:56 pm

I am 33 and I love Dystopian young adult books. Thanks for the chance to win!


5 Christina Gould January 29, 2012 at 11:20 pm

These sounds like great reads. Thanks for the giveaway!


6 Donna January 30, 2012 at 1:40 am

This is my favorite genre! The first one, especially, sounds intriguing.


7 Jen E January 30, 2012 at 8:47 am

Oh I’d love to win this, love dystopian YA!


8 CrystalGB January 30, 2012 at 9:53 am

These books sound amazing. Thanks for the great giveaway.


9 Ellie January 30, 2012 at 11:06 am

Thanks for this great giveaway.


10 DeDe Smith January 30, 2012 at 1:06 pm

I love dystopian romances! They are my favorite right now! Thanks for the chance!


11 Vilmarys January 30, 2012 at 2:20 pm

I have heard so many things about Matched. Thanks for the chance!


12 Linda Kish January 30, 2012 at 4:28 pm

Sounds great. Count me in, please.

lkish77123 at gmail dot com


13 Nikki January 30, 2012 at 5:53 pm

Both sound like good books to read and are already on my list! Good luck to everyone!


14 Tammy Gordon January 30, 2012 at 9:52 pm

Would love to win this!


15 Jessica T January 31, 2012 at 1:05 pm

Love winning and reading new books!


16 Ellen C. January 31, 2012 at 2:16 pm

Thanks for the chance.


17 Francine Anchondo January 31, 2012 at 5:29 pm

Thanks for the giveaway.


18 Daniel M January 31, 2012 at 9:08 pm

looks like some good ones!


19 Christine January 31, 2012 at 9:22 pm

I would love to win.
Thanks for the chance!


20 Stephanie January 31, 2012 at 11:10 pm

These both sound like fantastic books! Thanks for the giveaway :)


21 Julia P February 1, 2012 at 12:59 pm

Always looking for books with strong, smart female characters. Hoarding them away for my 1 year olds future reading pleasure. These sound great!


22 Lentil February 1, 2012 at 3:40 pm

I imagine part of what appeals to kids about these Big Brother dystopias is that it reflects an exaggerated view of their own perspective: the world is forcing them to fall in line and they just want to “be themselves”. I know I loved 1984 when I was a tween, and Brave New World after that. I forget where I first heard about Matched but it is on my “to read” list.


23 priscillavbenavides February 1, 2012 at 10:39 pm

I would love to read these books!


24 tamra childers February 2, 2012 at 2:38 pm

heard good things about these books but never read them


25 connie black February 2, 2012 at 2:53 pm

Looks like a great book for my daughter.


26 ThePixieSprinkles February 2, 2012 at 4:42 pm

These books sound creative and exciting! Thank you for the chance to win! =)


27 Beth C February 2, 2012 at 8:18 pm

Please enter me. Love a chance to win this.


28 Barb February 2, 2012 at 8:21 pm

I grew up in Portland. Can’t wait to read that one.


29 Don February 3, 2012 at 12:49 pm

Will give to my wife to read, she likes romance novels.


30 Angela E. February 3, 2012 at 5:08 pm

Love it!


31 Van February 3, 2012 at 8:13 pm

My sister would like this.


32 June February 4, 2012 at 1:12 pm

I know just the right person to give this to if I win.


33 Staci A February 4, 2012 at 2:52 pm

I would love to read these!


34 samantha w February 4, 2012 at 4:28 pm

these sound really good


35 Shelly B. February 4, 2012 at 4:57 pm

My students are loving “Matched” and “Crossed.” I bet they’d enjoy “Restoring Harmony.”


36 Lauren Plummer February 5, 2012 at 12:05 pm

i love YA fiction, and would LOVE to read these- as the hunger games totally entranced me… thanks!!


37 Gwen February 6, 2012 at 12:44 am

Oh these both look excellent! And I love YA fiction!


38 Chuck February 6, 2012 at 8:23 am

Would be good to read.


39 lauren Knott February 6, 2012 at 4:52 pm

These look awesome!


40 Kate {The Parchment Girl} February 6, 2012 at 7:30 pm

I’d love to win these! I’ve been wanting to read Matched for a while.


41 Ruth February 6, 2012 at 8:28 pm

Great books. many thanks.


42 Jeni Monroe February 7, 2012 at 10:17 pm

thanks for yet another great giveaway =)


43 Suzanne H February 8, 2012 at 2:24 pm

Thanks for the giveaway!


44 Garrett February 8, 2012 at 5:45 pm

Thanks for the chance to win.


45 Jeff February 13, 2012 at 2:54 am

Great giveaway, thanks


46 Diane F February 17, 2012 at 10:21 am

I have been wanting to read Matched for awhile now. Both books sound good and also my daughter would like reading them too.


47 Dorothy January 28, 2013 at 1:26 am

This a very interesting book to read. Hope I can read the whole thing.


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: