Ten years ago this month, Dutton released Ally Condie’s Matched, launching the dystopian YA trilogy that includes Crossed and Reached. Matched speedily garnered myriad fans among booksellers and YA readers: in its first week on sale, the novel debuted in the #2 children’s slot on the ABA’s indie bestseller list and subsequently was published in 34 countries, appeared on more than 20 state award lists, and reached a worldwide in-print tally of more than five million copies. PW spoke with Condie and her editor, Julie Strauss-Gabel, who shed light on the creation, acquisition, publishing, and anniversary celebration of this bestselling trilogy.
Matched introduces Cassia, a teen who lives in a flawed utopia where The Society is trusted to make the right choices for its people. Refusing to let the establishment dictate her destiny, the audacious girl falls in love with someone other than the boy who’s been selected as her mate. Condie began writing Matched in 2008 after a memory from her prior career as a high-school English teacher sparked the story’s premise.
“It was one of those little snowballs of an idea that comes to you not fully formed, but collects more and more snow as you roll it around,” she recalled. “I was chaperoning a junior prom at which the couples promenaded around the room as everyone cheered, which is great for some kids, but not so great for others. It struck me as quite a paradoxical rite of passage that was sweet but also a little disturbing. After witnessing that, I began thinking about what happens when choices are taken away from you, and you can’t decide whom you marry, which of course does happen in some places. So, the overall feel of the story came from that.”
An Auspicious Chain of Events
Though Condie, who lives outside of Salt Lake City, had earlier published five novels with the local Deseret Book Company, she was not yet represented by a literary agent when she completed Matched, so she decided to contact “a bunch of agents”—and received seven offers of representation. “It was such a delightful surprise,” she said. “I talked to each of them on the phone, and when I spoke with Jodi Reamer, we just clicked. She is super warm and friendly—and was really my dream agent.”
There were more pleasant surprises ahead. Reamer submitted Matched to editors at what were then “the big six” publishers and received six offers, precipitating an auction in which Julie Strauss-Gabel, president and publisher of Dutton Children’s Books, acquired the trilogy.
“The timing of the acquisition,” Strauss-Gabel said, “was distinctly unusual, since I was on maternity leave and was technically not working. But Jodi had a lot of chutzpah and did me the most wonderful possible favor when she sent me the project. I trust Jodi’s take on projects that she feels are a great fit for me, and she told me I should not miss this novel. When I read Matched, I knew I had to move forward with it and make it work, wherever I was. Ally has a unique, subtle approach to world building and her complexity of voice and thoughtfulness almost leave you with more questions than answers in the end.”
Strauss-Gabel praised her colleagues’ devoted teamwork during the acquisition of Matched, and beyond. “From day one, I had a team of partners who were my eyes and ears and hands in everything to do with Matched,” she noted. “It was always a family affair and we were all in it together. The energy and belief in the project during the auction carried over when the novel came into the house. It remained a shared opportunity, and a wonderful one.”
Marking the Milestone
To commemorate the novel’s 10th anniversary, on November 10 Penguin will issue a trade paperback “deluxe gold edition” of Matched, featuring a fittingly hued cover; a retrospective q&a with Condie and author Soman Chainani; an original story, “Green Girl in a Green Dress”; a discussion guide; and a map of the Matched trilogy world, created with a professional cartographer and based on Condie’s own drawings. Penguin will concurrently release a trade paperback edition of the author’s The Last Voyage of Poe Blythe, a companion novel to the Matched trilogy, with a redesigned cover and a new origin story, “Desertion.”
Given the ongoing pandemic, Condie will celebrate Matched’s 10th anniversary and the commemorative edition at three virtual events. On November 10, she will appear in conversation with Chainani at an event hosted by The Provo Library in partnership with The King’s English; on November 12, she will appear in conversation with Shannon Hale at an event hosted by Porter Square Books; and on November 18 she will appear in conversation with Marie Lu at an event hosted by Books, Inc.
Among the booksellers who championed Matched from the get-go is Krista Gilliam, former manager of Little Shop of Stories in Decatur, Ga. “I have forgotten most of BEA 2010, but I still clearly remember listening to Ally Condie on stage talking about her upcoming dystopian love story, Matched,” she said. “I was completely hooked from the passage she read about a society that decides everything for its citizens—from how much they eat to who they marry—and I spent the rest of the conference trying to find a much sought-after galley. It was one of my favorite books that came out that year, and even a decade later it remains a perfect book for fans of The Giver, or for readers exploring YA or dystopian books for the first time.”
Likewise, Cathy Berner, children’s/young adult specialist and events coordinator at Houston’s Blue Willow Bookshop, fondly recalled her initial introduction to Matched: “I can still clearly remember reading the novel for the first time and realizing that all was not as it seemed in Cassia’s world. As a bookseller, I love those moments of surprise and discovery that I know will translate to our customers, and Matched definitely provided that. I know the novel is celebrating 10 years, but it doesn’t seem that long ago that I picked up the ARC with the girl in the lime green bubble.”
Reflecting on the decade since Matched first landed on bookstore and library shelves, the author expressed gratitude to the many individuals who have shared their enthusiasm for her trilogy. “I think a lot of credit for my books’ success can go not only to the Penguin publishing team but also to the booksellers, educators, and librarians who have embraced the Matched world. I feel really blessed. And I of course owe so much to readers and their word-of-mouth support. Without them I would not have this job that I love, and their reaction to my work has been the gift of a lifetime.”
Matched (10th Anniversary Gold Edition) by Ally Condie. Penguin, Nov. 10 $11.99 ISBN 978-0-593-32481-3
The Last Voyage of Poe Blythe by Ally Condie. Penguin, $11.99 Nov.10 ISBN 978-0-147-51066-2