2/22/11 ** As my perennial favorite, Tamora Pierce, does, Condie has created a world in which we can examine social issues present in our own society, particularly the tension between individual needs/freedoms and group security/control. A sub-theme in the book is the notion of cultural heritage. Since 'knowledge' has become so wide-ranging, committees were formed to select THE 100 songs, the 100 history lessons, the 100 poems, etc. with all others destroyed. The narrator's father is an archivist, which translates as 'one who destroys' any records found in old libraries. Dylan Thomas' poem "Do Not Go Gently" (familiar to some from The Outsiders) figures prominently in the discussion of whether some things should have been saved and what happens with illicit texts. This is probably the most important societal commentary that I have read recently.
This is powerful dystopian novel exploring issues of individual autonomy and centralized governmental control. I enjoyed seeing how the main character gradually began to question the cultural assumptions she'd grown up with, as I gradually realized how pervasive the controls were. When beginning the novel, it seems that the world is pretty similar to ours. However, layers of difference emerge - food is delivered to the home from a centralized food prep area, people aren't allowed to enter others' homes, one has to have a recreational permit to dive in pools or an athletic permit to run on a treadmill, people aren't allowed to run in public, children as young as six are assigned 'infractions' for being afraid to go to school, etc. Most importantly, to maintain genetic strength and emotional harmony, teens are 'matched' to their ideal mate and expected to marry that person. No individual choice is allowed in this most intimate decision.
In terms of the overall control of the government, this book is definitely reminiscent of The Giver (Lowry), but the narrator reminded me of the main character in Hunger Games (Collins). I didn't feel that the book ended on a cliff-hanger - we know where the character is and what she's planning - but there is definitely a sense that the story hasn't been completed and there will be a sequel.
11/28/2010 After reading Robin McKinnley's blog reviewing this book, I feel that I at least have to take a stab at it. It actually won't be released until 11/30, but it turns out that Michael has an ARC, so it's now on my bedside table. I don't know if I'll hit this first, the Plame/Wilson books, or fall back on Tamora Pierce's Trickster series. Oh, so many good books to read and so little time!