An Open Letter to Ally Condie

Night Shots - Windows

An open letter to Ally Condie, author of the “Matched” trilogy (Matched, Crossed, Reached).

Dear Ms. Condie,

I’ll admit, until the day of the big Kobo sale, I had no intention of picking up your books. I’d had my fill of YA dystopian novels, and yours seemed to be just another drop in the flood that followed the Hunger Games. But your trilogy happened to be part of the mass of books I bought, and I am so, so glad they were.

I’ve never been able to “get” poetry before, not in the way many others seem to. To me, it always seemed to be nothing more than fragments of sentences on a page–highly distilled ideas couched in generally fanciful words and phrases.

I certainly didn’t understand them poems we did our poetry unit in high school. What did I care about there being “Water, water, everywhere, and all the boards did shrink”, or how “In Xanadu did Kubla Khan/ A stately pleasure-dome decree”? And when we did have an assignment to do a dramatic recital of Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night, my group’s take on it was simply a dead-drunk Thomas stumbling through the poem, played for laughs. I didn’t care much for poetry then, that’s for sure.

And yet, when I read your book Matched, and first read the line Do not go gentle into that good night, it was as though I truly understood it, truly felt it resonate in my soul and heard the words sing in my mind for the first time. Perhaps part of it is the experiences that I’ve had through high school, everything I’ve lived through in the ten years since I graduated. But I believe the main reason is that I finally read the line in the context of an actual situation where I was invested in the character, and the events going on around her.

The words haunted me through the three books, even as they haunted your characters Cassia and Ky. I felt the desperation of Thomas’s plea to Rage, rage against the dying of the light, even as they fought not just for their lives, but also to hold on to flickering hope in both the Society and the pilots they chose to follow. Seeing the Society members who could have acted, could have stood up and fought, but chose not to, I understood the anguish of the Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright/ Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay.

I fell in love with the words. For the first time since my Speech and Drama days back in primary school, I memorised a poem–but this time, because it wouldn’t leave me alone until I did. And now, much like Cassia in the novels, I’m hungry for more. I want to read more, hear more, speak more of these carefully crafted words, each one shaped from the rawest elements of a person’s heart.

I know that there are many out there who disparage your book’s plot, or its pacing, or even your characters for being too unoriginal, too slow, too predictable, too whatever. On that, I reserve judgement. However, I just want you to know that your books have made a difference to at least one person. Thank you for opening my eyes to the true beauty of poetry. You’ve given me a precious gift, and I am so grateful for that.

But I must count this journey, all
For it has brought me thee.

Leanne Yong is an aspiring Aussie author who is working on her second young adult novel. Check out her blog at Clouded Memories for more information and a journal chronicling her latest foray into novel writing.

Photo by Dennis Skley, via Flickr


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