So the end of the last chapter ended on a cliffhanger that promised we’d hear something about this second “match” of Cassia’s along with the titillating detail that she knew him also. I already hate that because it makes the world she lives in so much smaller. Plus then Cassia doesn’t have to put in any work to go visit this person.
See, if Cassia’s second “match” were someone she knew nothing about other than the few facts she gleaned before he disappeared from the screen it would be interesting. If all she knew was his birthplace and favorite type of burrito, would she seek him out? Would the opportunity of a greater unknown love be worth trading for one that’s safer and convenient? To what lengths would Cassia go to find out? We’d learn a lot about her while she went about trying to track this guy down and about “the Society” by seeing what tools she has at her disposal. Having her second love interest within a bus ride makes it too easy for her.
We rejoin Cassia and Xander at the game center. Xander finds an empty table, scans his ID and sits down to play this “game”. Cassia says he plays with passion and wants to win and then wonders when she stopped enjoying the games. That’s supposed to be rhetorical and show us how Cassia has outgrown childish things. The real answer is that she stopped liking them when she realized she sucked at all of them including solitaire meditation.
Now, Xander settles himself at the table, saying something that makes everyone else laugh. I smile to myself. It really is more fun to watch him than to play yourself. And this game, Check, is one of his favorites. It’s a game of skill, the kind he likes best.
I love the vague assurances that Ally lobs at us. He says something funny, the game is one of skill and he likes those best. Trust me, I’m the author. That whole showing thing is just so hard, it’s better to tell the audience. Oh, and Ally doesn’t bother to tell us anything about “Check”, opting instead to have Cassia chat with a nearby girl about dating in the future.
“So,” Em says softly, the sounds of laughter and talking covering her words from everyone but me, “What is it like? Knowing your Match?”
Em is Cassia’s “best girlfriend” and only there to further the conversation. Like all of PCK’s secondary characters, Em will be depowered and mothballed to save wear on her parts until she’s needed again. Cassia tells her that it’s Xander and that he’s the best. Having gotten Cassia to publicly admit she likes Xander, Em’s job is finished. She goes to mingle among the other background characters until the maintenance crews bring the dolly to wheel her back to storage.
An Official then shows up and taps Cassia on the shoulder. I get that Ally is going for the faceless, interchangeable member of the government appearing and they have no identity but I’m going to picture one guy busily running around doing all of “the Society’s” work. One moment he’s slapping on a wig and working at the DMV, the next he’s putting on a badge and arresting people guilty of thought-crimes. There’s not much vacation for the poor guy and the hours suck but he gets to travel a whole lot and it’s all expensed.
Official asks Cassia to come outside with him for a moment and tells her it won’t take long, nothing to worry about and it’s “merely procedural”. Cassia says of course because there’s nothing else you can tell Official when he shows up. You’re still not making sense with that, Ally. Cassia has grown up in a society where spot checking ID’s and being pulled to the side by the Official should be the norm. Now it’s suddenly bothers her and she’s questioning it. Cassia steps outside and, somehow, notices that everyone is watching Xander and the game and no one notices her leaving. For one brief moment in the book, Cassia isn’t the center of attention.
So Offical—this one is actually sister of Official, Official—tells Cassia that she’s not in trouble or anything. Don’t mind the shotgun pointed at her face and just answer her questions. Official says that Cassia doesn’t even need to tell her what happened, that a different face popped up when Cassia put in her flash drive. Cassia jus nods, because she’s about as dense as the tree she’s named after and comments on how kind it is that Official doesn’t make her say the words.
Is Cassia supposed to be trusting of the government or not, Ally? Because you still haven’t established her attitude. Though to be fair, we don’t really know anything about Cassia other than she’s special and anything that adds to being special. She also takes cheap shots at the government in a way that doesn’t fit with her age but that’s just the author leaking out of her avatar a little.
Official says that Cassia must be very worried and asks if she told anyone else. Cassia says no, she forgot how to communicate with people and spent the entire day looking hopefully at people and wishing she knew sign language. Official says that’s good and not to worry her pretty little head about things and that nothing has changed.
Cassia then observes that Officials pill container is larger and Offical says that “higher Officials carry extra”. If I had to run around the planet, doing government errand with only a sibling for backup because my name was Official, I’d need amphetamines too. Official asks if Cassia happened to bring her flash drive along, Cassia did and turns it over. Official gives her a new one and says everything is in order, she checked it herself and Cassia says she knows she’s an official because she’s wearing white clothing. It’s a good thing bleach isn’t easily synthesized or there’s be lone nuts running around “the Society” wrecking things under the guise of “Official”.
Official can apparently read every meaningful glance Cassia gives. She sees Cassia looking for an insignia and tells her that she’s part of the “Matching Department”. Cassia remembers how their job is to ensure good genetic matches and have citizens “experience successful Family Life”. I like how they say “successful” and not happy. That’s almost evil sounding, Ally. Did you bring in a ghost writer to punch it up?
Cassia says she’s never heard of a mistake like this and Official says it rarely happens but it’s no impossible. Official asks if Cassia recognized the face of who she saw and Cassia wants to lie but doesn’t. Then she asks if Cassia knows his name and, in the laziest character introduction I’ve seen, Cassia says it’s Ky Marham. Cassia says that’s why she thought it was odd because the odds of being matched twice and both being in her hometown are significant. Official says she knows but that it might have been a prank.
Ah, the future, where government error can be chalked up to “prank”. If “the Society” runs that efficiently that people see government screw ups that rarely that they’d buy that, maybe they’re not so bad. I once got a threatening letter from Selective Service because I failed to register the nickname that appears on some of my mail. It was a simple mistake but when you have a large populace and limited employees, there’re bound to be errors.
Official says that yes, it was probably a cruel prank but they stopped it before he found out. Cassia figures he must have been chosen to be “Single” then. “Singles” are people who doesn’t get to have kids but are still important, “the Society”s “Leader” is one. She says no, that the information is classified and private. Then she goes ahead and tells Cassia that Ky is an “Aberation”
Aberrations live among us; they’re not dangerous like Anomalies, who have to be separated from Society. Though Aberrations usually acquire their status due to an Infraction, they are protected; their identities aren’t usually common knowledge. Only the Officials in the Societal Classification Department and other related fields have access to such information.
Ah, so Ky is the bad boy then. Which means that he’s the one Cassia will fall for and Xander will be stuck with the consolation prize of falling for her daughter as soon as she’s born. Anywho, it turns out that Ky’s father committed an “Infraction” and the sins of the father are carried over to the children.
Official says that she just wanted to clear up that Ky wasn’t ever her intended mate. Then she asks of Cassia wants to talk to someone about this, she says yes and Official asks who. Cassia says her granpa, because he’s eighty, Official says that’s okay as long as he doesn’t talk about it. If he does, he’ll be cited and lose his preservation privileges. That’s right, grandpa, you won’t get to be dipped alive in a vat of boiling resin and installed in the museum so shut your fat mouth.
Cassia heads back inside, saying everything is normal. Then a message comes across the PA that someone has lost their tablet container and to hold still. This causes Cassia to flashback, when all the tablets were explained to us. The green one has nutrients to keep them alive for days as long as they have water, the blue one is for “calming” them when they need it and the red one is only to be taken if a “high-level Official” tells them to. This is related through a boring story about Xander losing his container when he was ten but finding it again.
Then Cassia sees Ky because, like Voldemort, he can hear his name and apparate. She steps towards him because she has no impulse control and crushes the lost tablets underfoot. Ky disappears and then Official appears and asks her what happened. Well, Official, it seems the protagonist is kind of stupid and probably shouldn’t be allowed to carry anything sharper than an elbow.
That’s what I don’t understand about these kinds of love stories. A woman is with a great, sweet guy and think they’re in love (or well on their way) when this random “bad boy” comes around and she has to question everything. Nevermind that Cassia has known Xander all her life and they’ve been best friends, nope, the token bad boy has been dangled in front of her. Time to start stalking him and tearing your panties off the first time he talks to you.
It makes me wonder if Cassia wouldn’t be pregnant within moments of meeting a shoplifter just because he’s breaking the rules.