Now that I’ve found the way to fly, which direction should I go into the night? My wings aren’t white or feathered; they’re green, made of green silk, which shudders in the wind and bends when I move—first in a circle, then in a line, finally in a shape of my own invention. The black behind me doesn’t worry me; neither do the stars ahead.
I smile at myself, at the foolishness of my imagination. People cannot fly, though before the Society, there were myths about those who could. I saw a painting of them once. White wings, blue sky, gold circles above their heads, eyes turned up in surprise as though they couldn’t believe what the artist had painted them doing, couldn’t believe that their feet didn’t touch the ground.
Those stories weren’t true. I know that. But tonight, it’s easy to forget. The air train glides through the starry night so smoothly and my heart pounds so quickly that it feels as though I could soar into the sky at any moment.
“What are you smiling about?” Xander wonders as I smooth the folds of my green silk dress down neat.
“Everything,” I tell him, and it’s true. I’ve waited so long for this: for my Match Banquet. Where I’ll see, for the first time, the face of the boy who will be my Match. It will be the first time I hear his name.
I can’t wait. As quickly as the air train moves, it still isn’t fast enough. It hushes through the night, its sound a background for the low rain of our parents’ voices, the lightning-quick beats of my heart.
Perhaps Xander can hear my heart pounding, too, because he asks, “Are you nervous?” In the seat next to him, Xander’s older brother begins to tell my mother the story of his Match Banquet. It won’t be long now until Xander and I have our own stories to tell.
“No,” I say. But Xander’s my best friend. He knows me too well.
“You lie,” he teases. “You are nervous.”
“Not me. I’m ready.” He says it without hesitation, and I believe him. Xander is the kind of person who is sure about what he wants.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re nervous, Cassia,” he says, gentle now. “Almost ninety-three percent of those attending their Match Banquet exhibit some signs of nervousness.”
“Did you memorize all of the official Matching material?”
“Almost,” Xander says, grinning. He holds his hands out as if to say, What did you expect?
The gesture makes me laugh, and besides, I memorized all of the material, too. It’s easy to do when you read it so many times, when the decision is so important. “So you’re in the minority,” I say. “The seven percent who don’t show any nerves at all.”
“Of course,” he agrees.
“How could you tell I was nervous?”
“Because you keep opening and closing that.” Xander points to the golden object in my hands. “I didn’t know you had an artifact.” A few treasures from the past float around among us. Though citizens of the Society are allowed one artifact each, they are hard to come by. Unless you had ancestors who took care to pass things along through the years.
“I didn’t, until a few hours ago,” I tell him. “Grandfather gave it to me for my birthday. It belonged to his mother.”
“What’s it called?” Xander asks.
“A compact,” I say. I like the name very much. Compact means small. I am small. I also like the way it sounds when you say it: com-pact. Saying the word makes a sound like the one the artifact itself makes when it snaps shut.
“What do the initials and numbers mean?”
“I’m not sure.” I run my finger across the letters ACM and the numbers 1940 carved across the golden surface. “But look,” I tell him, popping the compact open to show him the inside: a little mirror, made of real glass, and a small hollow where the original owner once stored powder for her face, according to Grandfather. Now, I use it to hold the three emergency tablets that everyone carries—one green, one blue, one red.
“That’s convenient,” Xander says. He stretches out his arms in front of him and I notice that he has an artifact, too—a pair of shiny platinum cuff links. “My father lent me these, but you can’t put anything in them. They’re completely useless.”
“They look nice, though.” My gaze travels up to Xander’s face, to his bright blue eyes and blond hair above his dark suit and white shirt. He’s always been handsome, even when we were little, but I’ve never seen him dressed up like this. Boys don’t have as much leeway in choosing clothes as girls do. One suit looks much like another. Still, they get to select the color of their shirts and cravats, and the quality of the material is much finer than the material used for plainclothes. “You look nice.” The girl who finds out that he’s her Match will be thrilled.
“Nice?” Xander says, lifting his eyebrows. “That’s all?”
Shi Cheng, China, photo by Chinese National Geography. Can you believe this place is real?
So I have some big news! I’ve signed on again with Dutton/Julie Strauss-Gabel for two more books! I cannot tell you how happy I am about this. Working with Julie (and the rest of the team at Dutton/Penguin) has been the ideal experience for me. Julie is one of the smartest, kindest, most interesting people I know and it’s an absolute honor to have her as my publisher. She shapes my books and makes them better, every time, by asking wonderful questions and guiding me to where the story really needs to be. The team at Penguin has done incredible things for the Matched trilogy every single step of the way, from cover art to marketing to school and library outreach. I am thrilled to be publishing two new books with them. And, of course, my agent (Jodi Reamer) who negotiated the deal, is just tremendous. She is so savvy and smart and I am truly blessed to be able to work with her and Julie.
The first of the two books won’t be out until Fall 2014, so there is a little while left to wait, but I am having SO MUCH FUN writing this book. Here’s a bit from the press release (edited a little because I am the biggest spoiler-phobe in the world):
Ally Condie, #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Matched trilogy, to publish two new novels with Penguin Young Readers Group
New York, NY – March 11, 2013 – Ally Condie, #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Matched trilogy, will publish two new novels with Dutton Children’s Books, an imprint of Penguin Young Readers Group, it was announced today. The first book, scheduled for publication in fall 2014, tells the story of Rio, who has waited her whole life for the opportunity to leave her safe, underwater city of Atlantia for life on the surface. But when her life takes an unexpected twist and Rio must remain below, she is left with increasingly dangerous questions about the complex political and religious system constructed to govern the fragile divide between land and sea.
The second book is not yet scheduled. The deal was brokered by Julie Strauss-Gabel, President and Publisher of Dutton Children’s Books and Jodi Reamer, Writers House. Julie Strauss-Gabel will edit the books. Dutton has North American rights.
Julie Strauss-Gabel said, “I am thrilled that we can all look forward to more books from Ally Condie at Dutton. I’m excited to introduce fans of the Matched series to exciting new worlds and heroines as strong and compelling as Cassia.”
Ally Condie is the author of the critically-acclaimed, New York Times bestselling Matched trilogy. Matched has been called “the hottest YA title to hit bookstores since The Hunger Games” (Entertainment Weekly), and a “superb dystopian” (The Wall Street Journal) featuring “impressive writing that’s bound to captivate young minds” (The Los Angeles Times). Crossed, the second book in the Matched trilogy was released in paperback March 12, 2013.
We don’t have a title yet (I refer to it right now as the “Rio Book”). But I will be sure to keep you posted as more information becomes available. One of the things I’m really excited about regarding this book is that it’s a story about sisters. (Don’t worry, there is also romance!) I love reading stories about families and relationships and so I hope I can do that justice in this book. And I hope you readers will like it too.