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Fahrenheit 451 and Matched: A Comparison

Fahrenheit 451 - Tracy Lawson - Young Adult Author RendezvousWritten by Tracy Lawson

Today I’m comparing two books that, at first glance, might appear to have nothing in common. And I’m going to try to do it without spoilers…we’ll see how it goes.

As I wrote in an earlier post, I believe YA dystopian literature can serve as a bridge to the classics in the genre. Introducing young teen readers to books with social commentary in a YA setting better prepares them to accept and appreciate adult novels with similar themes.

Both Fahrenheit 451 and Matched illustrate how societal organization can easily become oppressive and regimented, and both focus on the evils of censorship.

The main characters in both novels live in restrictive environments, but nonetheless are expected to go through a “period of curiosity.”

Guy Montag, the protagonist in Fahrenheit 451, has been a fireman for ten years. Firemen in his society burn books, yet Montag has a secret cache of books he’s taken from various fires. When he’s discovered with the contraband, his supervisor gives him one day to read them, to satisfy his curiosity and help him see just how worthless and confusing books are.

In Matched, 17 year-old Cassia Reyes has just been assigned her ideal mate. Cassia notes that indiscretions among newly Matched teens are common, as the Officials expect the teens to experiment a bit with other partners before they settle into their assigned marriages at the age of 21.

The characters’ curiosity may be expected, but it is not tolerated. Montag’s own wife turns him in for having books in his possession, and Cassia’s Infraction is a kiss, shared with a boy who is not her Match.

The people in both societies exist under a Mask of Happiness.  The oppressive societies, developed for the comfort of the people, have rules and regulations that eliminate ideas. Without ideas, everyone conforms. With conformity, everyone is equal, and therefore everyone should be happy. The governments in both novels assert that when books and new ideas are available to people, conflict and unhappiness occur.

Montag’s fire captain, Beatty, tells Montag that because each person is angered by some kind of literature, it is best to get rid of it all. He described how books were burned first by minorities, each ripping a page or paragraph from this book, then that, until the day came when the books were empty and the minds shut and the libraries closed forever.

In Cassia’s world, Selection Committees scaled down the number of books, paintings, and songs in the Society to 100 each. The remainder are forbidden and destroyed. Cassia’s father is a Restoration supervisor whose job is to oversee the incineration of the contents of libraries.

In both Fahrenheit 451 and Matched, characters memorize the written word to battle censorship and literally give life to books.

Both novels describe societies that are terrifying to imagine, but not as far-fetched as we might believe.

But there is hope because these books have been written. As I put the finishing touches on Counteract, I feel humbled to join the ranks.


Tracy’s original post can be read here.

Miss last week’s post? Check it out here!

In need of a new Read? New Releases!

Are you a teenager or know a few who love to write? Our Flash fiction contest is now open. Find out how to enter to win some great prizes. Contest details.

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The Year of My Dystopia

Dystopian Young Adult Fiction - Young Adult Author Rendezvous - Tracy LawsonWritten by Tracy Lawson

I spent seventh grade in a dystopian haze, haunted by thoughts of totalitarian regimes, privations, curtailed personal freedoms, ubiquitous surveillance technology, and nuclear war.  Oh, and those awful utilitarian jumpsuits everyone had to wear.

And why, you ask? Well, it was like this…

Back in the 70s, young adult fiction as we know it did not exist. I read series like Trixie Belden and Sweet Valley High, which meant I was one step off from reading books about bunnies and rainbows.

But that year in English class, we were assigned Fahrenheit 451, 1984, Animal Farm, Lord of the Flies, On the Beach, Fail-Safe, Brave New World and Flowers for Algernon, the bulk of the classics in the dystopian genre, with a science-fiction chaser and a couple Cold War propaganda novels and their film versions thrown in for good measure.  (Thank God they didn’t assign Clockwork Orange until high school.)

I was twelve, and I was terrified by what I read. I’d never seen a scary movie in my life. I had no frame of reference for the suffering in those books, didn’t connect with the characters, and found it hard to imagine societies and worlds so different from my own. I didn’t see these books as social commentary, as warnings, or as calls to arms. They were English assignments, and dreaded ones at that.

Years later, I choose to write in the young adult dystopian genre. Because now I get it, and I can tell an exciting story to share what I think. Frankly, writing YA dystopian fiction…rocks.

I’ve been re-reading the classics with great interest, and I’ll be taking a look at old v. new dystopian fiction in future posts.

Some of my new favorites:

Little Brother by Cory Doctorow

Matched by Ally Condie

The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins

The Shadow Children series by Margaret Peterson Haddix

The Farm by Emily McKay

Bumped by Megan McCafferty

Gone by Michael Grant


Tracy’s original post can be read here.

Miss last week’s post? Check it out here!

In the mood for a new read? New Releases!

Are you a teenager or know a few who love to write? Our Short Story contest is now open. Find out how to enter to win some great prizes. Contest details.

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