Summary of Chapter 1
Crossed opens with Ky Markham narrating as he stands in a river, disposing of a dead body with the aid of a man named Vick. Their commanding Officer tells them to get out of the water and take the dead man’s coat with them. Ky quietly tells Vick not to worry about the fake rumors of the river water being poisoned. He expresses anger at how the boy in the water unfairly died because the Officers underestimated his water intake. As opposed to a ceremonial Final Banquet, the Officer says that Aberrations—lower-status semi-citizens like Ky and the dead boy, who acquire such a status either from committing an Infraction or from having their parents commit one—end without a last meal or ceremonious words. In defiance of this, Ky quietly recites a passage from the poem, “Crossing the Bar,” by Lord Alfred Tennyson, to Vick’s surprise. They then let the body go down the river.
Summary of Chapter 2
The narration switches to the perspective of Cassia Reyes, the protagonist and sole narrator of Crossed’s prequel, Matched. She is washing her hands in a wash bin and thinking of Ky after a long day of planting crops under the hot sun. She is in a small housing cabin, which she shares with multiple other girls. She has been to many work camps on her three-month detail, and tomorrow she will go on to her final one, after which she will be transferred to Central, the Society’s biggest City, for a permanent data-sorting vocation. She observes that if she plans to make a run for it to find Ky, it must be soon.
A girl named Indie waiting to wash her hands snaps at Cassia, who then goes to her bag full of messages and peruses them, waiting for new ones that night. In one message, her younger brother Bram talks of watching their late grandfather’s microcard, which detailed his life and favorite memories. His favorite memory of Cassia was “the red garden day” (8), which Cassia doesn’t fully remember. An old message from Cassia’s parents expresses their excitement at the near completion of her detail.
Cassia wonders about escaping to find Ky, and what he would think of her if she did. She wishes she had a picture of him, but the Society’s strict regulations, which govern all citizens’ lives, don’t allow for the possession of photos. She wonders if Ky managed to hold onto the scrap of green silk she gave him before he was taken away.
Cassia takes out her paper copy of one of the Hundred Best Paintings that the Society has preserved, Chasm of the Colorado, by Thomas Moran, and all the girls gather around to appreciate it. To their disappointment, it disintegrates in Cassia’s hands, as paper produced by the Society is not sturdy or intended to last long. Cassia disposes of the pieces, glad to still secretly have Ky’s compass and Xander’s extra blue tablets that she kept hidden in the dirt and are now concealed in her bag. She has kept them hidden, along with her Citizen status, from the other girls, many of whom have lost their Citizenship and are Aberrations like Ky.
An Officer arrives with messages for the girls. Cassia is concerned to receive only a message from her family and not from Xander. But the Officer asks Cassia to come with her to the main hall, where Cassia is shocked to see that Xander is there in person.
Summary of Chapter 3
A month and a half after leaving the dead body in the river, Ky hides from gunfire in a grave, likening the noise to a song. He hears the shooting stop as the air ships head somewhere else.
Earlier that morning, he had been observing the snow high up in the mountains from a distance. Some of his companions—all of them fake, decoy “citizens” of the Outer Provinces used to draw and convince the Enemy that there are still people inhabiting the Provinces—decided to venture up to get it, having had no other access to fresh, cold water. Ky tells them they won’t make it before it melts, and Vick agrees. Ky says that though they are supposed to act like farmers to convince the enemy, they should stay and continue digging graves for the dead, which they’ve been doing since the night of Chapter 1. The others decline and instead head for the snow.
Ky stays and digs the graves, thinking instead of the first night of his adoption in Oria Province, when his aunt—his new, adopted mother—had brought him a compass to keep as an artifact, even though as an Aberration he wasn’t allowed to have one. He thinks about how he gave it to Cassia and took her piece of green fabric and tied it to a tree on the Hill the day she gave it to him, since he knew he’d never be able to keep it.
Back in the present, Vick finds Ky hiding in the grave and they continue digging. The air ships left their location to fire on the boys attempting to find the snow. Ky hopes they got to eat some before they were killed.
Summary of Chapter 4
Cassia and Xander embrace emotionally, having not seen one another in months. The Official keeps tabs on their behavior and enters it into his datapod. Xander explains that he’s there because it’s been five months since their Matching and they are scheduled to have what ordinarily would’ve been their first face-to-face meeting had they not been best friends for so long already, which is very rare. They decide to head into town. In lieu of a showing or something similarly recreational, Cassia requests that they visit the Museum.
When they arrive, they are greeted by a man at the front desk, warning that the place closes in a half hour. Their Official gives them space and they observe one of the exhibits. After a tacit request for privacy, Xander leaves Cassia to speak with the man from the desk alone. She asks him to tell her more about the “Glorious History of Tana Province,” as Ky taught her to say when she wanted to know secrets from the Archivists rumored to inhabit Museums (28). The man begins a boring, normal speech about the Province’s history, to Cassia’s disappointment. When he finishes, Cassia recites a piece of “Crossing the Bar” to him in the hope that he’ll find it valuable and offer an exchange. Though intrigued, the man says that without an original paper copy of the poem, it’s of no value. Cassia says that she needs a map to get to the Outer Provinces, but he rejects the idea. As a last ditch effort, Cassia offers to trade him a valuable item from her bag, and gives it to him. He acquiesces, saying that at the music hall, where she tells him she’s going next, she should check under her seat for the map.
At the music hall, Xander and Cassia hold hands, and she thanks him for helping her. When they’re done, she finds the map beneath her seat and stealthily pockets it. Back at the main hall, as they’re saying goodbye, Xander says that he’s on his way to Camas Province to gain experience before heading to Central for his permanent vocation. He expresses his hurt at having Cassia leave him for Ky and asks if she still plans to find him, which she says she does, but that she will never give up her family or Xander to get to him. As proof, she reveals that it was Ky’s compass, not Xander’s blue tablets, that she traded to the Archivist for the map. This comforts Xander. When she tells him goodbye, he says, “I don’t think so,” and kisses her cheek very near her mouth (37).
Summary of Chapter 5
Ky and Vick bury more bodies as Ky recites the final stanza of “Crossing the Bar” for each one, though he doubts whether there is anything beyond the "bar" for the dead. Vick asks him about the poem and Ky tells him about it but refuses to bring up the other poem that he saw Cassia reading from her compact when they were hiking one day. That poem remains between him and her. Vick asks why Ky doesn’t mark how long he’s been alive in the Outer Provinces on his boots. Ky says he doesn’t want anyone knowing anything about him.
Ky draws aimlessly on a rock as the two eat lunch, making sure not to not write anything, as writing by hand is a rare skill and he doesn’t want anyone knowing he can do it. He and Vick contemplate whether the boy who died before reaching the villages was luckier than them.
Their first night as decoys, there was gunfire, and Vick and Ky both discovered that the other knew that their ammunition was all blanks. Vick says he wishes he had a real gun, to blow the enemy out of the sky.
As they finish lunch, Vick tells Ky about how blue tablets aren’t actually designed to keep you alive without food for days, but instead to slow and eventually stop you so that someone can find you. He says that two is enough to kill the consumer.
Vick’s miniport, which can be used for communication and which Vick suspects of listening in on their conversations, tells them that they’re to be moved. They head to the air ships for transfer, where they’re questioned about the boys killed up on the mountain. They explain they were seeking the snow. As they head off, Vick demands more water at their next location.
The replacement decoys joining them on the ship are very young, some of them barely teenagers. The youngest one reminds Ky of Cassia’s younger brother, Bram. When they arrive at their new location, Ky is overwhelmed to see that he’s in a familiar area, only a few miles from his old village, at the edge of a sprawling canyon of mountains called The Carving.
The boy who reminds Ky of Bram introduces himself as Eli. Vick gives the miniport to one of the older decoys and tells him to run with it. When it’s out of earshot, Vick tells the new recruits that their ammunition doesn’t work and to not bother defending themselves with it. They get to work planting and cultivating the cotton plants. Ky tries to make small talk with Eli, but stops when he sees that Eli is crying.
Later, when Eli has the miniport out of range, Vick and Ky discuss escaping into the canyon. They decide to try when the moonlight is bright and there’s gunfire to use as a distraction. Ky says they can find people in the canyon who will help travelers, whom he knows of because his father knew them. He also says that they’ll take Eli with them, as Ky would be ashamed to face Cassia one day knowing that he didn’t protect someone so similar to Bram.
Summary of Chapter 6
It takes a long time for all the girls in Cassia’s cabin to fall asleep that night due to uneasiness at not being told their next-day work transfer assignment, as has become standard during their detail. Once they’re finally sleeping though, Cassia opens the paper that was hidden under her music hall seat and is horrified to realize that it is not a map like she requested. Instead, it is a story, and not one of the Hundred that the Society has sanctioned. It tells of a man piloting a rock up a mountain endlessly and of a child who takes over for him when a flash flood washes him away and creates a river in the rut that his rock made. The story describes this Pilot as someone who leads the rebellion against the Society, and says that when one Pilot is gone, another will always take their place. It ends by saying that “the Pilot will always live and move” just beyond the Society’s borders (55).
Cassia’s first inclination upon finishing the story is to tell someone about it. She is about to tell Indie when she decides instead that it’s better to keep the story to herself and destroy the paper. She tears it to pieces and disposes of it down the drain of the wash bin, the noise of which wakes Indie. She approaches Cassia and shuts off the water. The sound of an Officer patrolling outside sends them both back to bed. Laying there, Cassia thinks of the story of Sisyphus that Ky told her and of the poem she’s tried to write for him.
Early the next morning, Cassia wakes to find that certain girls from each cabin are being taken away by Officers. She realizes she needs to go with them. When two Officers come in and request that Indie and another girl come with them, they discover that Indie is missing. Cassia looks out the window and sees that Indie is making a run for it. Planning to take her place, Cassia takes her tablets from their container and buries them deep in her bag, leaving the container itself under her mattress. She then realizes that her silver box from her Matching Banquet is missing, although ultimately this is good because she would’ve needed to dispose of it anyway. Cassia knows that her love for Ky will only keep her moving forward and that there is no turning back now. Outside, she slips in with the rest of the girls being recruited. Though the Officers report to the Official that a girl is missing, when they count the recruits again and include Cassia, they decide that there isn’t. An Officer appears suddenly with Indie, however, and it was clear there was an altercation between them. They put her in handlocks and take all of the girls onto an air ship, unconcerned with having too many now. Cassia is discomforted at the unorganized handling of the situation and disappointed that there are no windows to look out of on her first time in the air.
Analysis of Chapters 1-6
Unlike the Matched trilogy’s first book, Crossed employs two different narrators: Cassia Reyes, as with the first, and now Ky Markham, who previously the reader knew very little about, particularly because of his philosophy to never let people know what he’s thinking or feeling. This creates an immediate shift in dynamic from the first book: we now get to see the story unfold from more than just Cassia’s limited perspective, a necessary decision on Condie’s part to reveal to us more than just what Cassia experiences. Ky and Cassia’s separate perspectives paint two sides to the plot: what Ky doesn’t know about what Cassia is doing, and what Cassia similarly doesn’t know about Ky, rather than having us miss important plot points by hearing the story from only one of these sides.
There is a thematic progression of green to blue to red as the Matched trilogy unfolds. Matched, sporting a bright green book cover, opened with Cassia daydreaming of images of green wings, and much of the plot was riddled with Cassia resisting the strong temptation to take the green pill in her tablet container—which regulates emotion to calm restlessness or anxiety—and thus show weakness in the face of the woes the Society caused her. The color blue becomes immediately prevalent as Crossed, with its blue book cover, opens even from the very first line with Ky observing the blue water of the river. There is also a much larger focus on the blue pill throughout Crossed with Cassia harboring illegal extras of them. These colors represent different things for each story: for Matched, green represents growth, coming of age, natural budding as Cassia grows aware both of the inhumanities of her once beloved Society and her ability to defy it. Blue, among many things, is reminiscent of the rushing water of rivers like the Sisyphus River that Cassia seeks to find and the blue clouds spotting the red and orange rock of The Carving that Ky observes. The trilogy’s final book, Reached, which boasts a bright red cover, will likely complete this color trifecta.
Ky’s protectiveness of Eli is immediately and strongly reminiscent of Cassia’s affection for and protectiveness of her younger brother, Bram. In the first place, Eli reminds Ky of Bram, not just in appearance but also with his outspoken personality. In the second, Ky’s desire to keep Eli safe the way he knows Cassia would want him to do shows a parallelism not just between Eli and Bram, but between Ky and Cassia as well. Their simultaneous desire to protect those younger and weaker than themselves is testament to their shared compassion.
The story that the Archivist gives Cassia instead of a map draws immediate parallels to the story of Sisyphus that Ky told Cassia in Matched, in which an Aberration turned a gun on an Official and was made to futilely try to push a rock up a mountain every day as punishment and a threatening example to others. The reference to a Pilot throughout the Archivist’s story reminds Cassia of the Pilot spoken of in “Crossing the Bar,” which her grandfather originally gave to her in paper form, causing her to wonder just how involved in Cassia’s current situation her grandfather was and how much he knew would transpire. In effect, this story strings the events of the first book to those of Crossed with the significance of the Sisyphus River and the Pilot from the poem coming together to hint to Cassia that there is perhaps a rebellion already happening that many people don’t know about, a rebellion that it’s in her best interest to find.
There is a notable, perhaps foreshadowing, shift in behavior on the part of the Officials recruiting the girls from the work cabins in Chapter 6. Cassia notes that they take no issue with having the right amount of girls present after one was reported missing, having too many Aberrations once the missing girl is found, and not searching the girls before having them board the ship. The Officials’ once rigid regard for organization and protocol has, as Cassia observes, become “harried” (62). This is unlike how government representatives have thus far been portrayed in the Matched trilogy: though Officials vary in disposition, some being friendlier and kinder than others, a strict observance of the rules has been consistent among them. To not have this be the case is unsettling for Cassia, and perhaps evidence of change on the plot’s horizon.