Chapter 13 Summary
Cassia and Xander are receiving their prepackaged meals from nutrition Officials outside the First School, where they’re about to begin planting new flowerbeds. They join Em and sit eating their food. Em can barely touch hers as she worries over her coming Match Banquet that week. Xander leaves for a moment to talk with some other friends. Em says that she was so nervous about the Banquet that she took her green tablet earlier that day instead of saving it for the Banquet itself. She tells Cassia about the yellow dress she’s chosen to wear. Cassia tells her that she can borrow her compact to go with it.
After dinner, everyone begins replanting the delivered hybrid roses from their pots to the ground. Cassia finds that despite her best efforts, she cannot stop thinking about Ky. She tries to distract herself by talking with Xander about the flowers. They’re newroses, specially designed to be durable and last longer than normal oldroses. Cassia muses about how her mother dislikes the unnatural flowers and doesn’t think they compare to natural plants. When Cassia was younger, her mother would go on and on about the different wildflowers that grew in the Farmlands.
Cassia continues to think about Ky, and when Xander sees how distracted she is, he asks if she’s thinking about her father. Cassia has been growing less angry and more empathetic toward her father and his choice to destroy her grandfather’s tissue preservation sample, almost against her will. When they finish planting the flowers, they stand appreciating their work. Cassia is at first heartened to see what they have created, but then realizes that everything they did was what the Society preplanned and had ready for them. It was not creating, but following rules with a beautiful result. Like everything she and her parents and grandparents have always done.
She is distracted from these thoughts by the arrival of the ice cream that those working were promised. Em wanders off to talk with some friends, and Xander and Cassia are left alone. Xander playfully feeds her his last spoonful of ice cream, which with regular food is not allowed. The topic of kissing comes up. Cassia asks if there are any guidelines about kissing, and he says that there are none. They then share an emotional first kiss, at which point Cassia swears that the Society must have known exactly what they were doing in Matching her to him.
When the chime rings to tell everyone that they must go and spend their last hour of free-rec somewhere else, Cassia, Xander, and Em decide to go to the music hall, after some assurance that Em would in no way be third-wheeling. At the music hall, they see a slew of workers of all ages, including Ky. The three join him and listen to the music. Cassia and Ky talk casually about his presence there. He says that he frequents the place because the songs sound different “when you’re different” (Page 149).
Their conversation is interrupted when Em begins to have an anxiety attack. They crowd around her to hide her from the Officials watching the crowd. Xander wants to give her green tablet to her, but Cassia tells him that she already took it earlier. Ky has the idea to have her take Xander’s which, while not allowed, will go undetected. Em takes Xander’s green pill and immediately calms down, apologizing and saying that she’s worrying about the Banquet too much. Cassia wonders if Xander knows that Ky is an Aberration now because he didn’t offer up his own tablet (Aberrations aren’t allowed to have any), but decides against it. As they listen to the Anthem of the Society playing, Cassia watches Ky, agreeing that she will never hear the song the same way again.
Chapter 14 Summary
The Officials arrive at Cassia’s work the next day to administer her test. There are three in all, one of whom is older than the other two and appears to be in charge. They set up datatags on Cassia’s body and then begin her test. It begins with simple sorts to warm her up and then grows more complex. Cassia allows herself to forget all of the troubling things she’s been dealing with, even thoughts of Ky, to focus solely on the tasks in front of her. When she finishes, the Officials are pleased and congratulate her on an excellent job. As they leave, the oldest one says that they’ll be keeping their eye on her now. Despite the flattery intended, Cassia feels strange at the thought of being watched even more closely than she already is.
The night of Em’s Matching Banquet, Cassia goes to sleep early, wearing her datatags, and has a nightmare. She is sorting in front of the Officials but cannot place Em’s face. The Official says that administering a red tablet to Em will make it better. Cassia is suddenly at Em’s Banquet, rushing through a crowd of people wearing yellow, trying to locate Em. She finally finds her as she stands before the Matching screen, and tells her to take the tablet. Em takes the green one. Cassia protests. Em then takes the blue one. Cassia tells her no, take the red one. When Em does, she immediately drops dead, causing Cassia to wake in terror. In reality, the Officials have laughed off rumors that the red pills are deadly, but that doesn’t comfort Cassia now. Instead, she takes her microcard out to the kitchen with the intention of looking at Xander’s face to calm her down.
She sees that her mother is talking on the port, which is strange given the late hour. Cassia joins her father in the front room. They begin talking about when her father first met her mother. He had been a city boy and she had been a Farmland girl, a situation that initially made his parents nervous; but when they met her in person (in his city, at Cassia’s mother’s request), they all immediately fell in love with her. Cassia’s mother interrupts them then, saying that she must go on a business trip the next day. She sends Cassia off to bed, but Cassia listens to her parents’ ensuing conversation through the wall. Cassia’s mother doesn’t seem worried about the sudden trip, saying that an Arboretum in another Province is asking her to come observe a crop there. They talk about how Cassia still seems upset about her father losing the tissue preservation sample. Cassia is shocked to realize that her mother doesn’t know the truth, that her father destroyed it. This gives her doubts about her parents’ being a perfect Match.
The next day, the poor weather means that hiking is cancelled again. Instead, Cassia reports to school for extra study hours. She sees no one on the train there, which concerns her a bit. At the school library, she searches through the Hundred Best Poems for the names of either of the poets from the forbidden poems, Tennyson and Thomas. She finds a poem by Tennyson called The Moon, but none by Thomas. Cassia wonders why her grandfather would give her the poems, contemplating if he wants her to fight authority, but wondering how she could if it would ruin her life. She realizes that no matter what, she cannot un-see the poems.
At lunchtime, Cassia finds Em in the meal hall and immediately asks about her Banquet. Even from her apparent happiness, she knows it went well. Em says she’s been Matched with a boy named Dalen in Acadia Province. Cassia presses her for more information about him, a hint of jealousy in her voice that does not go unnoticed by nearby Xander. He joins the table, not acknowledging Cassia, who attempts to redeem her careless moment. Em thanks Cassia for letting her borrow her compact and asks if Ky gave it back to her. Cassia is confused, saying he did not. Em says that she saw him on the train and assumed he would give it to her when they went hiking. Cassia tells her that it was cancelled. Seeing how worried Em is, Cassia reassures her that she’s sure he’ll get it to her. Xander agrees, saying that Cassia can trust Ky.
Chapter 13-14 Analysis
Cassia notices an unfortunate metaphor in the planting of the flowers: that there is nothing the Society’s citizens can create in their lives. No art, no writing, not even flower gardens. They can only follow the instructions of the Society and hope that the result feels like original creation. This marks a moment of complete disillusion for her, a realization of the bleakness of her life in the Society. Whether or not other citizens around her see their state of living this way is not clear.
Chapter 13 also marks a milestone in Cassia and Xander’s relationship as they share their first kiss. It is a moment of not only joy for Cassia, but also reassurance, as the kiss temporarily casts out her doubt about whether or not she and Xander were truly meant to be Matched. This contrasts with the increasingly pervasive thoughts of Ky that Cassia has been fighting and the secrets she has been keeping from Xander that she does not keep from Ky. For the moment of the kiss, her ever-increasing focus on Ky switches back to her Match.
There is an important parallel established between Cassia and Ky at the music hall. Ky claims that hearing a song you’ve heard a hundred times can be different “if you’re different,” meaning if you’ve undergone a change that allows you to hear it differently. Cassia then experiences exactly this, watching Ky as she hears the Society’s Anthem. She observes that she will never hear the song the same way again. This observation signifies that she feels different now, yet another instance where she appears to be gaining a genuine affection for Ky.
Cassia observes a second parallel in Chapter 14: the disheartening revelation that her father is keeping his destruction of his father’s tissue preservation sample a secret from her mother, the way she has been from Xander. This serves to create doubt both in her perception of her parents’ relationship and subsequently in her and Xander’s, which she sees in theirs. The previously solid notion that she and Xander are meant to be together is shaken by the fact that not even her parents have a flawless connection.
Finally, there is irony in Xander’s final statement in Chapter 14 that Cassia can trust Ky, when in reality it is Xander who should be worried about the rift Ky is already creating between Xander and Cassia. Whether Ky can be trusted at all remains to be seen as well, as he has mysteriously not returned Cassia’s compact to her.