Chapter 5 Summary
At the game center, Cassia and Xander stop at a game table with Cassia’s best friend, Em. Xander decides to play while the girls decline. Cassia recalls that she used to love playing such games, but at a certain point that she can’t pinpoint, stopped liking them. As they watch Xander play, Em asks Cassia what it’s like knowing her Match. Cassia tells her that it’s wonderful. Em soon drifts to another table.
As Xander plays a game called Check, which uses gray pieces played on a black and gray squared board, Cassia observes that the only brightness in the gray and brown game center come from people’s hair and laughter. Xander announces to his game table that he’s going to “win this one for [his] Match,” which causes people to stare and Cassia to blush (Page 41).
A Society Official approaches Cassia then, asking to speak with her in private. Cassia is sure that it’s about her microcard malfunction, which quickly proves true. In the small greenspace outside the game center, the Official tells Cassia not to worry, but tells her she knows that the face on the card was not the right one. The Official reassures her that she is still Matched with Xander, to Cassia’s great relief. The Official takes Cassia’s old microcard and places it in a small case, inside of which Cassia notices a larger tablet container than normal. Before she can ask about it, the Official tells her “higher-level Officials carry extra” (Page 43). The Official then hands her a new microcard and assures her that there is nothing wrong with this one.
Seeing Cassia’s glance at the insignia on her shirt, the Official tells her that is part of the Matching Department, in charge of dealing with information malfunctions, which, though rare, do sometimes occur. She then asks if Cassia knew the face of the second boy that appeared on the port screen. Cassia confesses that she does, that his name is Ky Markham, and says that it was strange how unlikely it is that the card would not only malfunction, but with the face of someone Cassia knows. The Official agrees, saying that the virtually nonexistent odds make it likely that it was done intentionally, perhaps out of cruel humor. She says that Ky has no idea that it happened, which is for the best, because he would be upset. When Cassia asks why, the Official confides in her that Ky Markham can never be Matched. Cassia assumes that that means he’s chosen to be Single, as many citizens do, including the Leader of the Society. The Official clarifies that Ky is actually an Aberration, a citizen removed from the Matching pool due to an Infraction in their family, in this case, committed by his adopted father. Aberrations are distinct from Anomalies, as they are not separated from the Society. The Official reminds Cassia that Ky’s Aberration status is confidential, and asks if she’d like a meeting with her and Xander’s families to explain all this. Cassia declines, and says that she will only tell her grandfather, whose 80th birthday is the next day. Given the impending date, the Official sanctions it, on the condition that Cassia reminds her grandfather not to mention it to anyone else, lest his preservation privileges be revoked. The Official then bids Cassia goodbye, and Cassia returns to the game center. Xander noticed that she was gone and asks with his face if all is well. Cassia confirms it is, thinking that she will never be able to look at Ky the same way again.
There is a sudden announcement over the main speaker that someone has lost their tablet container and that everyone is to freeze and be silent, causing the hall to collectively go still. As they wait for the container to be located, Cassia recalls a memory of free-rec hours when she and Xander were ten at a local swimming pool. They both had just recently been entrusted to carry their first tablet containers, at the time only containing the blue pill, which contains enough nutrients to help a human survive for several days with water but no food. The second, green pill, is given at age 13, and is used to calm one who needs calming. The final, red pill is given at 16, and is only taken when instructed by a high-level Official to do so.
While in the pool, Xander lost his container, which will warrant a citation if the Officials find out. He dives in to get it while Cassia watches from the side. When he doesn’t resurface for an alarming amount of time, Cassia is prepared to call out that he is drowning. She is deterred, however, when a mysterious boy asks if Xander is drowning and then jumps in the water to save him. Xander appears again, having found his container, and suddenly Cassia is worried that the other boy is now drowning, but he, too, appears after a moment. Not recognizing him, Cassia asks if he is visiting someone. The boy says that no, he belongs there.
Snapping back to reality, Cassia suddenly sees that Ky Markham is present at the game center. She is so taken aback that she takes a step toward him, crushing the lost tablet container underfoot. Officials swarm over to her, and as one asks Cassia what happened, she sees that Ky has vanished.
Chapter 6 Summary
Chapter 6 begins back in Cassia’s memory at the same day as the incident at the pool. She arrives home and tells her parents about the new boy she met, leaving out that Xander lost his tablet container in the pool. She tells them that the boy’s name is Ky Markham, that Patrick and Aida Markham have adopted him. Xander’s father arrives at their door—although he doesn’t come inside, as it’s not allowed—to confirm that Ky was an orphan from the Outer Provinces, the geographic edge of the Society where there is less peace and order and where Aberrations are more common. Some say there are Anomalies there too, although the whereabouts of Anomalies, previously in safe houses now abandoned, are unknown.
Xander’s father says that Ky’s new parents are overjoyed at his adoption. He also says that Ky is Aida Markham’s nephew, her sister’s son, which is uncomfortable news, as the story of the Markham’s is well known: a Class One Anomaly was accidentally unidentified and allowed to roam into the government offices where Patrick Markham worked and where his biological son was visiting. The Anomaly murdered his son and then attached Patrick. Cassia’s father remarks that the government probably feels that they owe it to the Markhams to allow them to raise their nephew since it was the government’s fault that the incident happened at all. Xander’s father agrees.
Later that night, as Cassia’s mother is tucking her in, she asks Cassia to make sure that she’s very nice to Ky tomorrow on his first day of school. As it happens, this isn’t needed. Ky introduces himself cordially to everyone he meets, explaining who he is and why’s there. It seems to Cassia that he has always been a part of their community.
Back in real time, Cassia is visiting with her grandfather on the day before his Final Banquet and 80th birthday, after which he is scheduled by the Society to die. Of her breaking the tablet container in the game center, she says only that they didn’t keep her long about it. As part of the privileges that he is allowed in his final days, her grandfather is eating a slice of pie that he is not allowed to share with her. Cassia tells him about the strange occurrence with Ky on her microcard, to which he reacts with agitation. She explains that it was not the Society’s fault—it never is—but most likely an individual playing a cruel joke because of Ky’s Aberration status. Upon learning of this status, her grandfather stands up, upset. She assures him that Ky’s status is a result of something his father did, not him. They discuss Ky’s work at the nutrition disposal center, which Cassia’s grandfather calls “hard, unfulfilling work” (Page 62). She tells him that she was only allowed to convey these details to him because of his impending death. When her grandfather says that he wants to protect her, Cassia flashes back to a day at the pool when she was younger, when her grandfather successfully challenged her to jump into the pool for the first time using the diving board as Xander looked on. She then recalls that her grandfather was Matched at a time when people could be Matched later than 17—he and her grandmother were 35, and had her father at 39. Nowadays, no one is allowed to conceive after turning 31.
They reminisce on the day at the pool in silence for a moment. Cassia doesn’t want to leave, knowing this is the penultimate visit she will ever have with her grandfather. He comforts her, saying he is glad to give her part of his life in spending this time with her. Cassia tells him that she has signed up for hiking as a summer recreational activity, which delights her grandfather, as he used to do it when he was younger, until it stopped being offered. They speculate that they will take those signed up to the Hill, the only forested section of the City left, located in the Arboretum where Cassia’ mother works.
Lost in thought, Cassia’s grandfather explains that he is thinking about his memories, including Cassia’s grandmother, who owned Cassia’s compact before she did and who died at 62 from “one of the last kinds of cancer” (Page 67). He tells Cassia that her grandmother would have asked “if [she] had wondered” about Ky’s face appearing on the screen (Page 67). Before she can ask what he means, a bell rings, signaling the coming of the last train to Cassia’s home. Before she leaves, he asks her to bring the compact to his Final Banquet the following night. As she heads down the elevator, she wonders again what he meant about her grandmother asking is she would have wondered. Cassia feels, like her grandfather, that her time is running out because, in truth, for a moment, when the microcard malfunctioned, she did wonder if Ky was supposed to be her Match.
Chapter 5-6 Analysis
A contrasting dichotomy is established with the introduction of the Official in Chapter 5 and Cassia’s grandfather in Chapter 6. The Official’s meeting with Cassia is one of reassurance that all is well, that there was nothing to ponder in regard to the mishap with her microcard. However, in Chapter 6, Cassia’s grandfather tells her that it’s okay to wonder about Ky, and in effect actively encourages it. This places Cassia at odds within her own head. Part of her would like to heed the Official’s advice and focus on her happy life with Xander, but another part of her can’t quite shake the feelings of doubt that Ky’s image on her port screen created.
The quick appearance of the Official following the microcard mishap is a prime example of how easily the Society can spot irregularities and how ready it is to deal with them. Ky’s appearance on the port screen was a bump in the road, an error in the mathematically sound formula that is Cassia’s life; a quick remedy for them ensures restoration of balance. The Official’s sweet demeanor represents the aesthetically pleasing gentleness that the Society uses to sugarcoat any event that could trigger doubt or dissent on the part of a citizen. In assuring Cassia that she need not think outside the box, that the Society has not and did not make a mistake that she should ponder, the Official can keep Cassia in line, following the pre-established flow that all citizens must abide by.
The introduction of Cassia’s grandfather signifies the beginning of a change in this order. He is quick to decide that something is awry with Ky’s face appearing on her microcard, and his encouraging her to wonder is exactly the opposite of what the Official advised her to do. There is a relevant metaphor in the story Cassia brings up of her grandfather being the one to coax her into using the pool diving board for the first time. He has, in her life, been a motivator of personal progress for her, encouraging her to be brave and individual. This encouragement becomes a powerful factor in Cassia’s later character development.
Much is revealed about the Society’s past through Cassia’s visit with her grandfather. Learning of Cassia’s grandmother’s death 18 years ago by one of the last forms of cancer helps the reader understand where the Society stands technologically and medically; while things are obviously considerably more advanced than in real life, the Society has just barely moved beyond dealing with deadly diseases that are highly problematic today. We also learn that there used to be different rules and regulations about Matches and conception than the more strict ones that govern Cassia and Xander’s lives.
Finally, we see foreshadowing in Cassia’s train of thought as she leaves her grandfather’s apartment. Her concession that she wondered about Ky Markham when he appeared to her on the port signals further contemplation to come, and Cassia’s musing that, like her grandfather, her time is “running out” is a direct parallelism that will come to show itself as correct (Page 68).