Editor's note: to avoid confusion, as in the book, the Reached chapter titles below are listed next to their respective narrator's name.
The Story of the Pilot
The novel begins with a brief story first detailed in its prequel, Crossed. It tells of a man referred to as the Pilot pushing a rock up a hill over and over again, only to watch it roll back down to the bottom each time. A young girl approaches him one day and sees that the rock is covered in carvings. The man tells her they are the sorrows of the world, which he pilots up the hill, creating a rut in the ground that will become a river. A short time later, a flash flood washes the man away, filling his rut with water as he predicted. The girl takes his place in pushing the rock up the hill and becomes the new Pilot. The Pilot is described as the leader of the Rising against the Society, capable of looking like or being anyone, always replaced and never dying.
Chapter 1: Xander
Reached opens with narration by Xander Carrow, now a Society Official working undercover for the Rising. He and two accompanying Officials, Brewer and Lei, knock on the door of a Camas Province residence. Xander reflects on the insignificant ceremony through which he became an Official, which included receiving a pin and saying a simple oath. Behind him, a girl in a violet dress walks with her parents—it’s the 15th, the night of the monthly Matching Banquet. Xander, Brewer, and Lei are welcomed inside the home by a mother holding her newborn baby, along with her husband. Their older son, around age 2, is asleep in the other room. The Officials record the new baby’s name: Ory Burton Farnsworth. They then administer to him a tricolor tablet of green, blue, and red, designed to immunize him against diseases and infections throughout his life. Xander mentally notes that he has switched out the tablet with ones created by the Rising which, in addition to the regular immunizations, also immunize the consumer to the Society’s red tablets, which are designed to cause 12-hour amnesia.
The Officials leave the home and momentarily converse with a family on their way to the Matching Banquet. Officer Lei asks Xander about his Match. They are interrupted by the father whose home they had just left, who calls for their help; his older son won’t wake up. The four rush inside. Official Lei appears momentarily dizzy, but recovers. They find the child in a nearly comatose state, with a red lesion on his neck. This is, according to Xander, the beginning of the Rising’s plan; a plague virus that will spread until the Society cannot conceal it, at which point the Rising will commence. Xander notes that the rising has a cure for the virus. The Officials call for medical support.
Chapter 2: Cassia
Alone in her apartment in Central, Cassia Reyes eagerly awaits a meeting with Ky Markham. She now sorts for the Society, though she secretly works for the Rising. She wears an illegally traded red silk dress under her plainclothes and keeps papers with poems concealed on her person. She carries a tablet case with a slip of paper that says remember, which she plans to hide up her sleeve if she is ever given a red tablet, which cause amnesia, to tell herself that it happened. She reflects on the story the Rising gave her to tell the Society about her time in the Carving. The story goes that she was given a red tablet to forget about Indie’s attempted escape at the beginning of Crossed, but that she became confused and wandered off into the woods. She forged for several days on vegetation that her mother taught her was safe to eat until Officials recovered her. A Rising Official was assigned to corroborate her fake story. The Rising told her to wait patiently for a very specific sorting assignment, at which point she’d know the Rising had begun.
An Official arrives at Cassia’s door, recalling her to the present, and instructs Cassia to accompany her to extra sorting hours. Cassia, frustrated that this will interfere with her carefully organized meeting with Ky, is forced to oblige. They travel by train past the lake with three piers where she and Ky were supposed to meet, and past the Central City Hall, which is enclosed by a large white wall, apparently for renovations. Cassia often walks along this wall after work, wondering about the “stillzone” on the other side. She is also waiting on two trade items: the end of a poem she discovered in the Carving, which begins “I did not reach Thee…” as well as an even more valuable item: her grandfather’s microcard.
They arrive at the crowded Sorting Center and immediately begin sorting. As instructed by the Rising, Cassia sorts intentionally incorrectly, unbeknownst to the Society Officials thanks to a bug the Rising has put into the system. After a while, another sorter realizes aloud that they’re sorting Matches for the banquet that night. Cassia can’t imagine why they’d be doing that, since the Matching Department normally does the sorting a week in advance—unless a large number of Matching participants were suddenly removed from the pool. The sorter who spoke up is escorted violently away. All sorters are instructed to take their red tablets. Cassia quickly hides the remember slip of paper up her sleeve and consumes hers.
Chapter 3: Ky
Ky Markham thinks of all the different, conflicting rumors he’s heard about the Pilot at his Rising training camp. He flies a jet through a series of turns per the orders of a commander, performing each one with finesse as he thinks of Cassia. It’s a practice flight, but he’s been assigned a real flight mission for that night in Central. Once there, he’s supposed to stay with the ship, but wants to find a way to see Cassia. Ky thinks of how his preference for going unnoticed and his father’s rebelliousness has made him a perfect fit for the Rising. He wishes he could take all of his loved one and fly them far away, and reflects on the boy his adopted parents lost before him, Matthew. As he flies the ship into a smooth landing, he’s “never been more alive” (page 36).
In the meal hall that evening, Ky finds Indie, his only real friend at the camp. True to her nature from Crossed, Indie is distant from and respected by her fellow rebels. Though their orders are meant to be secret, Ky confides in her that he has an errand in Central that night. She advises him to come back from it, to which he doesn’t respond so as not to be dishonest.
As they eat, a siren sounds, signaling a drill. Ky is frustrated that this will affect his mission to Central. He heads outside and is surprised to find that he’s been assigned to be a co-pilot, not a pilot. He climbs aboard to find that Indie is his pilot. Both are surprised to see the other. They are joined moments later by a third, unknown male acting as their runner. He introduces himself as Caleb, and Ky realizes from notches in his boot that he was also once sent to the recruitment villages in the Outer Provinces. When they’re in the sky, they discover that they’re heading to Grandia Province, not Central. They fly over the City of Camas and see a white wall encircling the City Hall, which makes Ky nervous. Indie realizes aloud what Ky is also thinking: the Rising paired them up because this night isn’t a drill; it’s the beginning of the rebellion.
Chapter 4: Xander
The ill boy is stable, but he, his family, Xander, and the other two Officials need to be taken to quarantine for their own safety. Xander isn’t worried, knowing that the Rising’s plague has been affecting the Society for months, and that the Rising has a cure. He also knows that the Rising’s tricolored tablets immunize the consumer to the plague. Xander is part of the Rising’s second phase, meaning he must wait until he hears the sound of the Pilot (whose voice he’s never known) and then report to the main medical center.
They fly in a ship toward the Camas City Hall, where a white wall has been erected to keep the plague contained behind it. The sick boy’s father inquires about it but receives no answer. Xander wants to be rid of his Official uniform and reflects back to when he showed it to Cassia through a video chat across their ports. He recalls her reacting less than happily, though they continued to feign romance while the Society watched. Xander wondered many things about what happened to Cassia in the Carving, including whether she knows he’s a part of the Rising. She told him how nice it was “to be part of something greater than yourself,” which told Xander that she knew and is a part of it, too (p. 47). She also admitted that her favorite color had changed from green to blue, saying “there’s something about the blue,” which made Xander wonder if she was referring to the blue tablets he’d given her (p. 48). He didn’t tell her the truth about how he acquired them, so as not to worry her.
Xander disembarks the ship with the family and fellow Officials and is directed into the City Hall, while the infected are directed elsewhere. Inside, there are rows upon rows of small, transparent quarantine cells equipped with a bed, food slot, and latrine. They supposedly were once used to round up Anomalies, though the Society denies it. About half the cells are full. Xander, Brewer, and Lei are separated into individual cells. A smile Lei gives Xander makes him wonder if she’s part of the Rising. He reflects on how lucky he’s been, from knowing the Rising’s true plan to his family’s favorable Society data. This luck made him want to join the Rising when he was approached about it, to make a difference. The boy in the cell next to Xander collapses, and as he is carted off to the medical center, Xander knows he won’t feel helpless to help much longer.
Chapters 1-4 Analysis
Ally Condie’s final installment of the Matched trilogy sticks true to the series’ green-blue-red color scheme by opening with images of a red sunset in Camas Province. This parallels Matched’s opening with Cassia dreaming of green wings, and of Ky standing in a blue river at the beginning of Crossed. The shining red cover promised red imagery throughout and immediately delivers. The insignia on Xander’s Official uniform is additionally red, as is the silk dress Cassia conceals beneath her plainclothes. Previously in the Matched series, red has symbolized rawness, new beginnings, bloodshed, and rebirth, and all of these elements are introduced into Reached with little time to spare.
For the first time, the reader is also privy to the inner workings of Xander’s mind as he joins Ky and Cassia as the story’s third narrator. Whereas Cassia narrated Matched alone, and shared her perspective with Ky’s in Crossed, the trilogy’s final book approaches the story equally from three sides, with Xander as the physic at the center of the plague, Ky as the fighter on the outside, and Cassia in between, sorting and trying to keep up. This creates a more multifaceted narration, a crucial literary device given the complicated nature of Reached’s plot.
Xander’s style of narration is somewhat more casual than his counterparts’. Cassia speaks very poetically, with an air of whimsicality; Ky tends to be a bit hardened and straightforward in his descriptions; Xander falls somewhere in between the two, speaking as if he were telling you the story recreationally, even as his tone turns tense during darker scenes. This is also the reader’s first look into Xander’s memories of past events, including his genuine belief that the blue tablets would help keep Cassia alive, and his feelings when Cassia confessed her love for Ky back in Matched.
Ky draws an important parallel between his being paired with Indie to pilot a ship at the start of the Rising and Cassia and Xander’s Matching at their Banquet. His bewilderment at the sudden drill (that isn’t really a drill) and being assigned to co-pilot for the first time are confusing and unsettling to him, but this is much more negative than the elation that Cassia felt upon being Matched to Xander. The pairing of Ky and Indie and the former comparing it to a Match additionally foreshadows developments in their personal relationship yet to come.