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A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away… wait, wrong story. This one's many, many years in the future, right here in what used to be the good ol' U.S. of A.
We begin our futuristic adventure on Cassia's seventeenth birthday, at a fancy party where she'll get to find out her Match a.k.a. the guy she's going to spend the rest of her life with. Yep, you heard that right. She's delighted to learn that it's her bestie, Xander—but it's not all sunshine and roses and happily ever after for these two lovebirds (obviously—otherwise the book would only have one chapter).
Cassia and the other teenagers each get a microcard where they can learn more about their future mates. Only catch? When she looks at her microcard, a face flashes across the screen—and it's not Xander. It's mysterious loner Ky, who cannot be Matched due to his low status. She asks and the official response is that it's a glitch and not to worry. Right.
Now Cassia might not have thought twice about this, except for some cryptic advice from her grandfather on his deathbed. Somewhere in between saving tissue samples for future reincarnation (when it's inevitably invented) and saying his final I love yous, Grandfather advises her to open her eyes about the world, and also gives her some illegal poetry to read.
So Cassia goes off and reads her contraband poetry, and is spotted by none other than face-on-the-screen Ky. Ky keeps her secret and helps her remember the poems when she's forced to destroy the words for her own safety, and so begins a secret friendship between them. They do fun things like go hiking, and Ky teaches Cassia to write.
Then the trouble starts. Cassia's father gets reprimanded for losing Grandfather's tissue sample, which Cassia later learns he deliberately destroyed—because Grandfather wanted to die on his own terms. Cassia's mother is called away on several suspicious work trips. Then Cassia's close friendship with Ky catches the attention of Society Officials—canoodling with someone who's not your match is a big no-no, and Cassia's forbidden from seeing Ky. The only catch? She's now totally in love with him, and there's really no turning back.
At her sorting job, Cassia, as one of the best sorters, gets selected for a special task—sorting people. She's asked to sort workers at the nutrition disposal plant—not-so-coincidentally, where Ky works—by their level of efficiency. The better half will get new, higher status job assignments in another town, and the poorer half will remain. Ky's right smack in the middle, but despite the fact that it'll take him away from her, Cassia sorts Ky into the better half to give him a chance at a better life.
Upon his departure though, she and the rest of the town discover that he's not being sent to a good job, but instead to fight a war against rebels in the Outer Provinces—a death sentence. Ugh.
The townsfolk are given a special red pill to forget what they just learned, but Cassia only pretends to take hers, instead smashing it in the dirt. She wants to remember Ky, even if it hurts, and she's determined to find him.
Luckily she gets the opportunity to do just that. When her family is relocated due to her mother's job, Cassia's family requests a temporary work assignment for her in the Outer Provinces, purportedly because she's growing rebellious. It's the perfect opportunity to sneak off and find Ky—and Xander (bless his broken heart) even gives her supplies for the journey. Will she find him? Only the next book in the series can answer that.