just like my new teen duck
The story begins with protagonist Cassia Reyes getting ready for her Match Ceremony, held by the Society, which uses algorithms to determine the perfect mate for its citizens when they turn 17. At the banquet Cassia is matched with her best friend, Xander Carrow.
Cassia, like all other matched individuals, is given a microchip which is supposed to have information on their match. When Cassia uses her microchip, both Xander and her friend Ky Markham come up on the screen. A Society Official visits Cassia and tells her that it was a mistake since Ky is an Aberration, and Aberrations cannot be matched.
Cassia visits her Grandfather, who is about to turn 80, the age at which all citizens of the Society die. He gives her a poem, which has been forbidden by the Society. This encounter begins Cassia’s suspicion about the way the Society works.
A series of encounters with both Xander and Ky make Cassia wonder who she was really meant to be with. Ky and Cassia grow closer during hiking trips, when he starts to teach her forbidden activities such as writing. Eventually he tells her his story: Ky lived in an Outer Province before his family was murdered by the Society. An Official took Ky away to live with his aunt and uncle since their own child was killed in an accident. Throughout this time, Cassia becomes increasingly suspicious about Xander’s actions and knowledge of the Society, especially when he helps her hide a forbidden object of Ky’s from the Society Officials.
Cassia also continues her training as a sorter, a job at which she is exceptionally good at. Her final test is sorting workers at a food factory, including Ky, by their efficiency. During the training, Cassia learns that the Society poisons the elderly, and that the factory workers have a shorter lifespan. She changes her sort to increase Ky’s efficiency so he can get a new job.
During a hiking session, Ky and Cassia admit their feelings for each other and kiss. However, their romance comes to a halt when Ky’s job reassignment moves him to another province. Ky is taken away in the middle of the night, and his adopted parents reveal to the neighborhood that he is being taken away to the Outer Provinces to fight the Society’s war with the “Enemy” and will likely be killed. Society officials have everyone take a pill to erase their memory of the incident, however Cassia is able to avoid taking it, and it is revealed Xander is immune to the pill’s effects.
The next morning Cassia’s family finds out they will be relocated to the Farmlands. The Society Official who told her about the microchip mistake tells Cassia it was all an experiment to see her reaction, but Cassia is able to realize the Official is lying and doesn’t actually know how Ky’s face ended up on the microchip. Cassia decides that she will try to escape to the Outer Provinces and find Ky. Her parents help her with her plan, and Xander gives her supplies, despite him being in love with her and knowing she is falling in love with Ky.
The narrative begins in an orphanage where Amy inadvertently brings her sailor doll to life. It continues on a ship where he has become captain and she has transformed into a doll herself. The book is a principally a coming-of-age tale and a nautical adventure involving pirates and the search for lost treasure. The story contains whimsical elements such as a sailing ship crewed by Mother Goose animals, but also has darker themes including the obsession with Biblical prophecy and numerology.