By Kiera Cass
Publisher: Harper Teen
Publication Date: April 24, 2012
Genre: Young Adult Dystopian
For thirty-five girls, the Selection is the chance of a lifetime. The opportunity to escape the life laid out for them since birth. To be swept up in a world of glittering gowns and priceless jewels. To live in the palace and compete for the heart of the gorgeous Prince Maxon.
But for America Singer, being Selected is a nightmare. It means turning her back on her secret love with Aspen, who is a caste below her. Leaving her home to enter a fierce competition for a crown she doesn’t want. Living in a palace that is constantly threatened by violent rebel attacks.
Then America meets Prince Maxon. Gradually, she starts to question all the plans she’s made for herself- and realizes that the life she’s always dreamed of may not compare to a future she never imagined.
My review may be more spoilery than usual because I’m going to get a little ranty down below and some of what I’m upset about are general things that happen throughout the book. I’m not going to go into specifics unless you’re a good guesser, but be warned anyway.
When a Prince of Illea reaches a marriageable age, the cattle call goes out to the kingdom – if you’ve got a daughter of a certain age, ask her if she’d like to sign up to try to win his hand. Rich, poor – it doesn’t matter what social standing you have, they’re all eligible as long as they fill out the form and have their picture taken. Then the best 35 of the bunch are announced on television and sent to the palace to try to impress Maxon into proposing.
America and her family are artists – painters, singers, sculptors – and they’re poor. Being chosen to be part of the Selection would mean a huge check and likely a big boost in their family’s status. She doesn’t want to sign up though, because she has a secret. She’s in love with a boy who’s even poorer than they are, a match they’d never condone. But she gives in and is shocked to hear her name announced as one of the 35.
Now under a lot of circumstances, I could like a character like America. She’s feisty, loves her family and is intensely loyal to her boyfriend. But Cass took things way too far and made America an absolutely perfect caricature of a character – she’s beautiful and unique but doesn’t know it, kind to everyone, intelligent enough to offer economic advice to the Prince, sweetly humble, the Queen loves her despite having never met her, etc., etc. I’m sure if she wandered into the woods, butterflies would alight in her hair, birds on her finger and deer and rabbits would gather ‘round her skirts.
I’ve only seen a handful of episodes of The Bachelor, but my guess is Maxon is pretty close to those guys, just dressed up as a Prince with some palace sekrits he only shares with America. He’s not terribly deep, talking mostly about how much he hates not being taken seriously as a Prince by his dad one moment, complaining about how boring meetings are not long after that.
So the characters bothered me and oh, there are more issues coming. But even if I liked them, Cass’ writing style drove me crazy at times. If ever there was a perfect example of telling and not showing, this is it. Especially for the first quarter or so of the book, it was non-stop telling. The author also has a tendency to use the characters’ names over and over in close proximity – I guess she doesn’t like pronouns? In one paragraph, in the retelling of an incident between two characters, each character’s name was used twice, a pronoun once. In one paragraph.
I don’t rant, not really. And this is going to be pretty tame because it’s tempered by the fact that overall, the book wasn’t the worst thing I’ve ever read. But there were some things that just made me angry in ways that I can barely figure out how to fit them into the review in a coherent way. So I’m just going to throw them out there.
This was not a dystopian. Was the label slapped on there because the palace was attacked a few times by some literally unseen Northern or Southern troops? They either bombed from afar or invaded, and while everyone cowered in a secure room, they ransacked bedrooms and were driven off by the guards. Really? As far as the caste system, that hardly qualifies. So there are rich people who have money and there are varying social levels of other people who have less, down to people who have trouble finding work and education and occasionally steal to eat. And this is different from our current society how?
The depiction of the girls is so stereotypical, it’s offensive. Cold, rich, bitchy girl who wears too much makeup, clings to the guy and sabotages the other girls? Check. Little mousey girl who’s small, quiet, timid? Check – her name is even – wait for it – Tiny. There’s the smart geek who’s afraid to interact with anyone, the super-friendly middle class girl who befriends America because she recognizes a kindred super-friendly spirit. While not part of the Selection group, there are America’s three maids who of course include one girl who was traumatized and once America soothes her, she earns their eternal devotion. So we have America as just “one of the girls” with her maids.
Prince Maxon all but declares to America that she’s the one he plans on pursuing. If she wasn’t totally oblivious, she’d have seen it, but okay. So his first kiss is with her and it’s very sweet. And the next day? He’s kissing someone else? It seemed like there was some confusion about what qualities make an attractive hero or heroine. Maxon and America are both faithless and loose with their affections.
The ending was the most exasperating type of coy little teaser meant to keep a breathless romantic biting their nails until the next book. Look, I am a breathless romantic and under a lot of circumstances, I would be one of those people but I was so offended by the behavior of all of the parties involved, frankly they all deserved each other and I don’t care who “wins” who.
My Summary: So I didn’t love this, I think you can tell. Even if you take out the plot areas that made my blood boil, there were the storytelling problems and if you take out the style problems, you have the hair-burning issues, so I feel pretty secure with my opinion. It didn’t get an F because in spite of everything, I couldn’t help but keep reading, even though I hated myself and was cursing the entire time. I’d like to take the cover off and frame it so I have at least something pleasant to refer to when I think of this.