Author: Kiera Cass
Series: Selection Series
Publish Date: April 24th, 2012
Genres: dystopian, romance, young adult
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 a palace and compete for the heart of 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.
I’ve never been a huge princess fan, even as a child, contributing to my initial skepticism regarding this series. My expectations of a fairytale-like plot and a happily ever after conclusion (thankfully) did not come true. A few nasty encounters between the author and several reviewers also temporarily dissuaded me from picking up this book, despite its growing popularity. After much of the hype died down, I finally caved.
The very premise of the series is heavily sexist, objectifying women and portraying them in a solely negative light through the lens of a camera recording a reality TV show. To further matters, the dystopian society came across as two dimensional, seeming overly fake and as if it should have crumbled during the first year of its existence. There were gaping holes in the world building that were not rectified even in later books in the series. Most notably frustrating were the castes. America, the novel’s protagonist, was a Five. Fives were the designated musicians and artists of the community, and each member of this caste was expected to pursue a career in either of those fields. Seeing as musical and artistic ability are not hereditary, how was an individual who was born into this caste guaranteed to be gifted in either area? What about those who married into this caste? None of the other castes appeared to have designated occupations, which also added to the confusion.
Plotwise, there were no heart pounding, sweat inducing moments – to the extent that I fell asleep on multiple occasions while reading, a rarity. While this is understandable to an extent, particularly during the first book of a series, there was no clear climax. Each scene was uneventful and there was an unnecessary amount of repetition. To put it frankly, I was absolutely bored to tears and couldn’t have cared less if all of the characters were swept up by a tornado and never seen or heard from again. In fact, that might have been a better conclusion to the book and eliminated the three remaining books in the series (which don’t get much better, in case you were wondering – additional rants to come on these, have no fear!).
The characters were highly segregated by their castes, devoting nearly every waking moment to scheming about how to advance socially, hence the unwavering hype regarding the reality TV series to win over the prince. And let me tell you, there was more gossip and backstabbing over the course of a week during this competition than I have ever experienced throughout the past three years of attending an all-girls high school. Perhaps if the drama had been taken down several notches the book would have been a bit more tolerable. Cram 35 teenage girls with strong personalities together in a few rooms with only one eligible male, and all hell will break loose. Let’s be honest: if I wanted to listen to girls tear each other apart in pursuit of a husband, I would have turned on The Bachelor.
While minor, I couldn’t stand the protagonist’s name. Who voluntarily names their child America? And why are last names predicated upon occupation? I mean really, America Singer is a singer? To add to the frustration, she was repeatedly asked by others what she did for a living. What a comfort that the inhabitants of Illea are unfamiliar with their own naming customs, highlighting just another flaw in the world building.
While we’re on the topic, America came across as extremely indecisive. Engaged in a love triangle between Maxon and Aspen, America can’t bring herself to end one of the relationships. She continually expresses her undying love for each of them, spending the novel in its entirety leading both of them on simultaneously. Meanwhile, neither Maxon nor Aspen know that she fosters feelings for the other. Needless to say, this situation, while unresolved in the first book in the series, has no potential to end well.
America also refused to take risks – she consistently chose the “safe” alternatives, rather than living life a bit vicariously. No one wants to read about boring Suzie Q and her predictable life choices. Seemingly unable to decide upon her own personality, America quickly flashes between reserved and humble about her lowly background to outgoing, flirty, and confident in the matter of seconds. Pick some character traits and stick to them! To make matters worse, the only adjective America definitively satisfies would be judgmental. In between describing how superior Maxon smells or how great of a kisser Aspen is, America made it her goal to point out every possible flaw of the characters around her. Bye, bye optimism.
And lastly, there was no resolution whatsoever at the end of the book. None. I felt like I was holding half a book in my hands, rather than a complete publication. There was no cliffhanger, there were no answers, just…open-endedness. That is not the way to conclude a book, irregardless of whether it’s part of a series or a standalone installment. And it most certainly did not entice me to rush to the bookstore to buy the second book. I likely would not have picked up the next book on my own, but it was gifted to me, so I felt obligated to read it. Let’s just say that I let several months pass before continuing on in the series with the hopes that some of my frustrations would dissipate, but to no avail.
As promised earlier in this review, I will have rants for the latter books of the series posted within the next several weeks. In the meantime, would anyone care to watch a few seasons of the Bachelor with me?