Goodreads rating: 4.16
My Rating: 3
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 know I am a little late to this party, as this book has been reviewed by a number of wonderful bookish bloggers over the years. I was initially hesitant to buy it as it seemed like a short book when I saw it on the shelves and I wasn’t a fan of the high price tag (I knew I would be finished it in a few days). I absolutely loved the cover but I’ve hemorrhaged my bank account for a number of pretty young adult books over the years. However, over time my curiosity grew and I was lucky enough to move to an area with a fairly decent local library which had it in stock. After a fairly long wait – where the person in front of me on the waiting list didn’t bother picking it up for two weeks – I finally read it.
And… it’s not an amazing book, but I really enjoyed it for what it was.
I should mention that since its release The Selection has garnered its fair share of negative reviews. Virtually every aspect of this book has been criticized online. One such reviewer was subject to harassment online for publishing her opinion on The Selection (see story here), which was really bad form on the part of the author’s agent.
On the flip-side the series has a large number of loyal fans; women (and probably some men!) who love to read about America Singer and her blossoming romance with Prince Maxon – I am one of them! I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this book. Cass is not an excellent writer, but she knows how to do fast paced scenes that draw you in. She also knows how to develop a romance out of a friendship and that is something rare in the young adult market.
This romantic progression isn’t perfect, but it is a lot better than stories like Cinder and Twilight where the insta-love just beats you over the head. Sidenote: I hope no angry agents get cranky at me – those books do have other merits.
After a war with China, the USA is reincarnated as the Kingdom of Ilea with a hereditary caste system allocated based on how much people aided the war effort. America Singer is a young woman from the fifth caste of this dystopian American society, the impoverished but not destitute class of musicians. She is a typical teenager who yearns to be free of her overbearing mother and live happily-ever-after with her socially unsuitable boyfriend Aspen. He is a caste below her, and in this surprisingly traditional society women don’t usually marry down. The plot arrives in the form of the Selection – a contest in which a number of beautiful young women compete for the hand of the Prince. The Selection is a way for America to elevate herself and her family out of poverty and she is persuaded by her mother to sign up.
America Singer is an odd name even in this dystopian world. ‘America’ as a first name is meant to allude to the United States of old. Singer is a not so subtle reference to her profession. Yes, it is a little silly, but this is a novel that doesn’t take itself too seriously.
America is a bit of a Mary-sue, she is beautiful, talented, brave and seems to adapt perfectly to whatever challenges come her way. In many ways she is the typical YA dystopian heroine – coming from a humble background she is surprisingly strong-willed, but kind to those beneath her in the social system and she embodies democratic values despite never living in a democracy. I liked America in the sense that although she comes from a world utterly unlike mine, she is very accessible and I quickly found myself in her corner.
Cass’ leading man is an absolute sweetheart. Shy and nervous about romance, Prince Maxon sees that America is still in love with her ex-boyfriend but holds a candle for her throughout the novel. He is sweet and gentlemanly, unlike the typical YA bad boy. For once it is the male lead as opposed to the female that is sexually inexperienced and this is refreshing.
One complaint I did have about this book was the interactions between the women. Women being bitchy and hating each other is easy to write and caters to unpleasant stereotypes. Having Maxon being oblivious to this because he is male is a cliche and incredibly sexist. Cass is essentially saying: women will become cutthroat for a prestigious man and men are seduced witless by conniving women. Venomous characters like Celeste cater to society’s worse ideas of how women behave and don’t do either gender any favours.
Despite its faults I really did enjoy The Selection and look forward to reading the next two books – which I just borrowed from the library