by Kiera Cass
Published on April 24, 2012 by HarperTeen
Genres: Dystopian, Romance, Young Adult
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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.
The Selection was one of those books that I flew through, but I’m not sure if I really liked it or it was just easy to read. My first thought when I read about the Selection was “oh, so it’s a nicer version of the Hunger Games” (and I’ve seen that I’m not the only one relating the two). It wasn’t until after I finished that I read its blurb describing it as a cross between The Bachelor and The Hunger Games. Ok, well I don’t watch (nor will I ever watch) The Bachelor but I absolutely loved The Hunger Games and wish the book hadn’t been compared to it. While I liked this book, I didn’t love it. It felt like Cass had decided to take the dystopian genre and make it pretty. I expected this to be something people would put on their guilty pleasure list, and it didn’t disappoint. But I’ll discuss a few of my likes, and dislikes in more detail.
America Singer has no interest in joining the Selection. It’s optional, and she’d rather stay at home, living her life as a musician and sneaking out with her secret boyfriend Aspen. She’s a risk taker, disobeying the law to be with him, even though he’s a caste below her and if they remained together, she would join him. In the end, though, Aspen gives her up so she can have a better life (how sweet, right?) and America joins the Selection, winning her province and heads off to the palace.
I loved America’s character. She knew what she wanted and she wasn’t about to let money get in the way of that. At the same time, she was also flawed–selfish for not trying to better life for her family, reckless for seeing Aspen past curfew, and stubborn for not being willing to even entertain the idea of Prince Maxon. She’s spunky, caring, and believes everyone can win. At first, when she reaches the palace and meets the other girls (and the prince), she acts like herself. The other girls pretended to be what they thought the prince would like in order to garner favor, yet it’s America’s “charm” (and I use that word loosely) that sparks a friendship between her and Maxon that she didn’t expect. Their relationship was certainly not rushed. America remained in love with Aspen while Maxon began to like her, and then poof! Love triangle. It didn’t help that I felt like I reading through the eyes of a preteen girl. As much as I loved America in this book, it was like Cass had taken a thirteen year-old and put her as the lead. The book definitely called to my younger years which is why I think part of me anticipates reading the sequel.
I felt nothing for her competitors. America made a few friends in the crowd but Cass didn’t create the same connection between them and the reader like she did with her protagonist. Instead, she captured the air of those junior high girls we all knew and hated–catty, cruel, and self-centered. Granted, not every competing girl was this way but they were all there to win and do whatever it took to do so. Personally, I just don’t feel like they did a good enough job as a supporting cast to really focus on them over America and her interactions with Prince Maxon and Aspen. Better yet, I wouldn’t have minded a different focus entirely for the book. It’s set in a dystopian society but all America cared about were boys. Every now and then, mention of the world outside the palace came up but it always came back to the Selection and who the prince liked and disliked. A bit too fluffy and chick-lit-ish for me.
Like many readers and reviewers, I was hesitant to read and review this book after the incident with Wendy Darling from The Midnight Garden. The author’s and her agent’s behavior was completely out of line and made me wary about writing this review. No blogger wants to be attacked for stating their honest (and supported) opinions. While I liked parts of this book, and finished it fairly quickly, it doesn’t ring for me as a book I’ll be re-reading. If you like The Bachelor, you’ll love The Selection. If you’re more of a Hunger Games fan, you’ll be disappointed. I recommend it to MG/YA fans, and to younger (female) readers. And plus, the cover is gorgeous (a big part of why I picked it up in the first place). Take your chance on it if you like. It wasn’t the best book I’ve ever read but it certainly wasn’t the worst.