Review of The Selection
I love revisiting old favorites, and this is such a creative (at the time) combination of the dystopian genre with the reality TV phenomenon, and even a little bit of the Cinderella story. A very brief synopsis: in a post-WWIV world where people are separated into castes based on wealth, privilege, and career opportunities, the royal family hosts a Selection of women among the commoners in a beauty pageant to marry the prince. America doesn’t want to put her name in, but she does so for the financial benefits to her family… and because her boyfriend, Aspen, asks her to. He is in the caste below her, and doesn’t want her to spend her whole life struggling to survive, when she might have a shot at something better. When America gets selected, Aspen breaks up with her, sending her heartbroken to the palace to meet a prince whom she’s sure is a stuck up jerk.
A few negatives (that didn’t totally detract from the story, but still jarred me out of it): America was WAY too harsh with Prince Maxon in their first two meetings. It was dramatic, but completely unrealistic. It also made her less likable as a character. Also, while I get America’s conflict between Aspen and Maxon, her reasons for (spoiler alert) not telling Maxon that Aspen is her ex-boyfriend when he shows up at the palace as a guard seem pretty flimsy, to the point of dishonesty. Granted, It’s a double standard that Maxon can date multiple girls at once, while all of the girls have to be available only to him. But that’s what they signed up for, and they gave their words that that’s what they would do. So for America to go back on that and engage in secret trysts with Aspen called her character severely into question. I still rooted for her only because she was the protagonist and I saw the story through her eyes, but in real life, I wouldn’t have.
Periodically, rebels (vague though they are) show up at the palace to wreak havoc and mischief, lending more of a dystopian feel to what would otherwise be a futuristic version of the Bachelor. But I thought that worked, really–it created just enough outside tension to keep the book from being entirely a romance. Kiera Cass definitely does a great job of creating an emotional experience for the reader!
My rating: **** 1/2
Review of The Elite
“The Elite” was about on par with “The Selection,” I thought–it served to progress the story, and is distinctive from “The Selection” only insomuch as the group of girls competing for Prince Maxon is now much smaller. America still has her private liaisons with her ex-boyfriend-turned-palace-guard Aspen, though to her credit, in this book she finally makes up her mind and decides that Maxon is the one she really wants. But while Maxon was clear from the beginning that he was in love with America and would choose her early on in the process if she would have him, this book introduces some clever complications: when America’s best friend in the Elite, Marlee, is punished severely and publicly for what should be a minor transgression, America begins to wonder if she really wants to align herself with the royal family. This drives Maxon to consider other options… which makes America jealous and resentful, eventually speeding her toward a stunt that (*spoiler alert*) nearly gets her kicked out. Meanwhile, the rebel attacks get closer, more frequent, and their true aims begin to take shape.
The only reason I knocked off half a star is because of the way America handles the love triangle. Again, I get being torn between the boy she’s loved for years and the prince, the one she’s falling in love with now… but I don’t respect her for actively playing them both. It makes me like her less in general. But in every other way, I think she’s a sympathetic character.
My rating: **** 1/2
Review of The One
Sigh. YES. That was such a satisfying ending!!!
For all the back-and-forth of the love triangle, this book wraps it all up nicely. America seems steady. Decided. There are of course moments where the tension of misunderstanding looms, and I HATE that, but it doesn’t last long. And the way it’s done really makes the climax that much more satisfying.
I also love the fact that the rebels come front-and-center in this one, making the story so much more than an episode of The Bachelor. America not only earns Maxon’s love and respect, but the nation’s as well. Her character helps him to recognize what really matters, and how he can use his power to benefit the country.
Enemies become friends, good triumphs over evil, the bad guys get theirs, and the declaration of love is everything is should be. Very, very worth reading!
My rating: *****