The Selection by Kiera Cass
Series: The Selection #1
Publication: April 24th 2012 by HarperTeen
Format: eBook Pages: 336
‘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.’ – Goodreads
One of those stars in the rating is there because I’m shallow when it comes to book covers and the covers for this series are SO GORGEOUS.
So, the Selection is a competition in which thirty-five girls are presented to the prince so he can pick out his wife. The girls enrolled into the Selection come from various socio-economic backgrounds ranging from 2-8, these numbers are referred to as ‘castes’. 1 is royalty and that’s the title and position handed to the ‘selected’ girl who will go on to marry Prince Maxon. The lower you go on the scale of 1-8, the poorer you are and each number denotes the kind of employment you’re able to go into. For example, the protagonist, America Singer (more on that later), is a 5 and her caste consists of artists. The servants at the palace are 6s and their caste consists of labourers. The whole numbered system reminded me of The Hunger Games and Divergent. There was a dystopian feel to the story but I felt like this was – thankfully – overshadowed by the actual process of the Selection itself and the new world the thirty-five girls had found themselves swooped up in within the palace. I love dystopian fiction but I felt like Cass was treading too close to a territory that has been done to death without bringing anything refreshing or new to it.
I wish Cass had tossed all the attempts at slipping historical tidbits into the story because that was awfully done. It felt like a desperate attempt to make the story more than it needed to be. There’s a part dedicated to a history lesson that gives an insight into the ridiculous history of the country. Apparently, China swarmed in and invaded America after America was unable to pay back a debt they owned them leading to the United States being renamed The American State of China. I spat out my coffee at this point. Then there was something about Russia (of course) and Gregory Illéa defeating Russia (*more coffee spitting*) leading to the founding of Illéa, which is the name of the country in which The Selection is set. And you know what? It gets worse. Someone mentions why this information isn’t in a history book so they can study it and they’re told they’re not supposed to study history; they’re just supposed to know it. What even.
On the bright side, The Selection focusses more on the romance angle than the whole dystopian/historical shebang, and it does this well. The romance is slow and it develops. It isn’t rushed. I liked the growing friendship between America and Maxon. Although I did get a bit annoyed at America’s actions near the end of the book – which I won’t mention because they’re obvious spoilers.
Cass’s writing style was easy enough to read, I finished the book within hours, but seriously, the structure could have done with a bit of tidying. The whole history stuff could be taken out or changed dramatically. Maybe it was just awful in this book and it’ll get better later down the line once some sort of background is established. I’m going to give it the benefit of the doubt, but I’m never going to be okay with the whole China invading America angle because just wut?
In terms of narration, it’s written in first-person past-tense so we only ever see/read/hear America’s side of the story, which is bloody hilarious because that’s not so different to real life. I thought I’d warm up to her name but I didn’t. Really, America? I sighed with relief when Aspen (another important character in the book) called her Mer. I was hoping Mer would stick and I wouldn’t have to read America again but nope, didn’t happen. Also, I may or may not have humoured myself by calling Aspen aspirin instead (and I just thought of asspen while writing this, ha!).
I’m giving The Selection a 3.5/5 because I actually picked this up because I wanted to read some romance and I got that, the romance was good, despite Maxon’s freakiness. I’d suggest ignoring the history and dystopian bits and just reading this to see how the Selection plays out instead.