Format: E-book, 352 pages
Release Date: 24 April 2012
Age Level: Young Adult
Purchase: Amazon | Book Depository | IndieBound | Barnes & Noble
Thirty-five beautiful girls. Thirty-five beautiful rivals…It’s the chance of a lifetime and 17-year-old America Singer should feel lucky. She has been chosen for The Selection, a reality TV lottery in which the special few compete for gorgeous Prince Maxon’s love. Swept up in a world of elaborate gowns, glittering jewels and decadent feasts, America is living a new and glamorous life. And the prince takes a special interest in her, much to the outrage of the others. Rivalry within The Selection is fierce and not all of the girls are prepared to play by the rules. But what they don’t know is that America has a secret – one which could throw the whole competition… and change her life forever.
Hello! I'm so excited to finally put my first review on this blog! I feel like it's been ages since my introduction, but I guess it hasn't really been that long. I've been having computer issues lately, so this review has become a difficult proposition! I've somehow done it though, so I really hope you enjoy it!
Let me just say right of the bat that I really enjoyed this book. A lot. I think I knew I was going to like this book when I read the dedication page, which reads simply, " Hi, Dad! *waves*" How cool and fun and unexpected is that? I wish I'd thought of it first. I'd recommend it to you based solely on the dedication, but luckily, the writing style of the narrative continues in the same fun and energetic way, which gives the book a light and easy feel, even when the subject matter becomes a little heavier.
Our tale is set in a dystopian future (yay!!), where after this big war with China, the Americas all got together to form a giant nation called Illéa. It is a monarchy, with a king and queen and all that kind of stuff. The book's plot revolves around the way a future king of the nation goes about finding his future queen. It's called the Selection, and this is where the book gets its name. Instead of marrying some princess or high ranking female of his choice, some committee or other chooses at (almost) random 35 eligible girls from around the country, from any caste (there is a caste system in this country btw, with Ones being royalty and Eights being pretty much hobos with practically nothing to their name). Literally any girl within the age range can be chosen, which I think is pretty progressive, for a monarchy. Anyway, you can probably guess that the narrative plays out much like The Bachelor. It's even televised to the nation each week! The Prince has all these nice ladies to choose from, and he goes on dates with them, dismissing them one by one until he has only 10 left. These 10 are called the Elite, and he chooses his bride-to-be out of these 10 girls. You guys know this story.
The heroine of our tale is one America Singer, who, in the beginning of the book, is your archetypical female protagonist. She even has red hair! Why are there so many red-heads in the novel universe? It's kind of a pet peeve of mine. At least she has blue eyes instead of green. She comes from a larger family who straddles the line between poor and destitute. They don't have much, but they are much luckier than some, and she was raised to understand that and be thankful for it. Like many protagonists, she's perfectly happy with her status quo, and doesn't want anything to do with anything that would mess it up. This girl's got plans, and ain't nothin' gonna stand in her way. I like that about America. She's pretty consistent in this way throughout the book; she picks a path, and she sticks to it, no matter what happens. No excuses, no apologies. She's also pretty devoid off all those silly childish emo dilemmas, like, "OMG my life is ruined because I can't get that smokin' hot dweeb/jock/stoner/emo guy to like me even though I've done practically everything to show him how completely shallow I am!" America has better things to worry about. A very likable, if somewhat unimaginative, character who I have no trouble relating to.
America doesn't have any desire to enter the Selection, because she already has a boyfriend she loves dearly, though due to their caste differences, her relationship with him has to be kept secret. Her boyfriend, Aspen, is a Six, which is a caste lower than America's Five, and he has it significantly harder than America does. He wants to marry America as much as she wants to marry him, but he feels guilty bringing America into a less desirable situation than the one she is already in. It's because of Aspen that America enters the selection at all, because if she didn't, Aspen would spend the rest of his life thinking 'what if?' He couldn't bear it if America had a chance at a better life and didn't take it because of him.While this is admirable, I can't really like Aspen. He's a well thought-out character who has real problems and every right to be confused as to which path he should take, and he's only 18 for goodness sake. But he's very prideful and ends up putting his pride before everything else. He breaks up with America even before she gets chosen for the Selection, just because his pride can't handle being "taken care of" by her when, as a man, he's supposed to be the one doing the providing. I can totally understand where he's coming from, but I just don't think that's cool.
So when America gets chosen in the Selection, she has nothing holding her back now that her first love has walked out on her, and she decides to make of this opportunity what she can. She has every intention of doing her best, even though she has no desire to be royalty, and she really doesn't think Prince Maxon will turn out to be that interesting of a guy, prince or not. Of course it turns out that Prince Maxon is indeed a very interesting guy, who is charming, gentlemanly, and above all very concerned with the welfare of the people in his country, even though he's mostly in the dark as to how the lower castes actually live. The second you meet Maxon, you know he's the good-guy type who would do anything for the person he cares about. I love it when I find a book where I just know the good guy is going to finish first! He is dreamy for all the right reasons, not just because he's got a pretty face. To America's credit, she's very quick to see how awesome Maxon is too, and though she can't forget Aspen just like that, she really does want to try.
With just the Selection going on, this book would be nothing but fluff, and while I might have still enjoyed it, I'm happy to say that there are some underlying plot lines that made this book even more interesting and fun to read! The biggest of these sub-plots involves the rebels, because what self-respecting dystopian world has no rebels? They only get small mention in the beginning of the book, so I was somewhat surprised how important they become at the end. There is definitely something fishy going on with those guys, and I really, really hope we get to know what it is in the sequel. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if the plots get turned on their heads and this sup-plot actually becomes the main plot with the Selection in the background at some point. I would be tickled pink if that were to happen. I have a feeling that whatever their aim is, it's going to turn the country upside down.
There are a couple other supporting characters in this book that are pretty important. Marlee is a real cutie who becomes America's best friend right away. She's got her own little sub-plot that I think is going to rock America's world in a big way very soon. I'll let you guys figure that one out on your own though.
What story would be complete without the villain? Celeste is rude, conniving, scheming, ambitious, and rich, rich, rich! She has all the upbringing that makes her a good choice for queen on paper, but her attitude sucks. It's pretty clear she has no interest in Maxon at all, and is only competing for the crown. She's portrayed as a typical power-hungry mean-girl type. It makes me wonder if we won't find something out about her that will bring her down to earth and make her more relatable, if not likeable. As it is, she's a one dimensional character whose motivations and methods are easily seen through by everybody except for our leading man. Poor, stupid, Maxon. I'm sure she'll show her true colors to him before long.
While this book is overall a really fun story, there are two things I'd like to gripe about. The first thing is the characters. So far they are pretty one-dimensional. Two-dimensional at best. You already can vaguely guess at what's going to happen relationship-wise just because of the character types. There is nothing really original in any of Kiera's characters, but I will say they do work wonderfully in the world she's written, so since I'm a plot-driven reader, it doesn't bother me that much, but it could be a big turn off for someone who is looking for exceptional characters.
The second is the infamous YA Fiction Love Triangle of Doom. It's a terrible epidemic people, and this book is definitely infected with it. This one doesn't bother me too much simply because of the way America ends up handling the situation. She makes mistakes, but in the end she does choose to not mess everything up, and that was quite a bit of a surprise for me. So while I'd dearly love to read a YA novel with just ONE love interest for once (what ever happened to romances with just two people involved?) This one has yet to actually make me mad at the author for resorting to such a tired trope.
I had so much fun reading this book that I can't wait to be able to read the sequel, which just came out a couple of days ago! I'm so excited, and I'll be sure to do a review on that one as well! Here's hoping it'll be just as good!