Format: E-book, 336 pages
Release Date: 23 April 2013
Age Level: Young Adult
Purchase: Amazon | Book Depository | IndieBound
Thirty-five girls came to the palace to compete in the Selection. All but six have been sent home. And only one will get to marry Prince Maxon and be crowned princess of Illéa. America still isn’t sure where her heart lies. When she’s with Maxon, she’s swept up in their new and breathless romance, and can’t dream of being with anyone else. But whenever she sees Aspen standing guard around the palace, is overcome with memories of the life they planned to share. With the group narrowed down to the Elite, the other girls are even more determined to win Maxon over—and time is running out for America to decide. Just when America is sure she’s made her choice, a devastating loss makes her question everything again. And while she’s struggling to imagine her future, the violent rebels that are determined to overthrow the monarchy are growing stronger and their plans could destroy her chance at any kind of happy ending.
This series is making me very, very happy. I started reading this book thinking I had everything all figured out, but after reading it I'm totally blown away by what happened, and I have no idea what's going to happen next. I've made guesses of course, but those will probably be shot down just like my previous ones were. Which as I said, makes me very, very, happy!
I guess I'll start this review talking about the leading character, because that seems like as good a place as any. America is a fairly "real" character. She is by far the most idealistic character in the book so far. She seems like the only one who sees the injustice and just plain "offness" of her country's system, which makes her the most likable of the 6 elite. Despite that, she isn't perfect; far from it. She makes mistakes and isn't always in the right. She is ever so slightly self-involved and just a little bit self-righteous. She easily sees what's wrong with any given situation, but has trouble understanding that sometimes you can't make things right all in a day. Sometimes, she's a little slow to figure things out. She definitely doesn't know how or who to trust. I really like that about her though. It makes it easy to read about her without constantly rolling my eyes at her goodness.
I especially like that she and Maxon (or even Aspen for that matter) don't just magically get along; they really have to work at it. I also have to give kudos to Maxon, because he is really understanding, but also fair and realistic as to how much he's willing to let her get away with before he'll reign her in. While that sounds a bit misogynistic, it's only because America is a girl of strong passions and doesn't always know when to check herself. I gained a lot of respect for Maxon and America this book; they have turned into very solid characters who I really enjoy reading about!
The Love Triangle of Doom is still very much in effect as, much to my dismay, Aspen is still mucking about. This book really does nothing to make me like him any more. I can see why America would be enticed by what he represents, but I have no idea why she would like this kid in the first place. He's just so one-dimensional, and the only evidence that America and Aspen had any type of meaningful relationship is that the author said so. There are memories and such, but so far nothing to really convey that this would actually be a really hard choice for America. You can tell that Aspen only exists (and is still present into the second book) purely for the "drama" that it creates. Personally, I think there are plenty of other reasons for America to be hesitant in becoming closer with Maxon without throwing this rather dull character into the mix. In fact, I can think of at least 5 right off the top of my head.
There aren't really any more new characters in this book worth mentioning, but there is a good amount of character development, especially among the selection contestants. There are only 6 girls left at the beginning, so it's a lot easier to keep track of who is who. While these developments are to be expected, we also get a better glimpse into Maxon's family and life growing up. Some of the things we learn are not pretty, and it really made me feel for Maxon, as well as making him seem a stronger and less wishy-washy character.
Besides character development, there is SO much going on in this book, and I can't wait to see how it all plays out! We get to learn a bit more about the creation of Illéa, and boy is it messed up. In The Selection, it was apparent that this country's social set up wasn't ideal, but it still seemed pretty benign, if unfair. In the Elite it becomes clear that this really is a dystopian future, and I have a feeling it's only going to get worse.
As for the rebels... well, they rebel on. We get a few more insights to their motivations, but mostly they are still in the background. Soon though... very soon.
There is a doozy of a plot culmination in this book, and I can't wait for someone I know to read it so I can talk about it! Ack! So intense!
Oh! And we're finally getting to see a little of what lies outside Illéa's borders! It was nice to see how other parts of the world function in this particular future, and I've already made some guesses as to how it's going to be important later on.
I don't really want to touch too much on all the happenings, as it might be spoilery to those who have yet to read the first book, but let me just say, this is a very solid series that might actually end up on my favorites shelf when it's complete!
A favorite quote: “'What's it like to be in love?' May asked.
Lucy's smile was sad. 'It's the most wonderful and terrible thing that can ever happen to you,' she said simply. 'You know that you've found something amazing and you want to hold on to it forever; and every second after you have it, you fear the moment you might lose it.'
I sighed softly. She was absolutely right.
Love is beautiful fear.”