Author: Kiera Cass
Release: April 24th 2012
Genre: Dystopia, Romance, YA
#1 in the Selection series
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.
This book is probably one of the most controversial I have come across so far. There were so many people that said they really liked this book and so many that claimed they didn't. Both sides seemed to be even, and so I just had to go see for myself, since I wasn't that turned off by the premise, I have to admit. Alas, I seem to be part of the latter group, anyways.
I bought this in the morning on my kindle, out of sheer curiosity and I finished it about five or six hours after I picked it up. I read this the entire day, in one sitting, to the end, so there had to have been something that kept me to the book. So what killed this? I think the better question here would be, what kept me reading? I have found so many faults with this, I just... This was a mess.
I think I'll just start with the good things. There's the writing, which was smooth and nice to read, the descriptions were vivid and I generally liked Cass's style. The one history lesson that explained how this dystopian country of Illéa came to be was interesting and sound, not too far-fetched; I could imagine this happening. The reason as to why the rebels are attacking piqued my interest as well, and that was probably the only plotline I was really devoted to. Sadly, though, nothing really happened in that department. Theories and speculations, but nothing solid, really. A shame. And... yeah, I guess that was everything. The actual plot seemed to be kind of like The Bachelor, but I detected hints of Insert Your Nation Here's Next Topmodel as well. Girls living in the same place, competing against each other and random interviews, photoshoots, all that stuff? It felt like a book documentary on life in the model mansion.
Anyways, this book started so roughly I was tempted to drop it right away. There are so many names we have to put faces to and the society system is introduced but nothing is really explained so we're expected to know everything right the fuck away. I got what this caste thing was after a few pages, but we never really got to know what caste did what. Ones were royalty, yeah (but what exactly do they do? Not every One is in the government, or are they? I don't think that Adele chick was), Fives were artists and Sixes servants. Eights were homeless and Fours apparently worked in factories. What do Sevens do? Threes? Twos? There was a Two girl that was a model, and America said something about wanting to teach if she was a Three, but I still can't really put a label on them.
Furthermore, where was the structure here? I couldn't see any for the life of me. I tried to, and I saw weak attempts, but not one of those tries ever stuck out. There were all the rebel attacks, but did they work as climaxes? No. Because nothing happened during those. They were evacuated to a freaking basement and sat around, angsting about and crying and having seizures. Very climactic, oh yes. Where was the suspense? Where?! Let me tell you: It wasn't there. Suspense wasn't Selected, but melodrama, general drama, bitch-ery and high school angst were.
Let's get to characters. Sigh. America Singer, the protagonist, was ... well, she wasn't completely unbearable, at least not all the time. There were times I warmed up to her, but Aspen killed her. With Aspen, or because of him, she was this crybaby the whole book, and if not, she was way too smitten with him and their romance was so sappy it leaked out of the book, not with honey or anything pleasant, but with snails, snails everywhere. And I have you know, I have a snail phobia, no, really, I do. A very bad one; I run away screaming or freeze up completely whenever I see one, there was that one time at a camping ground when a snail was on my pillow and I ran across half the grounds screaming at the top of my lungs— Anyways, back to topic.
America was just completely annoying, either because she was with Aspen, or because she was so heartbroken over him, you could almost call her Bella what with all the melodrama she made out of it. She tried to be a strong character, but failed miserably. Anyways, she was nice enough to the other girls there and to Maxon, because she did give him a fair chance, which I don't see often in YA love triangles. However, she was a Mary Sue, as she was this gorgeous, out-of-this-world beauty and she cared for her maids and she could speak three languages and she was nice to everyone and every guy fell in love with her and she could sing and play a dozen instruments, all that even though she was a Five. And then she was so humble about herself! She didn't like to be the center of attention! Didn't think she was anything special! How sweet.
Maxon wasn't much better. He was perfect, too. He cared about his subjects, even the lowest of the lowest and started a project to provide food and money for them. He cared about the feelings of all the girls, he wasn't shallow and tried to do the best for all thirty-five girls. He didn't care about castes! Oh, what a guy. What a fine, young prince and future king. Surprisingly, though (or maybe not), I liked him well enough. Maybe it's because of his supposed flawlessness or just his nice personality, but I didn't dislike him as much as I did, say, Aspen. Maybe I just sympathized with him and pitied him because I seem to always do that with the "second choice".
Now, speaking of Aspen, he was very frustrating. He was trying to come across as this super hot guy that every girl/reader would fall in love with and thus, love the book as well. I didn't. Aspen tried to hard to be Da Man and broke up with his girlfriend out of love because he realized he couldn't be that for her. What? If you really loved her, you wouldn't just discard her like that, telling yourself she just deserves better. And then, realizing his mistake, he doesn't do anything about it, really, because she has been Selected anyway. This boy was extremely infuriating because he was such a hypocrite and all he ever did throughout the novel was sneak around with America and tell her how much he loved her (there's the hypocrisy) and just be the other guy hopelessly in the way so there was a reason to this painstakingly unnecessary love triangle. But I guess, what would this book be if it weren't for the triangle? Lemme tell you, this book would be at least a hundred pages shorter and it wouldn't be a trilogy, because Maxon and America would have fallen in love and he would have his damn queen already. But how is that an intense read? Oh, where is the niceness of telling a charming love story, with two people meeting under forced, unfortunate circumstances, but making the best of it and truly, honestly getting to know each other and truly, honestly fall for each other's personalities? That's not cute and sweet, ewww, nobody wants to read that.
Also, can I just say that Aspen's nickname for America was ridiculous? Mer? Seriously? All it does is make me laugh because it reminds me of The Elder Scrolls. What is America, an Altmer? A Bosmer? Personally, I like Dunmer best.
I think I'm done with this. I don't think I will be reading The Elite, I don't care enough about the characters to want to know what happens to them next and the only plotline that came close to raising my interest didn't do that well enough to keep me to this series. Thanks, but no thanks.