Series: The Selection #1
Published by HarperTeen on March 26th 2013
Genres: Dystopian, Young Adult
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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.
I read this book for one reason: To find out why it’s a New York Times Best-selling series. After drinking several beers and banging my head against the wall after reading The Selection, I can kinda see why. And to be fair, it’s probably not the absolute worst book I’ve read. (I mean, there’s still that time I read Starcrossed by Josephine Angelini…) Still, it is by no means something that I’d recommend.
Reasons Why This Book is Made of LOLZ:
Character names: If there’s one thing that I just don’t understand about The Selection, it’s why more creativity couldn’t be used on character names. Really, I’m not asking for much here, but America SINGER? Character names based on their occupation? WHY? What’s funny is when other characters ask America what she does for a living because THEY HAVE NO IDEA WHAT IT COULD POSSIBLY BE.
House of Mary Sues: It might not surprise you that this book is about a super special snowflake, but did you know that virtually ALL the characters are just as special? The competition in The Selection isn’t just about which girl can win Maxon’s heart. Oh no. It’s about who’s the most special of them all! And since most of them are so damn selfless, they end up tripping over themselves, giving each other compliment after compliment. (“No, you’re the prettiest! You’d make such a great Queen. I’m nothing but a cardboard cutout excuse for a supporting character.” *giggle*) I shit you not. In fact, even Maxon and Aspen are competing, too. In my hands I hold a royal flush of Mary Sues.
The love triangle: I almost always dislike love triangles. It turns the female character into someone who can only focus on the two boys and becomes a much less interesting person. Her entire story revolves around the boys and which one is the “most perfect” for her. In effect, she is defined by this love triangle and her story becomes a shipping war.
I was hoping The Selection wouldn’t fall into that trap and was ecstatic that America was leaving Aspen behind when she left to live at the palace. But I knew things couldn’t be that simple since he eventually shows up at the right fucking moment to add unnecessary romantic tension. Because what a coincidence that a poor boy, who’s a glorified custodian, would find his way all the way to the palace and a guard right outside America’s door! WOW! It must be fate… or perhaps bad writing. Let’s go with the latter.
So now we have both boys back into America’s life. What’s a 16-year-old to do? Who are you going to choose, America?!
“No, I’m not choosing him or you. I’m choosing me.”
Bullshit. America spends majority of the book struggling with who to choose. And I would wager that the other books have the very same struggle. If there is one thing this book was good at, it was its predictability.
Also, did I mention how America has never had a female friend? The explanation for this is that she is always working and was homeschooled. But someone she made time to have a steady boyfriend (Aspen) for 2 years. She even mentions his sisters, but apparently, they aren’t friends. Even more, I found it super strange that she mentions that Maxon would have been someone she befriended at home had he been a neighbor. So I guess America only had time to make male friends back at home. It’s after she is forced to be around other females that she makes female friends.
The thing about her female friends is that the only thing they ever talk about is Maxon. Though he is a supporting character to America, he holds the center of this novel, making it complete one-dimensional, lacking any character depth. It’s a real shame because the premise of The Selection isn’t entirely a horrible one. But instead, Cass sets up a plot that is so staged that I couldn’t possibly take it seriously. Supporting characters are weaker to make America seem stronger. Supporting character make ridiculous suggestions so America can seem smarter. Rebels attack the palace for… reasons not expanded on because it has nothing to do with the romance. But, hey, those scenes make America look like a leader, so why not?
(What really kills me is how America tells Maxon that she “just needs time” to get over her ex-boyfriend, but he has no idea it’s Aspen, the very guard he stationed right outside her bedroom at night. And she doesn’t seem to have any inclination to tell Maxon either. Also, Maxon doesn’t own a set of balls.)
Like I said earlier, I can sort of see the appeal of this book and I’ve been told it’s really popular among younger readers. Two hot boys, pretty dresses, a light and fluffy read. There is nothing wrong with these things. I occasionally like them in my books as well, depending on what kind of mood I’m in. But I would have liked the novel to be about more than just a girl choosing between each guy. We know nothing about her beaus outside of how “cute” they are to America. What are their traits, strengths, morals? How do they individually enhance America’s life? What do these male characters represent on a larger scale? How do they even differ?
The Selection doesn’t even begin to touch on any of those questions because the story doesn’t actually leave you with any to ponder. What it does leave you with is a promise of a love triangle from hell and a sinking sense that the remainder of the series could only be one thing: a waste of time. My paperback came with a sneak peek of book 2 and I was very underwhelmed even more than I was with The Selection. She starts off book 2 with the difficult choice of Maxon or Aspen. I think I will spare myself.
So the question is: Is this book worth a read? In my opinion, no. Alternately, there’s The Jewel that has a very similar feel, but is an overall stronger novel in every possible way. Read that instead.