The Selection by Kiera Cass

The Selection

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...

Title:The Selection
Author:
Rating:
ISBN:0062059939
Edition Language:English
Number of Pages:336 pages

The Selection Reviews

  • Mariya

    was one of the best books I have ever read! I don't think I quite expected that once I flipped the first page that I couldn't stop! But guess what it happened! I am constantly thinking about

    was one of the best books I have ever read! I don't think I quite expected that once I flipped the first page that I couldn't stop! But guess what it happened! I am constantly thinking about this book and I am 100% in "WOW" mode! Everything about this book I absolutely loved and I have no freaking clue how I am going to wait more than a year for the second book to come out. Such torture!

    is a dystopian novel, but it didn't seem so much like one to me, more like a Cinderella story. But they have a caste system in this world that goes from one to eight. One being very rich and eight being very poor. The Selection gets held for the prince where out of 35 woman he gets to narrow it down to one girl he picks as his princess. So notices gets sent to all the girls to the age of 16 to 20 and all the girls go crazy submitting their entries for

    .

    As for America Singer our heroine of the story who is a five in the caste system, she doesn't want anything to do with

    . Her mother is very needy and begging her because it is a wonderful opportunity. Even if you don't get chosen as the princess your life changes forever, you will be higher up in the caste system, and it would help America's family.

    America doesn't care about any of that though, and plus she has a secret boyfriend, Aspen. It is sort of forbidden too for her to be with him. Later on, Aspen feels America should at least try for The Selection and she gets picked as one of 35 girls. And some problems happen between Aspen and America before she leaves.

    I liked America. I felt like she as a very strong heroine. And she is very unselfish. She is doing

    for her family to help them, but also she wants some distance from Aspen. When we meet Prince Maxon he is everything America thought he wouldn't be. he is absolutely swoon worthy. I mean, come on. he is a prince. Maxon has very cute qualities that make my heart flutter. He has a cute reaction to crying ladies and it is funny. I love how he uses the term, "my dear", which America hates. Haha!

    Prince Maxon is very sweet and kind and all her wants is to find a girl among the 35 girls that are at his palace that he could love. That girl may end up to be America though. But the question becomes is America even interested? Is she over Aspen yet? There seems to be a lot going on between Maxon and America without anything actually happening and it becomes clear in my opinion at least that America does like Maxon, but there are things she has to figure out first.

    No surprise that I like Maxon more than Aspen, but Aspen definitely has his moments and it makes you feel a little sorry for him. But I most definitely want America and Maxon together.

    was one absolutely amazing and my only complaint would be why this book isn't longer. It felt so short. I wish the book was like 500 pages long. I loved it that much! It will be complete torture waiting for the next book in the series.

  • Wendy Darling

    Reaction before reading this book:

    Reaction after reading this book:

    I did not read this entire book. I took notes for the first 88 pages, read to page 168, and then skimmed the rest. I think reading more than half the book qualifies as giving it a fair shot.

    arrives with a gorgeous cover and interesting premise. What if a lott

    Reaction before reading this book:

    Reaction after reading this book:

    I did not read this entire book. I took notes for the first 88 pages, read to page 168, and then skimmed the rest. I think reading more than half the book qualifies as giving it a fair shot.

    arrives with a gorgeous cover and interesting premise. What if a lottery allowed 35 teenage girls to compete for the hand of a handsome prince? I thought this might be a fun and fluffy read, so I pushed aside my initial misgivings about the names and pounced on the chance to read the ARC. Turns out, sometimes your gut is just trying to do its job, as I kept struggling with the book until I finally admitted that I didn't find a single aspect of this story that I enjoyed. Somehow I missed the early blurb that described this novel as a mash-up between the

    and

    , which is unfortunate because the comparison to the television show is pretty spot-on. Mentioning it in the same breath as

    is a travesty, however, since this book barely qualifies as a dystopian novel--and certainly the quality of the story, characters, themes, and writing don't come even close to comparing.

    Our main character's name is America Singer.

    Her boyfriend's name is Aspen. Prince Charming's name is Prince Maxon Schreave, who must marry a "True Daughter of Iléa." Other names include Queen Amberly, King Clarkson, Tiny, Kriss, Marlee, Bariel, Gavril, Kamber, and Sosie.

    Sketchy caste system. Talk of provinces. Girls are required to wait until marriage to have sex. Infrastructure Committees. Occasional mentions of hunger and lack of makeup.

    Very obvious protestations that are easily seen through. Juvenile dialogue. A lot of whispering to convey dramatic statements. A plethora of exclamation points.

    Contestants vying for a "perfect" guy. Appearance fees. Contracts. Gossiping. Sabotage. Tears. Eliminations. Television specials. Icky elements.

    But no limos and no rose ceremonies! Booo.

    The story ends on a cliffhanger, as if there was so much going on in this one book,

    ************************************************************

    Why did Mom have to push me so much? Wasn't she happy? Didn't she love Dad? Why wasn't this good enough for her?

    "Please don't call me gorgeous. First my mom, then May, now you. It's getting on my nerves." By the way Aspen was looking at me, I could tell I wasn't helping my "I'm not pretty" case. He smiled.

    Aspen was dressed in white. He looked angelic.

    That was it. I slapped him. "You idiot!" I whisper-yelled at him. "I hate him! I loved you! I wanted you; all I ever wanted was you!"

    "If you don't want me to be in love with you, you're going to have to stop looking so lovely."

    ************************************************************

    So. Whether you'll enjoy this book depends on whether you find any of the above details appealing. If, like me, they make you want to pull out your hair, it may be best to either try this one out at the library first or just admire the pretty cover design from a safe distance.

    Putting aside the fact that this probably would have worked better as a straightforward fairy tale without the pseudo-dystopian details, as well as the annoying focus on boys boys boys being the be-all and end-all of this book, the whole thing wasn't really a very enjoyable reading experience to me, not even as mindless entertainment. Every scene, every character, and every plot development was predictable and worse yet, a cliché, and the dialogue and machinations felt painfully juvenile throughout the entire story. I almost wish this were a middle grade novel, except that there are a few too many make out scenes for that. Plus I don't think I would have enjoyed this even at the age of 8.

    As always, these kinds of books are just a matter of taste. All in all, I really don't have violent feelings about

    the way I do with such books as

    or Elizabeth Miles'

    , but I'm afraid I can't say that I found very much about it that was redeeming, either.

    Some pretty horrible developments occurred. Please check

    on this post if you're interested. And yes, this is the review that was featured the Publishers Weekly article

    Those interested in how this one review still continues to affect me 2 years after posting it should check out the links in

    as well. This review has not been altered at all since its publication, with the exception of the addendum, and to delete a quote that was misread.

  • Victoria

    UPDATE 3/23/2016:

    YOU GUYS. I owe Kiera Cass a TREMENDOUS apology. Kiera Cass is the mother-effing ORACLE OF DELPHI. GET THAT WOMAN A JOB IN THE WHITE HOUSE, STAT.

    Because you guys. She predicted Donald Trump's America. Rich businessman. War with China. Renaming country after own self. Creating a caste system based off of how much money one has.

    I didn't believe this was an America that could happen, but turns out, I was the one who was wrong.

    *sobbing quietly into nuclear bunker*

    ORIGINAL REVIEW

    I

    UPDATE 3/23/2016:

    YOU GUYS. I owe Kiera Cass a TREMENDOUS apology. Kiera Cass is the mother-effing ORACLE OF DELPHI. GET THAT WOMAN A JOB IN THE WHITE HOUSE, STAT.

    Because you guys. She predicted Donald Trump's America. Rich businessman. War with China. Renaming country after own self. Creating a caste system based off of how much money one has.

    I didn't believe this was an America that could happen, but turns out, I was the one who was wrong.

    *sobbing quietly into nuclear bunker*

    ORIGINAL REVIEW

    I almost never write reviews, but I had to write one to try to persuade people to read this book. Really, it has to be read to be believed. This is actually the worst book I've ever had the pleasure to encounter in my life, and I think it's only fair that everyone else get to enjoy it, too. It's the best ten bucks and three hours of my life I've ever spent.

    I'm not being sarcastic. The entertainment value of this novel is high. Especially if you can reenact scenes out loud with your boyfriend, which I may or may not have done.

    As for all you people who couldn't finish it? WEAK. Seriously. The effery gets more and more amazing and you missed some inspiring prose.

    I've read through many of the reviews here, and people have done a good job of covering the problems. Forgive me for treading familiar ground.

    1.

    . I know, Collins did the same thing. But while it works in Hunger Games to underscore the absurdity of the society (the silliest names come from the Capitol or Career districts), here, it just makes all of our descendants sound stupid.

    Stop smoking pot, kids. Your progeny will be born dumb and name THEIR progeny things like "America," "Aspen," and "Clarkson." Please. Think of the children.

    (Tangent: I was describing this book to a friend, and I said, "The heroine is named America Singer. She has a really special talent, and you can tell from her name." My friend: ". . .Is she really good at freedom?")

    2.

    . Great, even good dystopians SHOULD stem from a plausible scenario of the future (e.g. 1984), and MUST make a commentary on society as it is now (Hunger Games is once again the good example here--it isn't exactly plausible, but all that War is Hell stuff is good).

    This book fails miserably on both points. Not only is the vision of the future ridiculous and implausible based on the world we know today, it demonstrates a complete lack of historical, economic, political, and anthropological understanding.

    Midway through the book, we are given a breathtakingly idiotic vision of the future (how has no one addressed this yet? It's like the best part of the book).

    I suspect that the attitude of this author is best summed up in what one of the instructors says to the Selected: "Dear girls, history isn't something you study. It's something you should just know." If Cass had actually studied history at any point, she would have realized how asinine and ill-concieved this vision of the future is.

    Moving on, though I guess it's hard to move on from that idiocy. Anyway, the book also doesn't make a particularly cogent argument against misogyny, class-ism, or even basic stupidity. For example,

    Finally, the book actually perpetrates and supports misogynistic ideas. For example, Marlee tells America that girls are all bitchy and out to backstab each other. America takes this in stride, instead of, oh, pointing out that her sisters were great to her? Why is it okay to say this or perpetrate this kind of belief about women? Of course it's true of some women, as it's true of some men. But it's not GENERALLY true of ALL women, and to say so is grossly misogynistic.

    3.

    . People lack depth, subtlety, and consistency in this book. You have the classic Bitchy Mean Girl, the Devoted Maids, the Kindly Best Friend, the Adorable Young Tyke, and on and on and on.

    As for lack of consistency: Maxon, for example, is described as being not very good with girls ("I don't meet very many women," he says at one point). . . and yet he goes around calling everyone 'my dear' (ewww sleazy, by the way?) like a dedicated Regency rake. It would be one thing if this was described as being awkward, but instead the women all seem to really like it--so he's inexperienced, yet smooth with the ladies? WTF?

    Maxon is in general the least sexy 'hero' I've ever read. First off, he's a shitty prince. Even America studied the names/faces of the other Selected, but Maxon asks to be "[forgiven] if [he's] slow with names; there are quite a few [girls]." You're a PRINCE, Maxon. Learning people's names and remembering them is a PART OF YOUR JOB, especially because you have access to that information. Sit your ass down. Memorize their names and faces.

    He's also completely ignorant of what's going on in his country until America tells him (and then he becomes an overnight communist because of her. Not that there's anything wrong with communists per se, but I'm still amused). I get that as the prince he was maybe really sheltered from the realities of the caste system, but it's still really unsexy that he hasn't even tried to find out before. It demonstrates a complete lack of curiosity, empathy, and imagination.

    As a love interest, Maxon is just really creepy. He says, "You [the Selected girls] are all dear to me. It is simply a matter of discovering who shall be the dearest." Oh, ick.

    The problem isn't that Maxon has clearly never been laid, which is fine (I love non-man-ho heroes!), the problem is he's so awkward/sketchy that he also couldn't get laid if his life depended on it. Actually, I wonder if he actually has all his manly parts intact, because he talks/acts/thinks like a not very bright woman.

    I also really enjoyed this description of Maxon: "He just looked . . . thoughtful. It was an interesting expression on his face." Because, you know, Maxon usually just looks dumb as a brick, so when he's thinking, it's totally weird.

    As for America, her stupidity is kind of endearing. Watching her navigate the world is like watching a toddler cross traffic, only really hilarious. She's unbelievably self-centered, egotistical, and smug.

    For example, her treatment of her maids is poorly thought out. It's like Cass wants to make America sympathetic by having her care about her maids (

    ), but America's actual behavior towards the girls is condescending and smug. First, she can't be bothered to learn their names/distinguish them from each other. Later, she self-righteously says that she "enjoys the company of Sixes." How about saying that YOU NEVER NOTICE CASTES, AMERICA? That would be a better way of putting it.

    Finally, America seems to think that the girls are TOTALLY HAPPY to just be America's maids and have no outside interests/lives. According to America, they just LIVE to serve her. All people have their own agendas, Cass, and to describe the girls otherwise--especially when you are using them to make a point about America's kindness/thoughtfulness--ends up making America look even more self-absorbed, naive, and oblivious.

    4.

    . There is no subtlety, no tension. If someone wants to know something? SURE. Any character will spill the inner workings of their mind immediately. Case in point: when Aspen is angry at America for cooking dinner, instead of drawing out the tension and creating a sense of unease with Aspen withholding this information, Aspen simply bursts out the (chauvinistic) truth.

    Or when Maxon asks America whether or not she can love him (the second time they meet), instead of saying, "no, you're really creepy/desperate, ew" or "how the fuck should I know, I just met you last night," which is I think how most girls would respond to that kind of question on the second meeting (NOT even the second date), America says no and then TELLS HIM WHY--a reason that can technically GET HER IN TROUBLE.

    Who does that? Someone who is acting according to the dictates of plot instead of human nature and their own characterization.

    (Then another character describes America as 'mysterious' at one point. America, who literally cannot keep her mouth shut about ANYTHING, even her own darkest secrets. Clearly, the author's definition of 'mysterious' is very different from everyone else's.)

    Cass is also VERY fond of using the dialogue tag "sing" or "sang out." Of the 7 or 8 times she does this, it fits ONCE (when May sings the "sitting in a tree" song.) This is a really idiotic move because I sort of imagine everyone singing in a Miss Piggy tone of voice.

    5.

    . The queen is described as sitting "not in an icy way," in contrast to her husband and son. Which makes zero sense. Posture is not described as icy: tone is, mien is, but not THE WAY YOU SIT. You can't just use words because you feel like it. Words mean specific things.

    Also, someone twirls her fork "menacingly." No, really. This is one of those fun things you can try to do at dinner tonight.

    (I get what Cass is trying to go here, but she hasn't described it right. The girl's expression can be menacing WHILE she twirls her fork. Or it can even be something like, "She was merely twirling pasta on her fork, but she somehow managed to make the gesture look menacing, like she meant to stab me in the eye with it after I was finished eating." But the way it's written is just abuse of the English language.)

    America also puts her books on a "helpful" shelf. That's how I describe all my furniture when they fulfill their function: chairs are "helpful" when I sit in them, beds are "helpful" because I can sleep in them, and "stoves" are helpful when they HELP ME COOK DINNER. THANKS, STOVE.

    At one point, America describes Aspen's hair as "scraggly." Here is the definition of scraggly:

    1. (of a person or animal) Thin and bony.

    2. Ragged, thin, or untidy in form or appearance.

    Now, I recognize the use of the word "or" in this definition: that it can mean ragged, thin, OR untidy. However, words have connotations as well as denotations, and using the word "scraggly" implies dirty and thin.

    Probably not how you want people to imagine one of the love interests' hair.

    Cass also likes to juxtapose words weirdly, like when America "whisper-yelled" at Aspen, or when Maxon laughs "with a bizarre mix of rigidity and calm," or a character who smiles in a way that's both "excited and timid."

    ....eh?

    6.

    . America's family is described as poor because they are lower caste. I don't buy it. She has her own bedroom, and her family owns not only a fridge, but a TV, and they eat popcorn while they watch it. Sure, they are kind of hungry (and they don't have enough makeup *tear*), but when they ARE described as having amenities, it isn't explained.

    And it would have been so easy to do! Such as, "the fridge was a cast-off from the home of a Three!" "Popcorn is cheap, so it's the only snack we can afford!" "I had my own room, but only because older sis moved out!" (It's also unclear what kind of house/neighborhood the Singers live in. Suburbs? Inner city? Rural countryside? This would have gone a long way towards establishing America's poverty).

    Or people are described as "regal" without any indication of what that means (stiff posture? Raised chin? Expressionless face? Walks with a stick up their rears? WHAT? TELL US.)

    America's first breakfast in the palace: "The eggs and bacon were heaven, and the pancakes were perfectly done, not too thin like the ones I made at home." WHAT DO HEAVENLY EGGS AND BACON TASTE LIKE TO YOU, AMERICA? CRISPY? SOGGY? SALTY? DOES THE FAT MELT ON YOUR TONGUE? Writers: make your words count.

    Here's another stunning example of Cass's descriptive prowess: "The wallpaper, the gilt mirrors, the giant vases of fresh flowers were all so beautiful. The carpets were lavish and immaculate, the windows were sparkling, and the paintings on the wall were lovely."

    What kind of wallpaper is it? How big are the mirrors? What kind of flowers? What do the carpets look like? WHAT DOES ANYTHING LOOK LIKE?

    This is not how you write description, guys.

    The telling, not showing also ties into the bad characterization. We are TOLD, for example, that Aspen's mother is kind, because she "give[s] clothes that didn't fit her kids anymore to families who had next to nothing."

    This is not an effective example of kindness. Giving away clothes that you don't use anymore isn't kind, because it lacks the element of sacrifice. It's vaguely charitable at best. If Cass wanted to use this example, she would have had to add something along the lines of "instead of selling it for money."

    7.

    . Witness the 'bargain' that America offers the prince during their first meeting: she offers to be his friend and to help him selected a bride(after spilling all her dark secrets, natch). Then, after like two meetings (dates lol), America is hurt when Maxon didn't tell her something because she thinks that they are 'friends'. Not everyone is you, America. Not everyone tells all their secrets to their actual friends after YEARS, let alone to random people after a mere days.

    8.

    . For example, at one point the prince says, "I hope to find happiness, too. To find a woman that all of Illea can love, someone to be my companion and to help entertain the leaders of other nations. Someone who will befriend my friends and be my confidante. I'm ready to find my wife."

    This is really offensive, and it's never addressed. Maxon's idea of love is incredibly self-centered: someone whom HIS people can love, someone to be HIS companion, someone to help HIM entertain leaders of other nations, someone to befriend HIS friends and be HIS confidante. And sure, a princess is public commodity and she should be popular with his people and not embarrass the country in front of other nations. But even if you strip away the "public" aspect, Maxon doesn't at all mention wanting to be friends with HER friends, to be HER support, to be HER companion, to be a part of HER life. He wants to enfold her into HIS life.

    9.

    . I'm a little confused by everyone's lack of understanding of basic statistics in this book. The selection is a lottery, and your odds are Not Good.

    And yet this book opens, "When we got the letter in the post, my mother was ecstatic. She had already decided that all our problems were solved, gone forever. The big hitch in her brilliant plan was me."

    Um, I hate to break it to you, America, but technically the first big hitch in her problem is STATISTICS. Your problems are not solved until YOU ARE SELECTED. God, if the woman thinks the "big hitch in her plan" is America's stubbornness, she must be dumber than a brick--like mother, like daughter, eh? Curse you, mathematics, for being SO DIFFICULTS.

    Later on, America notes that "families had already started throwing parties for their daughters, sure that they would be the one chosen for the Selection." SERIOUSLY? THAT'S LIKE ME CELEBRATING WINNING THE MEGA MILLIONS JACKPOT BECAUSE I BOUGHT A TICKET.

    10.

    . I would say this is pretty much a master class in how not to write a novel. Aspiring novelists, take note. You can learn more about what not to do spending ten bucks on this than in an expensive university writing program

    11.

    . Writing a book is really hard. I respect that. I don't respect the way this author treats reviewers, because reviews are for readers, who deserve to know what they are getting for their money.

    Edited: You guys, thank you so much for reading. I am blown away by all of your support. The review for The Elite is up, and I'm working on The Heir. Will attach links soon.

  • Kiki

    This book is like those little sachets of Nutella you get as free samples with like a magazine or a packet of Ritz or something, in that it's empty calories lite but seriously delicious. It's really small and really bad for you and not really that satisfying but shit if you don't enjoy it. Because, no matter how superior you think your tastes are, you

    enjoy this. Even just on a voyeuristic level. You just have to forget all of the stuff you know. Like, all of it. Forget what you learned in

    This book is like those little sachets of Nutella you get as free samples with like a magazine or a packet of Ritz or something, in that it's empty calories lite but seriously delicious. It's really small and really bad for you and not really that satisfying but shit if you don't enjoy it. Because, no matter how superior you think your tastes are, you

    enjoy this. Even just on a voyeuristic level. You just have to forget all of the stuff you know. Like, all of it. Forget what you learned in civics class and don't you dare remember even one page of that history textbook that your teacher shoved under your nose when you were eleven. Don't untangle those headphones; don't try to line up the yellow smarties. This book is a house of cards. Really cool to look at, but totally flimsy.

    (And the controversy is such a shame. It's a shame that the creative minds behind this lovably fluffy duck-down are the sort to hurl expletives at honest, non-inflammatory reviewers via Twitter, which is literally the weakest way to attack someone, because were your reasons so flimsy that they wouldn't fill out more than 140 characters? Come on.)

    Personal shitstorms aside, this book has about as much class and substance as its creators, but that's isn't to say that it didn't nicely pad out a two-hour train journey from Dundee to Glasgow. That commute, especially on a Friday lunchtime, is a snore. Add that to a tiny waif of a story with all of the addictive allure of crack and you've got two covers that you can turn in one single sitting.

    I'm not going to lie to you and say that I didn't have preconceived notions about this one; I mean, come on. The social drama was embarrassing. Add that to a name like "America Singer" and you've got a character I'm expecting to hate. But the thing was that I totally didn't.

    I have a bit of a problem with those who expect teen girls in YA books to behave like street-smart successful thirty-year-olds with enough life experience to be able to judge any situation with a clinical and businesslike edge. I know I wasn't like that when I was sixteen, and neither were you. When I was sixteen I fell in love with a supply teacher and thought that having chipped nail polish made me look edgy.

    America is kind of like me. She's probably kind of like you, too. She's over-dramatic and foolishly optimistic and she gets swept up by a single kind action from a cute boy. So what? She's a teenage girl. She's also careful, restrained and compassionate. She doesn't swallow bullshit like it's Orange Julius. She's believable. I'm not usually a huge fan of the whole "I'm special because I'm plain" which this whole book does use as a giant smoke screen for its sexism: there's the inevitable conversation in which someone says that big groups of girls always means there's snarky bitching and tons of competition, which doesn't hang together at all if you look at what is perpetuating this competition. Cass gives us commentary on girls and their competitiveness without actually tackling the reasoning behind that, which is of course a society whose foundations rely on a lack of camaraderie between women and this idea that in terms of relationships, men come first.

    Who is funding, perpetuating, and benefitting from the Selection? Maxon, who will gain a wife, and the king, who will solidify his dynasty. The queen is merely there for decoration; she says and does nothing of import. This book, had it not been the Nutella free sample of dystopia in which there's no greater peril than running out of bow tie pasta and having to resort to lasagne sheets, could have been a fantastic allegory for the way in which women compete and are punished for it, when in fact it is men and male benefactors specifically who both incite and perpetuate said competition. We are supposed to hate Celeste because she's our stereotypical heartless mean girl - and YA caters only to the insecurities of those who are visually plain, placing girls who wear lipstick into a terribly unflattering light and only exacerbating "types of girls" - when in fact Celeste and her desperation to climb the social ladder is a blinding example of what this patriarchal power imbalance between men and women has created in Cass's world. That is, the idea that male acceptance and male pleasure has infinitely greater value than that of women. This idea that men and romance comes first, and female friendships threaten that, and get her! Tackle her! Don't let that *hussy* steal your man! He's all that gives you value, remember?

    Calling out "all my friends are guys, there's less drama because girls are bitches" gives me immense satisfaction. When I hear that self-important special snowflake shit it makes me want to hurl. Is that any way to speak about your fellow woman? Do you understand the waves that women can make when they work together?

    This book is nowhere near as bad in this area as it could have been - but we weren't spared disapproving glances at Bariel's breasts or the constant commentary on Celeste and her ridiculously exaggerated competitive antics. Do me a favour and spare me another wasted concept, because there's no peril to this, and because there's no peril, the story has no weight. None of these girls are being forced to do this. There's monetary gain involved but America's family are not exactly begging for scraps, are they? Why on earth we're watching a middle-class girl agonize so deeply over a silly competition that she chose to enter is beyond me. What's further beyond me is the whole caste system, and why it's even in place, and why this book is a dystopia. This could have been a four-star read for me had it been set in a high fantasy world, maybe in a kingdom called Candy Land where everything was frivolous and silly with an undercurrent of darkness and social instability.

    But let's look at the technicalities of this. We have a competition with no negative outcomes that everyone adores except the faceless "rebels" who lack any real presence and who are portrayed as nasty barbarians when in fact what they're rebelling against is fat cats sitting in a palace eating fruitcake while children in the lower castes starve. The prince for whom they're competing is hot and charming and sweet. Goddamn, nothing about this is dystopian. You might look at the poverty pointedly but is the poverty ever explored in any meaningful way? Is there ever any real commentary attached to it? No.

    Let's cut out some plot tumours. Add in some polygamy. What if we took this fluffy frothy dystopia lite and added in a little danger? What if? What if the king, a nasty creepy dude, wants a new wife every year? He already has twenty or so. So let's say that each year he holds a Selection to choose a new one. Girls are picked based on their photographs. They are forced into the competition against their will. When America arrives, she must fight through a competition for the heart of a man she loathes, surrounded by girls at whom she initially looks through a judgemental lens, before realizing that they are all doing what they can to survive, and forming powerful bonds with them; each girl who is struck off from the competition is executed, because the king will not allow another man in the kingdom to marry a girl he has touched. Meanwhile, rebels march on cities around the southern rim of the country in the name of avenging the daughters and sisters they have lost to the Selection.

    , America is torn between secretly loving the boy she knew outside the competition, whose family has pointedly joined the rebels, and falling for Prince Maxon, the king's seventeenth son, who lives in the shadow of the king's first son and heir. What if?

    Jesus, just add some fucking peril to your dystopia. "But it's light and fluffy! It's not meant to be serious!" you say. Newsflash: dystopia is a really goddamn serious genre. Dystopia is a genre that is built around social commentary. Don't you dare come in and fluff up a genre that was created as a platform for authors to offer creative, intelligent critique and discourse on some of the most controversial and powerful social issues in the real world. Dystopia is a gift; dystopian stories can make us better people. This is not a dystopia. It is just silly.

    Honestly? This book could have been so much more. It could have been powerful and groundbreaking. It's not like the writing was anything special (in some places, it's just plain bad. This book is filled with some of the most unnatural and stilted dialogue I have ever read) or that any of the characters, even those I liked (Maxon was an unexpected favourite of mine, even if he is a two-faced spineless dingbat), grabbed my attention enough to make me give a crap. It's just one big pile of wasted potential. And I am so suspicious of authors who say that they "write without agenda" because one cannot claim to do impossible things. Every single piece of writing in existence has agenda, big or small, powerful or menial. Don't say that you just wanted to write a little light-hearted

    that nobody should take too much to heart. Don't. Don't do that. Don't do what Lauren DeStefano did when she wrote about rape and polygamy and forced marriage and sex with thirteen year olds and then claimed that there was no social commentary behind it, and that she wasn't trying to say anything with her writing. The fuck?

    Don't fuck with really serious issues and then try to wriggle out of readers' concern or curiosity by claiming that you "didn't mean anything by it". That's lazy and also sort of insulting.

    All of that said, don't be too surprised by my three-star rating. I'm sorry, but I couldn't award less to a book that engrossed me so, and that was such guilty fun. I was absolutely hypnotized.

  • Emily May

    I know, I know, I probably shouldn't have read this. But when a series gets to be this popular, I can't help needing to know why. I have friends who LOVED this and friends who HATED it, so I had to see for myself.

    . Okay, I’d already made peace with America Singer before going into this book. I knew that was her name, I knew it was silly, but whatever, it does not maketh or breaketh a book. But I didn’t know that America Singer was - wait, it’s too good - a

    . Honestly, why

    I know, I know, I probably shouldn't have read this. But when a series gets to be this popular, I can't help needing to know why. I have friends who LOVED this and friends who HATED it, so I had to see for myself.

    . Okay, I’d already made peace with America Singer before going into this book. I knew that was her name, I knew it was silly, but whatever, it does not maketh or breaketh a book. But I didn’t know that America Singer was - wait, it’s too good - a

    . Honestly, why did the author think that was a good idea?

    People try to excuse her stupid name with “but Katniss Everdeen was a ridiculous name too”. Yes, it was. But let’s think about how much worse it would have been if she’d been Katniss Evergreen, local fir tree.

    . I know we can jokingly compare the competition of beauty pageants and various reality shows to

    , but the fact that this is seriously being compared to putting kids in an arena and letting them kill each other is just hilarious. This is about a beautiful girl who gets so pissed when people comment on her obvious beauty:

    This beautiful girl enters The Selection - a contest of sorts where the poor competitors volunteer to compete for the heart of a handsome prince.

    You’ve probably heard that there’s very little world-building, but I actually wish the author hadn’t bothered with the bit of world-building she tried to throw in. It draws more attention to how bad it is by the vague mention of poverty, children being beaten for stealing food, social castes that are distinguished by numbers, etc. Cass slips in a small mention of these and then very quickly moves onto the smooching.

    Also, America’s family are supposed to be a hair’s breadth away from poverty:

    And yet she has makeup products and:

    Bloody hell, is this really supposed to be a dystopia to anyone other than Paris Hilton?

    But America’s shallow self-centredness extends beyond her obsession with dresses, makeup and denying her own beauty. She somehow manages to see herself as a voice of righteousness for the people and yet she doesn’t even bother to learn the names of her maids at first. She has some notion (that I assume we’re supposed to accept as well) that she’s a really great person because she lowers herself to hang out with castes below her. Isn’t she a sweetie for mingling with the commoners?

    The characters never develop beyond the most shallow archetypes - bitchy mean girls, “nice” best friend, banal love interest - all topped off with a Mary Sue protagonist. And Prince Maxon himself is about as sexy as a doorknob, with even fewer brain cells. How creepy is it that he says:

    Is that meant to be cute? Because it isn’t cute. It’s weird.

    Just one more thing. I wasn't going to go into details about the world-building. To be honest, I went into

    willing to forgive it for not being very good on that front. I mean, it's obvious that this book wasn't written for people who care deeply about historical, political and socioeconomic factors. But Cass should have continued being vague, she really should have. Things just went even further downhill when she tried to paint in a back story.

    How did this world come about? Well, obviously there was a Third World War, duh. And if you had the most basic understanding of history, guess which countries might have invaded - yes,

    , lol - the United States. China, you say? Bingo! Oh, and maybe the Russians? Yup, those too! I cringe just remembering it.

    Also, why would China invade the US?

    Is this for real?? Why would China be so stupid? Did they think they could just march in and seize the money the Americans wouldn't give them? And then when they don't get their money, they create "The American State of China." Which then gets invaded by an expansionist Russia!

    This was way worse than if the author had simply offered no explanation for this society. It's a completely crazy explanation. Maybe Cass assumed her YA audience would be so history-dumb that it wouldn't matter if countries did stupid things for stupid reasons.

    I guess I learned my lesson about trying out those "popular" books I never read.

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