Book Review: The Selection by Kiera Cass

the selection cover

View from the window seat:
Thirty-five girls from across the country get the chance of a lifetime to participate in the Selection, a competition for the hand of Prince Maxon. The girl who wins gets a dream life, one in a palace with riches and the title of queen. America Singer sees it more as a nightmare. Taken from her family and her love, Aspen, America has to navigate this new, highly regulated life while surrounded by competitors. But just by being Selected, America has the chance to elevate her family out of poverty, so she stays even though it’s a life she never wanted. Until she meets Prince Maxon, and he’s nothing like what she expected.

The cover is probably the main reason I decided to read The Selection. Hello, gorgeous dress! That, and the fact that William Moseley was attached to the tv show before it got scrapped. Once I started reading, though, I knew it had all the things that annoy me about YA novels: a whiny heroine, the dreaded love triangle, a flimsy world, and awkward dialogue.

America is nothing special. I think the author was going for the plucky, headstrong redhead persona, but America came off more as whiny. She doesn’t want to sign up for the Selection because she’s so sure she’s not pretty, and of course every character she speaks to just has to assure her that she’s beautiful. Then once she’s Selected, she whines about how she doesn’t want to stay in the castle, even though she knows that her simply being there is basically providing food and other necessities that her family desperately needs.

The love triangle is bang-head-on-desk annoying, too. Aspen has no personality whatsoever. He actually gets pissed off at America when she makes him a nice dinner. Maxon was better, though definitely the stereotypical prince whose life isn’t as perfect as it seems.

The world is poorly constructed, and there are often discrepancies. The book has a kind of dystopian thing going on, with this country formed in the former United States after an invasion from China. But the caste system and the medieval laws (no sex until marriage? seriously?) don’t make any sense. I couldn’t see any reason why the world would revert back to such old-fashioned ways after a world war. The rebels are the faceless villain, designed to provide tension to the novel, but I felt nothing towards them as they literally do nothing except throw rocks at windows and mess up rooms. We don’t even see any of the action because it happens away from America. I never got the sense that anyone was in any real danger, though I think that was the intent.

As for the discrepancies, America describes herself as poor. She and her family members would go hungry often, that they would have to choose between electricity and food. Then in one scene she describes dinner as chicken, potatoes, and apples and in another scene she mentions watching the national tv program while eating popcorn. None of this screams poverty to me. She also brings jewelry with her to the palace. They can’t afford food, but she has multiple pieces of jewelry?

And yet…I found myself reading until the end. I hate to admit it, but I’ll probably read the next books, too. So many annoying things, and I still want to read more! I must be crazy.

Overall impression:
The Selection is simply written and the characters and world certainly aren’t good enough to keep reading. I think the best analogy would be that this book is like a bag of potato chips. You know they’re bad for you, you shouldn’t keep eating them, and yet you finish the entire bag anyway.

Rating:
4

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