I thought about reviewing these books separately, but I read them in such quick order one after the other, I think it’s fair to put America’s whole story into one review.
I came across THE SELECTION, book one in this trilogy, in a Barnes & Noble several months ago when I was on a bit of a book buying spree. It seemed like it might be interesting, so I hopped onto Goodreads just to see what some reviewers were saying about it.
The first page was filled with one-star reviews. Needless to say, I didn’t buy it.
However, once I got my Kindle I started poking around at Overdrive and the e-book checkout systems at my various local libraries. Maybe I didn’t want to risk my money on a book that might be awful, but I could check it out from the library with no risk. So I put a request in for THE SELECTION and waited.
A few weeks later, I got the email saying my book was available for download, and I snagged it. …and if I didn’t finish it in one day, it was certainly because work interrupted me.
THE SELECTION (and the books following it) follow America Singer, a girl in the fifth caste of Illéa–one devoted to artists and performers. (I’ve seen some jabs at the fact that her name is Singer and she is a singer, but it’s indicated in one of the books that it’s very much intentional. When the castes were created, new names were given to people in order to solely identify them by their job. So it’s very fitting, and almost necessary, that her last name be Singer.) The Selection itself is a lottery-based Bachelor-style event where 35 girls are chosen to come to the castle and court the prince, so that he can find his bride and get a queen for himself. America, in love with Aspen, her Six secret and bordering-on-illegal boyfriend, has no interest in being part of the Selection at all. But through a series of events that both surprises and rocks her world, she finds herself not only entering–but chosen, and shipped off.
THE ELITE is book two, which continues on with America and the rest of the finalists in the challenge, and book three THE ONE follows the story up to the altar. And yes, the ending is far too easy to call. This whole series is about America and her journey. If she didn’t win, it’d be a very strange series of books and probably not a very satisfying one. So we don’t read it so much to see America win, but rather how she wins, and what happens in the process.
Many of the criticisms of the book fall to the fact that America is a foolish and frustrating protagonist. I won’t argue that, really. She makes a lot of stupid choices, she is inconsistent in her feelings, and generally just makes you want to throw the book across a room and scream at her ineptitude. But keep in mind: she’s a teenager. Do most teenagers have any idea what love really looks like? I certainly didn’t. Does America seem to be in love with whoever happens to be in front of her? Yes. Do I blame her? No. I remember being much the same. She’s young and stupid, and makes the mistakes of someone young and stupid. I don’t see the trouble, as long as you’re willing to accept that piece of her.
Aspen was dealt with incredibly well, for the awkward and doomed end of a love triangle, and managed to stay relevant without feeling (too) forced into situations. I did get a little irritated with him by the end, and the dynamic between the three in the triangle, but c’est la vie I suppose. Prince Maxon was a lovely character, and though his character could have been a difficult one to keep up with, I think Cass did I nice job of keeping him true to himself through all three books. The girls were all nicely developed, as much as they needed to be, and I surprised myself by some of the affections I developed by the end.
And I will say, I burst into tears at least twice in the final book. (WHY, KIERA CASS. WHY DID YOU TAKE HIM/THEM AWAY FROM ME. WHY.) Augh. Heartwrenching. *sniffs*
All in all, is it an amazing piece of literature? No. But it’s enjoyable fluff, a nice romance, and some well-written characters bouncing around in a spotty-but-just-about-stable world, and one that I wouldn’t mind learning more about. (The world-building is a little rough, I’ll give the haters that, too. I think there’s enough there to hold it, though.)
Rating: **** (Recommended) for all three books