Review: The Selection by Kiera Cass

Saturday, December 21, 2013
Why I picked up this book:
I've heard a lot of buzz about this book in various YA circles, and read that The CW was even picking it up as a pilot series. Beautiful dresses, a competition, and a post apocalyptic world--what isn't to love? I've been on a slump when it comes to Hunger Games-esque stories, and was craving one that didn't end in a huge flop. So I gave this book a try, and was mildly surprised. 



Publisher: HarperTeen
Release Date: April 24, 2012
Format: Audiobook
Genre: YA, Dystopian
Buy: B&N | Indiebound | Amazon

Synopsis:
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. (Goodreads)
Five Things You Need to Know:

1. America is not your Katniss Everdeen or Tris Prior. She is someone all her own. While I never really felt emotionally attached to her, I did find myself cheering her on as she grew and became stronger throughout the the Selection. America is a girl raised is the middle of a caste system, and realizes the barriers that hold her back. While she isn't a physical fighter like we see in other popular female protagonists she does stand up for those less fortunate. 

2. The world that Kiera Cass sets up for this novel is slow going, but worth it. Whenever I read a apocalyptic or dystopian novel I always want to know how the world ended up in that spot. How did the first Hunger Games go down? What made Chicago divide up into five factions? We are given brief details, but nothing solid. While it does take a while, Cass provides an interesting story of how America (Canada and Mexico too?) turned into the country of Illéa. 

3. A caste system! This is something I have read only once before in a YA novel and I wish it was done more often. Castes are a sociological idea that are currently still acted out and young readers need to be aware of it. The author does a fantastic job of highlighting the faults and prejudices that come with caste type thinking. 
I enjoyed that she used the relationship between American and Prince Maxon as a channel to explain the issues going on within the country. While Maxon is tenderhearted and kind, he is uninformed and ignorant when it comes to the social injustice that runs rampant throughout Illéa. America, who lives in the middle of the castes, knows the limits and poverty that surrounds her. She helps him overcome his ignorance and make changes for the better. 

4. If you enjoyed the first 100 pages of The Hunger Games, you will enjoy this novel. Otherwise? The plot is ridiculously slow. Initially it gets exciting see America dress for the competition, meet the competitors, and live castle life, but that's it. That is the entire novel. The tiny bit of climax/falling action we do receive is maybe one or two chapters long. While I am hoping that this is simply set up for better things to come in future novels, I am not convinced. 

5. The feminist in me cannot decide whether I support this novel or not. If you say you love this novel because it reminds you of the reality series The Bachelor, I am looking at you with some major judgey side eye. Women in a competition for a man's affection is not something I'm down with, and in the beginning of the novel America isn't having any of it either. Don't forget though, this is a YA novel, so a LOVE TRIANGLE is a must. Ugh. No. Just no. No "Team Peeta/Edward/Maxon/Jem/insert male name here". While I enjoyed America's "I don't need a man" attitude, I know it was simply a set up for a longer, drawn out love triangle that will end in a fangirl's book trilogy dream. 

Final Thoughts:
I gave The Selection three stars out of five because I wanted more. Kiera Cass has proven herself worthy of writing solid dystopian fiction, and I want more. The pacing of the book was slow, but filled with solid details, characters, and ideas. Perhaps the other books will be better contenders, something I will keep my fingers crossed for. Stay tuned for those reviews! 

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