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 the palace and compete for the heart of the 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)
Okay, so you’ve probably seen this book compared to Cinderella vs. The Bachelor with a little bit of The Hunger Games thrown in. Let me just say YES. And also NO.
Yes, because our heroine’s story, though set in a dystopian society, certainly has certain fairy-tale elements similar to that of Cinderella.
And no, although there is a dating competition to help the Prince choose his bride, this ain’t no cheesy reality show.
As strange as it may sound, Kiera Cass weaves these different elements together quite well.
America Singer is living sometime in the future in the country of Illea, a place where the caste system is everything. You’re born into a profession, into wealth or poverty, and there you stay (unless you make the choice to marry out of your caste, which is seriously frowned upon because no one should marry beneath their standing). On a scale of 1-8, eight being the poorest of the poor, America and her family are in Caste Five. As artists they survive, but they are always a little hungry, always a little bit in need.
As per tradition, the King and Queen send out notices for eligible girls from all castes to enter a lottery for The Selection, a chance to be one of thirty-five girls chosen to live in the castle and compete for the prince’s affections and ultimately for a place as his wife. (Sounds like fun, right? Women are so great at doing these things without clawing each others’ eyes out). America’s mom pushes her to enter. After all, America is beautiful and talented and there are other benefits as well. The families of these thirty-five girls get financially compensated for the course of the competition. Even better? America gets moved up to Caste Three. And guess what? The Prince would be bat shi*t crazy not to choose her (it’s not like her mom’s biased or anything).
Teesnsy weensy problem: America is hot and heavy with her under the radar boyfriend, Aspen. They secretly meet and smooch on a regular basis. But tsk, tsk. Aspen is a class beneath her. Of course this doesn’t matter to America because Aspen is gorgeous and sweet and they are completely in love. And in the most selfless/douchbaggy moment in fictional boyfriend history, Aspen insists that America apply for The Selection. He wants her to have the opportunity to have more of a life than he can give her. And she begrudgingly agrees.
What’s the worst that could happen? Well, lots of things. She could get picked (Spoiler: she does!). And she could be completely miserable at the thought of leaving her family behind to live in the castle (Spoiler: she is!). And the prince could be sort of awesome (he is!) and be really into America (um, do you see a pattern here?).
There’s also this great undercurrent of an uprising going on outside the palace walls. We don’t know why, but rebels keep trying to storm the castle. And there are all of these hints about the founding of Illea (formerly the USA). Cass does a great job at offering teasers here, but no full explanation yet.
I was sucked in immediately. America’s plight, and the lives of the people around her, were quite vividly described. She’s a headstrong girl, unapologetic for what she does (some things admirable, some things stupid). And as far as the love triangle, this is one of the few books where I found it hard to take a side. There is definite passion and real love with Aspen. And with Prince Maxon there is an undeniable banter and connection, a simmering attraction that holds the promise of so much more.
Crush Intensity: 4.75/5 What an excellent, fun story! I hope in the next book to see a resolution in the matter of the lovey dovey dilemma. I also hope to hear more about the rebels and what it is that they want. The sequel, The Elite, comes out in the Spring of 2013.
The Way I See It:
I think we’ll stick with the CW casting (although based on the physical descriptions, the hair colors are wrong on the guys. Only nerds notice this stuff though, which is why I’m pointing it out. Being a nerd has to be useful in some way). The show wasn’t picked up for Fall, but according to the author’s blog they are reworking it a bit. Hopefully we see it soon.