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Friday, June 8, 2012

Review: The Selection by Kiera Cass

TITLE: The Selection                   SERIES: The Selection #1
AUTHOR: Kiera Cass                  PUB DATE: 4/24/12
PUB: Harper Teen                         FORMAT: e-ARC
SOURCE: from Edelweiss for review

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.


MY REVIEW: I feel the need to emphasize the fact that I was not aware of any of the drama llama-ness surrounding this book and/or author that took place a few months ago, until after I began reading it. My review and thoughts are based solely on the book itself…okie dokie? Oh, and there will probably be slight, general spoilers throughout…

The Selection is every girl’s dream. Every girl except America Singer. In the country of Illea (a future, dystopian USA), the young Prince Maxon will select his future wife from a selection of 35 lucky chosen girls, and this process will be televised for the citizen’s entertainment. America wants nothing to with the Selection, she wants only to marry her secret love, Aspen. But Aspen is a Six and America is a Five and in this world, that is divided into numbered castes, their love is all but impossible. Urged by her mother and Aspen himself, America enters the draw and is chosen. After a heartbreaking break-up with Aspen she’s taken away to the palace and dropped into a lavish, cut-throat world of love and power.

I’m not even sure where to begin with this review except to be honest and say that it was a complete disappointment and not an enjoyable reading experience. There are so many things in this book that I have issue with and I’m going to try and cover a few of them efficiently.

The Selection has been compared to the television show The Bachelor, which is a fair comparison, and The Hunger Games, which is kind of a “you wish” comparison. The only things these two books have in common is 1) a dystopian setting, 2) a competition 3) starving people. I’d call The Selection dystopian-lite and this is my first big issue. Author Kiera Cass has laid out an intriguing premise with the potential to be grand and complex, but it never gets there. I don’t know about y’all, but I like my dystopian settings/worlds to be somewhere in the realm of plausible or at least logical…this story is neither.

The dystopian setting Cass creates makes no sense because no real explanation is given. From the few pages in the middle of the book, I’ve gathered that there was a WWIII and/or a war with China, the US lost, then more fighting, then the US was refigured and renamed Illea, then our republic became a monarchy….I think. There’s no explanation given as to why the country was divided into castes or who/how the purpose of each caste was assigned. At one point during this very brief history lesson, one of the handlers tells the girls “Dear girls, history isn’t something you study. It’s something you should just know.”….The heck is that supposed to mean? 

If this were some fantasy taking place in another world or sci-fi taking place on another planet then I’d be okay with being dropped right into the middle of this cultural/political setting and just accepting it for the way it is. But Cass has chosen to place her story in an altered, but familiar setting and she’s boldly taken the US apart, rearranged; renamed and redesigned it completely, and I would have appreciate at least some detailed backstory/history. Or at least a few simple details: how big is Illea or is there only one royal family? Then there’s the way the author simply combines names of real countries (i.e Swendway, Honduragua): what is this supposed to signify?

There really is absolutely no real world-building as far as the political/social/cultural aspects of this so-called dystopian setting go. And what world-building there is, is vague or confusing. The main focus of the story is clearly on the Selection and America’s story, but Cass insists on interjecting brief subplots, such as the rebel attacks; the plight of poorer castes; and Prince Maxon’s sudden realization that not everyone lives like royalty, throughout the main story, but these subplots feel forced and contrived. It’s as if the author tried too hard to make her story meaningful or thought-provoking, and instead created a disjointed story whose subparts do not mesh or flow coherently.

And the actual Selection portion of the story felt like one long meandering episode of Who Wants To Marry A Prince? And by the ending of the book, the Selection wasn’t even over! From the moment America arrives at the palace to the end of the book, nothing substantial or remotely exciting happens. There’s a whole lot of playing dress-up, catty girl fights, awkward dates, a few rebel attacks and childish behavior, but no real story/character development.  Most of the story literally takes place in  America’s room, the dining room, the Women’s Room, the garden and a brief stint in a basement…for reals! By the end, even I was going stir-crazy.

Unfortunately, the characters are really no more exciting than the story. America is kind of a mess of a character. I think she’s supposed to come across as humble and compassionate, but ends up sounding superior and at times, a little dumb. Her humor falls flat, her obsessive observations of how plain she is and how much prettier the other girls are make her sound shallow and vapid. Her little ‘strong-willed’ and ‘independent’ outbursts of “I’m not gonna change myself for some Prince” or “No one’s gonna tell me what to do/say/wear!” are unconvincing and childish.

Aspen is bad-tempered, easily angered and a bit controlling. Prince Maxon ended up disappointing me greatly because I actually liked his awkward honesty and sincerity when we first meet him, but then he gets all “Me Prince, you silly girl. You listen to me! Nananananana *sticks tongue out*” and turned into a d-bag. There’s a love triangle (as if you hadn’t already guessed) and it’s trite and boring and I could care less who America ends up with.

There are other characters of course. I mean there’s 34 other selected girls, but don’t worry about learning their names because only a handful actually matter. America’s mother acted more like her pimp than her mom (Oh, America you must do this! Think about all the money we’ll receive! Just do whatever they ask you to and don’t scowl and don’t talk back and be a lady and don’t screw this up because our family desperately needs the money. If you love us, you’ll win.  Moneymoneymoney).

 Then there are America’s three maids (why does each girl need three maids?! Sheesh, I get anxious when I have more than one pillow on my bed; I’d have no idea what to do with three maids!). I’m still perplexed as to just what point Cass is trying to make with these three maids. America spends a great deal of time with them (oh, how glorious of her, uh?) and laments on their poor situation, yet constantly thinks things such as “…they were so eager to serve”, “They were just so excited to be so helpful…”, “I’m sure they just live for this”. So which is it: are they poor, disadvantaged things or content, happy gals who are simply ecstatic to live to serve? The way Cass describes them all I can think about is three eager puppies, longing for nothing more than approval and cuddles from their owners. Cass took an opportunity to take three characters and make a really poignant point about the country’s lower castes and instead turned them into something ridiculous and laughable.

The writing in this book is far from spectacular. With the very vague to no world-building and Cass’ habit of telling rather than showing, the book is full of lazy writing (and I hate to use that term). And I don’t want to get nitpicky, but there are some sentences and word choices that just left me baffled:

·         “He was tall, but not too tall. Thin, but not too thin”…really, America? You mean he was average height and average build? This makes her sound smart, but not too smart.
·         “You idiot!” I whisper-yelled at him…how does one whisper yell exactly? Wouldn’t that just be whispering angrily?
·         “…the helpful shelf near the doors..” …man, ya gotta love those selfless, giving shelves. I would have gone with “handy” or “convenient” shelf, but that’s just me.
·         “It was a bizarre mix of rigidity and calm”…why is that a bizarre mix? Technically those two are not opposites or exclusive to one another

I hate to end this review without one positive note, so I’ll admit that the cover is gorgeous.

MY FINAL THOUGHTS: There were a few times when I considered just DNFing this book, and maybe I should have, but I kept trudging on in hopes that it would get better. It never did. The general premise is intriguing, but the execution is severely lacking.  With little world-building, unlikable characters, an illogical dystopian environment, a cliché romance, and ineffectual writing The Selection did not provide an enjoyable reading experience. I will not be continuing with this series, nor can I recommend it.


Find the author: Website / Goodreads / Twitter 


Ning said...

It sucks to hear that you didn't like this book so much, but it's understandable. I can see how all those problems can be annoying. In fact I mentioned them in my review too. Usually I might've not liked this book, but I think I read this when I was totally in a reading mood so it was a lot more fun for me.

Ning @ Reading by Kindle Fire

Unknown said...

I read quite a few bad reviews but decided to give it a scan at Walmart. I found it boring and skipped a lot of parts. Both guys were douches and it basically was nothing but a loooong episode of the Bachelor. I checked the book out at the library but never read all the way through. I liked the idea of a Bachelor type story but didn't find anyone likable.

Anonymous said...

And your review is exactly why I won't go out and purchase the book.

Oh believe me, I would probably pick it up if it were in paperback (or at Goodwill), but no way am I spending 18 dollars on the chance that I'll probably dislike it like you do.

I've seen too many mixed reviews on this book to want to bother.


T said...

So many mixed reviews for this book! I think this is going to be one of those books I have to pick up on my kindle, just to see what all the fuss is about!

I think this is going to be one of those books I end up getting annoyed with, though, based on the points you've raised in your review!

Amy said...

I never really wanted to read this book when I first heard about it. Then I started seeing all the mixed reviews and I knew it wasn't for me. I hate it when you feel like you are wasting time on a book when you could be reading something you do enjoy.

Unknown said...

Great review. It made me lol quite a bit. I liked how you gave lots of examples from the book to illustrate why you felt it wasn't all that great. This review just reaffirmed for me why I won't be reading this book. It's such a shame though as the cover is so pretty!

Nazish Reads said...

I never really wanted to read this book when I first heard about it. From the cover it just looked to girly for me. Then I read many mixed reviews, I actually considered reading this book, but then (I forget why) I decided not to read it and now after reading about why you hate this book, I know I'm going to hate this too if I read it, so I'm not even going to bother requesting it at the library, I have a tbr list of over 200 books I want to read, I'd rather read one of those than waste my time reading a book i won't like.
And, I've never seen the show The Bachelor.

Nazish @ Nazish Reads

Victoria said...


I followed you here from Goodreads (swear I'm not a stalker heh) and I think we might share a brain, except you're more coherent. This was a hilarious and awesome review and I am full of admiration/love for you <3