The Selection by Kiera Cass Review

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(Via Goodreads)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.

 

Someone once tried to sell me on reading this book by making the comparison between it and the television “reality” show, “The Bachelor.”  I have never watched an episode nor could I pick a contestant’s name out of a crystal vase.  It’s not because I’m a media elitist; God knows I watch my fair share of trash: The Real Housewives of Never Never Land, Gordon Ramsay’s Celebrity Self-Esteem Deflowering, and So You Think You’ve Got Talent to Dance or Sing or Juggle or Make an $*@! of Yourself, America?  The reason why this sales pitch didn’t work was because I was afraid it would be another poor tale of marginalizing women and misrepresenting the standards I tried to reinforce for my teenage students.  I was pleasantly surprised I was not proven 100% correct.

I’m a bit torn about this book.  I enjoyed the writing style of Kiera Cass.  This was my first novel by this author and I enjoyed how easy it was to fall right into the plot and characters.  I’m afraid that I suffered from Setting Disorientation Syndrome (SDS) While I could picture the poor housing and lands that needed to be worked of the Fives and Sixes, the gorgeous castle that must have been the center point of the Illean government, and the courtship of royalty, I pictured a backdrop similar to one of Philippa Gregory’s novels, but was jarred back into the latest millennium by a reference to a televised interview and airplanes.  I know that this was something I had conjured up for myself, but the contrast was unsettling.

Also the characters were fairly flat, but did serve their purpose.  Our main character, America Singer, was someone that you could cheer on and approve of when she realized that going into the Selection was fulfilling her duty to her family, and realized that she would be straightforward with Prince Maxon about her feelings.  She did not abuse her opportunity, nor did she take advantage and deceive Maxon when asked about her intentions and purpose for wanting to remain in the contest.  For the remaining characters, they served their purpose, stereotypes of certain female behavior from the contestants and the required vamps sauced up the competition.

There was also a very strong sense of familiarity as I read this book, like an old friend from high school who fills the annual reunion dinner conversation with the same five stories.  You’re not upset to hear them and it brings back snippets of the life you used to lead, but glamorized and without the drama or acne.  That’s what this novel was like.  I had “flashbacks” to a dozen books/tv shows/movies where the least likely of the group, the artist/nerd/knock-out who wears glasses or baggy clothes/the brunette wins the heart of the most desired commodity on the campus/office/sports team.

There was also a heavy dose of The Hunger Games wrapped into Cass’s first novel of “The Selection” series: two young women who are putting their family’s needs in front of their own by sacrificing their whole existence for the sustenance that is so badly needed; the boy-next-door who loves the leading lady because they both come from the same life and understand each other; confusion about love and whether to be true to oneself or take a chance at the uncertainty of love; rebellious uprising that threatens the government hellbent on categorizing its citizens based on what they could do for their country & not what their country could do for them.

I’m not saying that there was anything illegal or creatively immoral here, but:

The Selection: Release date: April 24, 2012

The Hunger Games: Publication date: September 14, 2008

Just a thought.

Ready for the hypocritical twist to this review?

I finished this novel in three nights, staying up past my regularly scheduled bedtime in order to finish it and order the next title for my Kindle.  Didn’t I just get done tearing the novel apart for being simplistic and plagiaristic???  True, and I accept and own that.  What compelled me to want to complete the series was twofold:

1.  The cliffhanger was well done.  Cass did not attempt to come close to an ending, but chose the perfect place to intrigue her audience to follow the saga to “The Elite” in her next title.  Bravo!  Well done!

2.  Summer is right around the corner and I’ve been so full immersed with educational jargon, research-based articles, Shakespearean language dissection, and trying to keep the difference between a discourse and Discourse straight that I needed the literary cool-down.

For a Beach Read, this will definitely suit your purposes.  If you’re looking for something to satisfy a higher-level need, perhaps dismiss this book with a rose and send it on its way.

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