By: Kiera Cass
Series: The Selection #1
Published: April 24th 2012 by HarperTeen
Rating: 4 Stars
Categories: Young Adult, Dystopian, Romance, Four Star Rating
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What the Back of the Book Says: 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 Thoughts: My initial thoughts brought a mash-up of The Hunger Games, Matched, a little bit of Wither, and some of The Bachelor all rolled into one. I had a bit of trouble with the world-building though. I think sometimes it's easy for an author to create this amazing, visual world in their minds but sometimes it is difficult to fully translate into words on a page. I do believe that book two, The Elite, will clear up a lot of my questions and confusions regarding the world that America lives in.
The characters are absolutely amazing in this book. Immediately you are sucked into America's day-to-day life, and feel the love she has for her family. We then meet her boyfriend, Aspen, whom she shares a deeply passionate connection with. Each scene with America and Aspen is so intense, so raw and full of emotion. When America is chosen as part of the Selection I began to prepare myself for this intensely emotional goodbye between the two - but of course Cass had other plans for them at that point of the story!!
When America decides to apply for one of the 35 Selection spots, she never intends to be chosen - and even if she was, she was only doing it for the safety and well-being of her family. The money that she would be given for participating would help the family out immensely - since America's world lives by a Caste System - ranging from Ones (Rich, wealthy, elites) to Eights (The scums of society, poor, etc). There are also renegades in both the North and South who regularly plan attacks on the palace. So the whole experience America continues to tell herself is for her family, but when you see her experiencing friendship, budding love, and a taste of the real world beyond her own town, it appears that just maybe she had it wrong all along, and she was doing it somewhat for herself.
America's character is strong, independent, and calm in the face of upheaval. When attacks occur on the palace during the Selection, America is one of the only girls who remains calm and steadfast, and even becomes a sort of confidante to Prince Maxon. He truly seems to value her opinion, especially because she knows what life is really like beyond the palace walls. She has seen the suffering, the starvation. She has an opinion of Prince Maxon as being this stuck-up, rich, materialistic, boring person with no heart or thought to the citizens of Illea. But as their friendship grows and blossoms, she realizes that there just might be more to the Prince than she ever could've believed.
But of course just as things seem to be going so smoothly, just as America is able to kind of close off the part of her heart that loves Aspen, and the part of her brain that only lets her think of him, and focus her time and efforts on figuring out how she truly feels about Prince Maxon - Aspen shows up as one of the guards in the palace. Now, amidst a palace full of guards and possibly being tried for treason if caught, America and Aspen are stealing midnight kisses and trying to figure out what is going on between them, and what the future can hold for them - if anything.
Cass's writing style is pleasant and fluid, moving us deftly from scene to scene without a hiccup or hesitation. Her characters are all very in depth and individual, each having their own voices and personalities - even though she is writing with a huge cast list (35 girls alone just for the Selection!) It's easy to get lost in the lives of the characters, and there were several nights where I absolutely couldn't close the cover until my eyelids drooped and demanded I set the book aside until tomorrow.
I am thoroughly excited for the second book, The Elite, to come out in 2013. With such a cliffhanger ending, I'm craving to continue America and Maxon (and Aspen's!) Story.