Sunday, 11 August 2013

The Selection by Kiera Cass

The Selection (The Selection, #1)
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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.

My thoughts

Beware, this turned out to be a very long review with a lot of ranting. 
Generally, I don't like when reviews compare a book to another, especially those very popular books, if there's only a few elements in common - and let's face it, it's almost impossible to write truly original books these days. So unless there are some very obvious similarities (or it's a rip-off), I don't think it's fair to the book to compare it to other books. However, with The Selection I'm going to be guilty of exactly this, because the first half part of this book so reminded me of The Hunger Games, just without the brutality and noone has to kill anybody to win. It's more like a princess version of The Hunger Games. Wow, that sounded even more weird when I wrote it! 

But let me explain. The Selection happens every time the crown prince of Illéa (which is like the new US or what's left after fatal wars) comes of age and need to marry. Every girl in the country at the appropriate age can sign up to enter the Selection, which is a contest of thirty-five girls fighting over the prince, the last one left gets to be his wife and princess. The prince choose who leaves so it's not like they really have to compete. The Selection reminded me of the reaping in THG except that you sign up on your own and it doesn't happen every year. The Selection is a reality show, where the progress is followed by camera for the whole country to see. And the weekly report is led by a famous and loved host, who interviews all the girls and talks with Maxon. Caesar Flickerman anyone?

Next was the castes: The people of Illéa are divided into castes, depending on their trade and their birth, and the lowest castes are the most poor. So, basically it you'd want to move up on the scale. This reminded me of the different districts, except here they coexist. 
America is a five, which means she's a singer and quite poor. She's in love with a six, Aspen, who's a servant and can barely afford anything. He is supporting his whole family, always letting the younger kids get his share. Also, he is proud and while he loves America, he doesn't like that she'll have to become a six if she marries him, and that she is helping him with food and stuff. In the end he breaks up with her right before she is to enter the Selection. He reminded me of Gale both in appearance and in person. I did not like Gale. 

All in all, that first part of the book very much read like The Hunger Games princess style. But in spite of that I found myself caught up in the story and actually had a hard time putting the book down. I don't what it was about it, but it was a lot of fun most of the time, even if it was somewhat predictable. There was a twist in the story near the end that I had seriously seen coming from one of the very first chapters, it was so obvious. So when it happened I was a bit disappointed with the author that she didn't do something more original. 

I couldn't decide if I really liked America. I mean, she was an okay herione, but there was something.. lacking in her. She had a lot of the same qualities as the mainstream YA heroine, and nothing really set her apart. At times I thought she was whiny, but without it never being too much. She still loved Aspen, but was angry with him at the same time. She couldn't love Maxon because she still had those unsorted feelings for Aspen, though eventually she starts to warm up to him. Yes, another love-triangle in the making. Le sigh. 
The funniest parts of the book was America and Maxon's interaction. He was simply sooo cute and confused by all the ladies he had to choose from. America quickly comes clean with him, that she certainly isn't interested in him and she's very honest with him. They soon form a friendship, but is that really all he wants? And does she?

At first I thought the idea with Maxon having to choose a wife between the thirty-five girls was weird, but okay. As the story progressed, however, and I started to root for him and America, it kind of grossed me out that he could date thirty-five different girls - and do whatever with them - and that he actually did that. I kind of hoped he would focus solely on America even though she made it clear she wasn't interested. Yeah, I'm not much for a hero courting a lot of other girls that is not our heroine. 

At last there's all those rebels attacking that just doesn't make much sense. We never figure out why they do it, and it seemed pretty random, making it feel like a way to move the plot along more than anything else. Maybe it'll be further explained in the sequel? Also, this new could have been explained a lot better. I had no idea what it was really like and how the US had ended up being a monarchy. Whaaat? 

Despite this very long rant, I really did enjoy this book. It was fun and a pageturner, and I think I'll be reading the sequel. If you liked The Hunger Games and would want to read it princess style you should definitely give this a shot, if only for the interludes with America and Maxon that are so funny and sweet.

☆ ☆ 

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