The Selection by Kiera Cass

Book Cover of The Selection by Kiera CassTitle: The Selection
Author: Kiera Cass
Genre: Young Adult – Dystopian? Futuristic Something?
Publisher: HarperTeen
Publication Date: April 24, 2012
Hardcover: 336 pages

Where’d I Get It: Advance copy – electronic – from the publisher

Synopsis (From 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 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: I feel like a total stick-in-the-mud for this, but…well, I have to be honest. I haven’t written a review like this in a long time, but I made the decision a while back that I was going to review things more critically and try to be as fully accurate as possible.  So…here we go.

First, and this isn’t related to my review at all, what is UP with that cover?  Ok, yes, when I first saw I absolutely loved it. The dress! The blue! The lovely! Oh, how lovely.  But then I looked closer…and noticed that it really looks like America…or Ames…or Mer…depending on who you’re asking…is sniffing her armpits. Kind of like, “Oh noes! Maxon is going to be asking me to take a walk with him through the garden soon in my poofy dress and I forgot my deodorant!” Also, that pose – that just doesn’t seem like a pose the protagonist would take. Ya know? Annnnyway…

(Please note that quotes are taken from the eARC and are subject to change. I will not be purchasing a hard copy to verify these quotes when the book is on the shelves, and I doubt my library will have a copy fast enough to be useful. Page numbers correspond to the page numbers on my Nook.)

My first issue is with the blurb…which I haven’t actually seen, but I’ve heard was something similar to: The Hunger Games meets The Bachelor.  That makes people expect something as awesome as The Hunger Games…but I should have known that the cheese-fest that is The Bachelor would win out, here. In this case, it’s like comparing Twilight to The Last Vampire. Or, well, Twilight to Dracula. Come on, now, let’s be real.

What I liked about the book:

  • The premise – it was promising! The thought of EveryDayJaneLowCaste becoming Princess LovelyDress was yay.
  • May, America’s little sister –  She’s just darling, and she’s got personality coming out of her ears. Lovelove.
  • There’s certain aspects of the America/Maxon relationship that are believable and I even felt that there was a bit of chemistry between them. Yay, that!
  • The dresses seem pretty!

What I didn’t like about the book: 
My initial thoughts on the book were, basically, “WOW, the writing is absolutely crap.” and “This is painfully obvious. Do I have to keep reading?” There are short, choppy sentences throughout the novel and a good many fragments that made reading through the story absolutely disjointed and torturous. Despite that, it’s still a fairly quick read.

My husband brought up this point, when I was showing him some of what I was reading..and I’m paraphrasing here: It seems as though the writing was meant to emulate the short, quick thought process of a teenager. Then, however, there’s nicely formed grammatically near-perfect sentences thrown in complete with a properly executed semi-colons… Teenagers who think in short, quick, choppy, grammatically crap sentences do not use semi-colons unless they’re typing out a crying emoticon.

Right, then there’s the rambling. Our protagonists’s mother desperately wants her to sign up for the Selection process because it will help their family out of a tight situation (they are fives in a caste system including eight castes…with eight being the lowest), and will help feed the family for quite some time. America does not want to do this because 1) she’s in love with someone else (come on, that’s not a spoiler, you saw that coming!) and 2) she professes over and over again that they’re not going to pick her anyway because she’s not awesome enough. Pish Tosh. We’ve read the blurb, we know she’s picked, why spend pages upon pages telling us that she’s not going to be picked? It’s a waste of text.

We’ve got a Bella factor going here, too. America wholeheartedly disagrees with her mother and sister who proclaim her lovely and beautiful and gorgeous. She does not feel pretty. She is only average, if that. Blah blah blah. Then…on page 14 (of the Nook, again, this is an eARC), “…I felt pretty in my little brown shorts and fitted white shirt.”  Do what? But..you just spent a bunch of pages telling us you’re not pretty! Make up your mind! Ok, so you’re pretty. Got it.

Then, at the end of that page, a newcomer says, “Hey there, Gorgeous.” and her response one page later is, “‘Please don’t call me gorgeous. First my mom, then May, now you. It’s getting on my nerves.’ By the way Aspen was looking at me, I could tell I wasn’t helping my “I’m not pretty” case. He smiled.” ARGH! d’oh. Ok, back to not pretty. Got it. (This continues throughout the book, I just stopped writing it down because I was running out of paper and I was too lazy to get up for more.)

And there’s a love triangle before this episode of The Selection even begins. I have to say, the symbolism is kind of neat. Aspen trees – you can burn them down and hack them apart but their roots are DEEP and STRONG and they will remain steadfast through all adversity! They will rise again! So we know right there that the poor boy is going to be spat upon. (Or am I reading too much into this?)

We have makeup…rationed, but makeup…but no birth control for anyone in a caste lower than Four? So the rich are basically breeding the poor so they’ll have more people to clean their homes and sing songs for them? Alrighty.

Aspen loves her. REALLY loves her. She loves him. REALLY loves him. They are in love. But he begs her to do this Selection dealio so it’ll make him feel better. Huh?

I haven’t made it to chapter 3 yet. I may die reading this.

I may be nitpicking here, but –

  • page 26 – She remarks about the soccer ball in her brother’s room and his hand-me-down microscope and moans despairingly about how these things are proof he’ll never be an artist. Huh? Artists can’t enjoy sports and/or science? What? Argh! I get that in his caste, he’s supposed to be artistically inclined, but geez. The generalization there is painful.
  • Ongoing issue: Still having problems with the style. We’re first person, but the writing is such that we’re alternately a prissy, always grammatically correct perfectly poised crown princess type or a half illiterate teeny-bopper. Which is it?
  • page 32 – regarding a painting of Maxon – “He seemed more like a painting than a person.” Again, whaaat? She’s in a family of artistic people. Art is their livelihood. She is musically gifted. The arts, they are a THING with them. How can she imply that a painting, a work of art, is such a cold thing?
  • page 35 – regarding Maxon asking his dad for advice on girls, Maxon says – “I haven’t actually. As you know, the situation in New Asia has been escalating…” Ok so they’re at war. We’ve seen hints of this all over, and they’re doing this huge The Bachelor thing? Oh come ON.
  • page 36 – America says about Maxon that it’s – “…hard to imagine anyone happy with such a wimp.” GEEZ. How’d we get that he’s a wimp, now?
  • page 43 – We have electricity, television, telephones… but they can barely eat?
  • page 44 – They want her to take vitamins. They tell her that her body is the property of the country. They give her sleep aids. They make her promise she’s a virgin. ARGH.
  • page 48 – She’s told not to refuse ANY REQUEST, kissing or otherwise, from Maxon. Seriously? Did I just read that?
  • page 74 – America talking about the Selection – “I didn’t understand why it was all so important.” Really, child? You don’t? You don’t understand that some of these people are starving and trying to help their families and themselves and they see you as a threat to that? You can’t understand? You, who supposedly is well educated and speaks three languages? SERIOUSLY?
  • Ongoing Issue: Why is Prince capitalized but king and queen are not?
  • page 108 – Maxon does not know the statistics on citizen deaths. These statistics, he feels, are being purposefully kept from him. What? Isn’t he going to be King? Shouldn’t he know this? (Oh, wait, I meant king.)
  • I was tired of writing page numbers at this point, but…the author clearly wants us to be curious about the history of this world, and sure, I am…but I feel kind of like I was just slapped in the face with a stick that says “BE CURIOUS ABOUT WHY WE CANT READ HISTORY BOOKS!!!!”
Despite my frustration, I did not give up and I did read the book to its end.  And, admittedly, I was drawn in and I did finish the book easily; there was no forcing it down my throat.
There’s a part in there, with the Aspen and the Maxon…and the America…that really makes me want to shake all three of them.  Maxon is painfully naive and America is painfully not…but then she is…but then she isn’t… and Aspen’s just being pathetic. ARGH.
And then there’s a cliff-hanger ending. And not a good one.  Just…the book stops. Like it literally just stops, as in I think maybe they forgot to include a chapter.
Except they didn’t. Yikes. Ok. Done with THAT.
I think you know how I felt about this, but I’ll say it anyway – The protagonist is annoying. Her near self loathing is forced and painful to read….especially since this is not a contemporary novel about teen self image issues. There’s just about zero world building, or perhaps just enough that this could be classified loosely, very loosely, as dystopian. We’re given no clue why the Northerners and Southerners (rebels) want to destroy things so badly. The palace is far, FAR too easy for said rebels to infiltrate. Speaking of said rebels, when there are attacks and one would think that tension would abound…it doesn’t. I found myself not at all worried about anyone and it wasn’t simply because I wasn’t in love with any one characters – it was more like the suspense was just not there, and you knew nothing was going to happen anyway.
The problem is, buried within the somewhat forced attempt at a personal style, there’s dregs of good writing. I feel like this author could potentially produce something quite nice.
This book, however, was not it.
(note: I’ll read the next book. I have to find out if Maxon has a happily ever after – I do like him, a little.)

Rating: 2 of 5 (Fans of Twilight will adore this book.)

The Selection earned 5 of 10 stars over at Bree’s All The Books I Can Read.  This is why I read everything she tells me to read, because she knows good…and bad…when she sees it.

Comments

  1. Hi, just finished reading Bree’s review and then popped over to read yours and WOW I love it! The detail! But don’t these ultra-disappointing YA books just make us so passionate?! Bree’s review made me see this book as really bad reality TV disguised as fantasy, and I think you’ve helped load a whole lot of new issues on top of that! Your note about page 48 – ugh yuck. All the details you’ve included here really help give me a very clear idea of the book, and since this time around the negative reviews aren’t making me at all curious, I’m happy to give this a miss. The reviews are fun to read though!

    Have to say, though, I did love Twilight, but I would not adore this one.

  2. I smiled at your recommendation — fans of Twilight will love this book. Don’t know why, but it takes a sarcastic kind of tone in my head. Anyway, I read your review top to bottom and I’m astounded by the detail in your review. There are so many of these kinds of reviews, especially where The Selection is concerned, and personally, I love it.

    My cover impressions were exactly the same. I still really like the blueness of it all, but I can’t get the deodorant-sniffing pose off the brain! (Kind of like the stick in the bum Blood Red Road #2 cover) I was browsing around and I came across…something (I can’t remember what exactly) that pitched The Selection as just a The Bachelors kind of fun book thingy. I was a bit puzzled since I thought it was also a dystopian. Maybe in the next book there’ll be more indication that world building crossed the author’s mind when she decided to make her story set in the future.

    I don’t think those were nitpickings. They were pretty much all legitimate gripes to be had – the list seems to run as long as the ones for Twilight. Heh, but anyway I absolutely love this review. New follower! 🙂