by Kiera Cass
Reaction before reading this book: I know I may be a sucker for falling for this cover, but look at it! I totally want to go to that party.
Reaction after reading this book: I no longer want to go to this party.
Full disclosure: I did not read this entire book. I took notes for the first 88 pages, read to page 168, and then skimmed the rest. I think reading more than half the book qualifies as giving it a fair shot.
The Selection arrives with a gorgeous cover and interesting premise. What if a lottery allowed 35 teenage girls to compete for the hand of a handsome prince? I thought this might be a fun and fluffy read, so I pushed aside my initial misgivings about the names and pounced on the chance to read the ARC. Turns out, sometimes your gut is just trying to do its job, as I kept struggling with the book until I finally admitted that I didn't find a single aspect of this story that I enjoyed. Somehow I missed the early blurb that described this novel as a mash-up between the The Bachelor and The Hunger Games, which is unfortunate because the comparison to the television show is pretty spot-on. Mentioning it in the same breath as The Hunger Games is a travesty, however, since this book barely qualifies as a dystopian novel--and certainly the quality of the story, characters, themes, and writing don't come even close to comparing.
Here are some facts which may help you decide whether you want to read this book:
Character Names: Our main character's name is America Singer. Guess what she does. Her boyfriend's name is Aspen. Prince Charming's name is Prince Maxon Schreave, who must marry a "True Daughter of Iléa." Other names include Queen Amberly, King Clarkson, Tiny, Kriss, Marlee, Bariel, Gavril, Kamber, and Sosie.
Attempts to Make This Novel Dystopian: Sketchy caste system. Talk of provinces. Girls are required to wait until marriage to have sex. Infrastructure Committees. Occasional mentions of hunger and lack of makeup.
Writing: Very obvious protestations that are easily seen through. Juvenile dialogue. A lot of whispering to convey dramatic statements. A plethora of exclamation points.
Bachelor-like Elements: Contestants vying for a "perfect" guy. Appearance fees. Contracts. Gossiping. Sabotage. Tears. Eliminations. Television specials. Icky elements. (I was afraid early on that the book was headed into really tasteless territory since the girls are asked point-blank whether they're virgins (and have to sign contracts saying the Prince can demand anything he wants of them and they cannot refuse), but fortunately it doesn't get much more gross than that.) But no limos and no rose ceremonies! Booo.
Most Annoying Element of All: The story ends on a cliffhanger, as if there was so much going on in this one book, it could not be contained in a single volume.
Why did Mom have to push me so much? Wasn't she happy? Didn't she love Dad? Why wasn't this good enough for her?
"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.
Aspen was dressed in white. He looked angelic.
That was it. I slapped him. "You idiot!" I whisper-yelled at him. "I hate him! I loved you! I wanted you; all I ever wanted was you!"
"If you don't want me to be in love with you, you're going to have to stop looking so lovely."
So. Whether you'll enjoy this book depends on whether you find any of the above details appealing. If, like me, they make you want to pull out your hair, it may be best to either try this one out at the library first or just admire the pretty cover design from a safe distance.
Putting aside the fact that this probably would have worked better as a straightforward fairy tale without the pseudo-dystopian details, as well as the annoying focus on boys boys boys being the be-all and end-all of this book, the whole thing wasn't really a very enjoyable reading experience to me, not even as mindless entertainment. Every scene, every character, and every plot development was predictable and worse yet, a cliché, and the dialogue and machinations felt painfully juvenile throughout the entire story. I almost wish this were a middle grade novel, except that there are a few too many make out scenes for that. Plus I don't think I would have enjoyed this even at the age of 8.
As always, these kinds of books are just a matter of taste. All in all, I really don't have violent feelings about The Selection the way I do with such books as The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer or Elizabeth Miles' Fury, but I'm afraid I can't say that I found very much about it that was redeeming, either.
Rated 1 out of 5 stars
Release Date: April 24, 2012