The Selection

The Selection

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...

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Title:The Selection
Author:Kiera Cass
Rating:
ISBN:0062059939
Edition Language:English
Format Type:Hardcover
Number of Pages:336 pages

The Selection Reviews

  • Lea
    Sep 19, 2011

    .

    [**NOTE: This review was not affected by online drama or controversy. Everything I have to say here is based on my own personal opinion about the book itself, even though I definitely think Cass needs a new publicist.]

    [**NOTE #2: All the captions in the non-animated picture memes were made by me-- because, you know, I'm just THAT brilliantly witty. So please don't use them without asking my permission first. Thanks :)]

    Now with a story premise

    .

    [**NOTE: This review was not affected by online drama or controversy. Everything I have to say here is based on my own personal opinion about the book itself, even though I definitely think Cass needs a new publicist.]

    [**NOTE #2: All the captions in the non-animated picture memes were made by me-- because, you know, I'm just THAT brilliantly witty. So please don't use them without asking my permission first. Thanks :)]

    Now with a story premise like that, honestly I thought it would take 

    to ruin this book for me. 35 girls all competing for one crown and the heart of one handsome prince? Sign me up and bring on the popcorn! However,

    turned out to be one of those unfortunate books that had about twenty-dozen little things in it that just aggravated the crap out of me, with the end result being that I was entertained by it for all the wrong reasons.

    So first, a word about love triangles. I honestly don't mind them

    they are done well. But in this case, the love triangle was SO freaking forced, cliche, and angsty, I was ready to tear my hair out strand by strand. The whole thing between America, Aspen, and Maxon was just completely ridiculous (ALMOST as ridiculous as those names), and the motivations behind their actions made absolutely

    whatsoever. There were so many instances of juvenile misunderstanding, miscommunication, etc. that I'm not even going to bother going into specifics. All I have to say is: STOP TRYING TO MAKE THE LOVE TRIANGLE HAPPEN.

    Moving on, America as a main character was just about two steps away from being completely intolerable. She was-- to put it simply--

    annoying (Highlight, underline, and bold

    ). I *might* have been able to stand her if all the little things that were supposed to make her seem like a fun and feisty redhead hadn't come across as painfully redundant and irritating (Oh and by the way- I'm a genuine redhead, so I can tell you right now, we don't act like America Singer). So yeah, by the end, I was pretty much incredibly offended that my redheaded-ness was portrayed in such a pathetic and crappy light. For example, she denies

    that she's beautiful even though she clearly is. (Please note, America: False modesty does not make you more attractive-- it makes people want to punch you in the face.) She makes constant quips and remarks about the stuffy life that Maxon leads and he finds it to be cute (it's not). She's got the whole cliche tom-boy thing going on while every other girl is a Stepford clone-- It was just like, OK,

    , she's one of those totally-gorgeous-but-she's-the-only-one-who-thinks-she's-not girls. And ironically? She stands out in the story because she's so "different" from the other girls, while simultaneously being about as cliche as they come.

    As for the rest of the girls in the book? Well, let's just say that added to the exasperating America Singer, this book just made me hate girls. For real. Even more than ANTM.

    And the guys weren't any better. Probably because they were about as manly as:

    Sexy, amirite?

    Prince Maxon was seriously one of the most awkward characters I've ever encountered-- and not in that adorable, hott kind of way either. In typical Disney prince fashion, he was so perfect and nice that I couldn't even take him seriously. He bored me to tears and was overly-sheltered to the point of being pathetic. And his behavior? It made NO SENSE. Let's review: America wrongly assumes that Maxon is about to

    her-- then she proceeds to knee him in the royal jewels-- then he pretty much brushes it off like a day later and goes back to let's-be-best-friends-because-I-don't-have-any mode. Seriously dude? I've never watched

    , but I'm thinking that if some strange girl told the guy that she had zero interest in him, that she was in love with somebody else, that she was only there

    (no I'm not making this up) AND THEN wrongly accused him of being a rapist, I'm going to take a **wild guess** that he would've kicked her out of the mansion on the spot. I mean, that's a pretty serious way to offend someone, no?

    But then when America tries to explain to him that Celeste the Biotch is sabotaging the rest of the girls, he throws a hissy fit being all like, "YOU WILL RESPECT MAH AUTHORATAH!" -- and almost sends her home.

    However, Prince Maxon wasn't nearly as douche-baggy as Aspen, the chauvinistic jerk-wad who gets his panties all in a bunch when America tries to make him dinner and then immediately bails on her because he can't handle the helpless, little woman being the one providing for him. This guy

    needed to grow a pair.

    Another beef I had with this book was that I couldn't find

    context for the kind of society that America Singer lives in. HOW did Illea come to be the way it is? What major events led up to the creation of a society where there's a monarchy, an eight-tiered caste system, and two different groups of rebel forces trying to bring it down? And

    again was The Selection created?? (Vague explanation: it creates

    . okaaayyyy...) And don't even get me started on "The History Lesson" that was randomly thrown in, because it made absolutely NO SENSE (The American State of China? HAHAHAHAHAHAHA). Apparently there was a Third and Fourth World War where the US was invaded by China and then Russia because it couldn't pay off its massive debt.

    ... Explain that one to me, please-- last time I checked, major international superpowers don't behave like 4th graders trying to steal someone's lunch money by giving them a massive wedgie. So, in a nutshell, the "history lesson" that attempted to establish the world of Illea explained

    .

    So for me, it was difficult to find a connection to this world because it wasn't built on any solid foundation that would have made it remotely believable. And I'm sorry, but if a book can't manage to adequately explain how a society came to be and what the motivation is behind the ones leading it or trying to tear it down (**cough, cough**

    **cough, cough**), that for me is a major dystopian FAIL. In the end, I just had to take Illea for what it was-- a make-believe fairy-tale kind of setting that had no plausible explanation for why it exists or how it came to be.

    Now if the long-awaited, delicious drama of a 35-girl competition had

    , I really wouldn't have cared about the absence of a thought-provoking dystopia. But where the heck was the crazy competition part of the story?? That whole

    spin-off was the number one reason I was looking forward to reading this book in the first place! And the entire thing ended up being one big snoozefest. There were some random acts of cattiness and backstabbing, a few girls got kicked off, a few dresses got ruined, but hardly

    was explained and there was little to no build-up. What happened to--

    Not only was there

    , but I honestly couldn't have cared less about who got kicked off and who stayed. Note to the author: If you aren't going to even bother telling your readers WHO your characters are, WE AREN'T GOING TO GIVE A CRAP WHEN THEY GET BUMPED OFF. We have ZERO investment in them. So faceless, never-before-mentioned Girls #1, 2 and 3 got the ax? Umm, yeah

    . No shock value. And Celeste the spoiled little rich girl? C'mon now, she was one big glaring stereotype and had about as much personality as a thumbtack. It was

    !! And one of the girls was named

    . I'm sorry, but how can I take a book seriously with character names like Tiny, Tuesday, King Clarkson, and Maxon Schreave? (Answer:

    .) And when the only thing in your dystopia that comes across as being even slightly disturbing is the prospect that one day we will be moronic enough to name our kids "Tiny" and "America," well, you've messed up something pretty badly. Just sayin'.

    So for me, the only thing that this book had going for it was that it was *mildly* entertaining in a mindless kind of way, and there was nothing about it that made me want to seriously punch a hole in the wall. But the rest was either very confusing or highly predictable. Everything from the characters, to the love triangle, to most of the outcomes of The Selection were all very easy to see coming from miles away. I'm sorry, but I really couldn't find anything about this book that was terribly exceptional or interesting and overall, I just wasn't impressed.

    After this, I think I'll be picking up a book about killer dragons. Or bioengineered war beasts. That really sounds like a good idea right about now...

    ~Lea @

  • Mariya
    Nov 04, 2011

    was one of the best books I have ever read! I don't think I quite expected that once I flipped the first page that I couldn't stop! But guess what it happened! I am constantly thinking about

    was one of the best books I have ever read! I don't think I quite expected that once I flipped the first page that I couldn't stop! But guess what it happened! I am constantly thinking about this book and I am 100% in "WOW" mode! Everything about this book I absolutely loved and I have no freaking clue how I am going to wait more than a year for the second book to come out. Such torture!

    is a dystopian novel, but it didn't seem so much like one to me, more like a Cinderella story. But they have a caste system in this world that goes from one to eight. One being very rich and eight being very poor. The Selection gets held for the prince where out of 35 woman he gets to narrow it down to one girl he picks as his princess. So notices gets sent to all the girls to the age of 16 to 20 and all the girls go crazy submitting their entries for

    .

    As for America Singer our heroine of the story who is a five in the caste system, she doesn't want anything to do with

    . Her mother is very needy and begging her because it is a wonderful opportunity. Even if you don't get chosen as the princess your life changes forever, you will be higher up in the caste system, and it would help America's family.

    America doesn't care about any of that though, and plus she has a secret boyfriend, Aspen. It is sort of forbidden too for her to be with him. Later on, Aspen feels America should at least try for The Selection and she gets picked as one of 35 girls. And some problems happen between Aspen and America before she leaves.

    I liked America. I felt like she as a very strong heroine. And she is very unselfish. She is doing

    for her family to help them, but also she wants some distance from Aspen. When we meet Prince Maxon he is everything America thought he wouldn't be. he is absolutely swoon worthy. I mean, come on. he is a prince. Maxon has very cute qualities that make my heart flutter. He has a cute reaction to crying ladies and it is funny. I love how he uses the term, "my dear", which America hates. Haha!

    Prince Maxon is very sweet and kind and all her wants is to find a girl among the 35 girls that are at his palace that he could love. That girl may end up to be America though. But the question becomes is America even interested? Is she over Aspen yet? There seems to be a lot going on between Maxon and America without anything actually happening and it becomes clear in my opinion at least that America does like Maxon, but there are things she has to figure out first.

    No surprise that I like Maxon more than Aspen, but Aspen definitely has his moments and it makes you feel a little sorry for him. But I most definitely want America and Maxon together.

    was one absolutely amazing and my only complaint would be why this book isn't longer. It felt so short. I wish the book was like 500 pages long. I loved it that much! It will be complete torture waiting for the next book in the series.

  • Wendy Darling
    Nov 05, 2011

    Reaction before reading this book:

    Reaction after reading this book:

    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.

    arrives with a gorgeous cover and interesting premise. What if a lott

    Reaction before reading this book:

    Reaction after reading this book:

    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.

    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

    and

    , which is unfortunate because the comparison to the television show is pretty spot-on. Mentioning it in the same breath as

    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.

    Our main character's name is America Singer.

    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.

    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.

    Very obvious protestations that are easily seen through. Juvenile dialogue. A lot of whispering to convey dramatic statements. A plethora of exclamation points.

    Contestants vying for a "perfect" guy. Appearance fees. Contracts. Gossiping. Sabotage. Tears. Eliminations. Television specials. Icky elements.

    But no limos and no rose ceremonies! Booo.

    The story ends on a cliffhanger, as if there was so much going on in this one book,

    ************************************************************

    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 way I do with such books as

    or Elizabeth Miles'

    , but I'm afraid I can't say that I found very much about it that was redeeming, either.

    Some pretty horrible developments occurred. Please check

    on this post if you're interested. And yes, this is the review that was featured the Publishers Weekly article

    Those interested in how this one review still continues to affect me 2 years after posting it should check out the links in

    as well. This review has not been altered at all since its publication, with the exception of the addendum, and to delete a quote that was misread.

  • Emily
    Dec 09, 2011

    *

    *

    I don't usually go for books like this one, with the whole princess competition thing going on (actually I've never even started one because they don't look good), but let me tell you, this book is amazing.

    I loved it. That's all I can say. It went right into the story, and I was hooked from page one. I just couldn't stop reading. The plot was AMAZING!! I loved how Kiera Cass manipulated the characters (Aspen) to make America sig

    *

    *

    I don't usually go for books like this one, with the whole princess competition thing going on (actually I've never even started one because they don't look good), but let me tell you, this book is amazing.

    I loved it. That's all I can say. It went right into the story, and I was hooked from page one. I just couldn't stop reading. The plot was AMAZING!! I loved how Kiera Cass manipulated the characters (Aspen) to make America sign up, and then dropped him, but still kept him around. Does that make any sense to you? I probably didn't explain that right, but I did my best. :D

    About half-way through the book I stopped and looked at all the pages I had left to read and there were still like twenty girls left and I was like HOW IS SOMEONE GOING TO WIN WHEN THERE'S ONLY FIFTY PAGES LEFT? Well, when I finished, my question was answered: None did. Kiera Cass decided to put me through the torture of the biggest cliffhanger ever and not tell me who won. HOW COULD YOU DO THAT TO ME?!?!

    From page one America was in an interesting situation, what with getting Selected and having Aspen as a boyfriend. This book wouldn't have been anywhere near as good as it is if it didn't have the love triangle. I usually don't like books with it in them, but it totally worked for this one.

    I love Maxon. He is totally misunderstood. He isn't stiff, aloof, mean. He's actually really sweet and CUTE.

    The other side of the triangle is Aspen. I don't like him. The little slime-ball dumped America because she gave him some food then had the gal to come crying back to her. I hope she ends up with Maxon.

    And, last but not least, I really liked America. The whole theme with her in the Selection was that she wanted to be herself, not someone fake, and I really like that. She's a very strong character and speaks her mind. Sort of like me. :P

    All in all, I BETTER GET THE SECOND BOOK ASAP OR I WILL EXPLODE!! DO YOU FEEL MY PAIN, KIERA???

    Before I sign off I have to give a huge thanks to Kiera Cass (for answering all my messages and passing on my request for an ARC) and to HarperTeen for sending me a copy. THANKS!!!!!!

    ~Emily @

  • The Holy Terror
    Jan 13, 2012

    If you can get past the "I'm smelling my armpit" cover, and also the silly names, and the horribly unoriginal storyline, and the terrible writing ... wait, really, you can get past all of that? What does that leave you then? A nice ... font?

    Seriously, though, read reviews for this one. They're not favorable for a reason.

  • Victoria
    May 06, 2012

    UPDATE 3/23/2016:

    YOU GUYS. I owe Kiera Cass a TREMENDOUS apology. Kiera Cass is the mother-effing ORACLE OF DELPHI. GET THAT WOMAN A JOB IN THE WHITE HOUSE, STAT.

    Because you guys. She predicted Donald Trump's America. Rich businessman. War with China. Renaming country after own self. Creating a caste system based off of how much money one has.

    I didn't believe this was an America that could happen, but turns out, I was the one who was wrong.

    *sobbing quietly into nuclear bunker*

    ORIGINAL REVIEW

    I

    UPDATE 3/23/2016:

    YOU GUYS. I owe Kiera Cass a TREMENDOUS apology. Kiera Cass is the mother-effing ORACLE OF DELPHI. GET THAT WOMAN A JOB IN THE WHITE HOUSE, STAT.

    Because you guys. She predicted Donald Trump's America. Rich businessman. War with China. Renaming country after own self. Creating a caste system based off of how much money one has.

    I didn't believe this was an America that could happen, but turns out, I was the one who was wrong.

    *sobbing quietly into nuclear bunker*

    ORIGINAL REVIEW

    I almost never write reviews, but I had to write one to try to persuade people to read this book. Really, it has to be read to be believed. This is actually the worst book I've ever had the pleasure to encounter in my life, and I think it's only fair that everyone else get to enjoy it, too. It's the best ten bucks and three hours of my life I've ever spent.

    I'm not being sarcastic. The entertainment value of this novel is high. Especially if you can reenact scenes out loud with your boyfriend, which I may or may not have done.

    As for all you people who couldn't finish it? WEAK. Seriously. The effery gets more and more amazing and you missed some inspiring prose.

    I've read through many of the reviews here, and people have done a good job of covering the problems. Forgive me for treading familiar ground.

    1.

    . I know, Collins did the same thing. But while it works in Hunger Games to underscore the absurdity of the society (the silliest names come from the Capitol or Career districts), here, it just makes all of our descendants sound stupid.

    Stop smoking pot, kids. Your progeny will be born dumb and name THEIR progeny things like "America," "Aspen," and "Clarkson." Please. Think of the children.

    (Tangent: I was describing this book to a friend, and I said, "The heroine is named America Singer. She has a really special talent, and you can tell from her name." My friend: ". . .Is she really good at freedom?")

    2.

    . Great, even good dystopians SHOULD stem from a plausible scenario of the future (e.g. 1984), and MUST make a commentary on society as it is now (Hunger Games is once again the good example here--it isn't exactly plausible, but all that War is Hell stuff is good).

    This book fails miserably on both points. Not only is the vision of the future ridiculous and implausible based on the world we know today, it demonstrates a complete lack of historical, economic, political, and anthropological understanding.

    Midway through the book, we are given a breathtakingly idiotic vision of the future (how has no one addressed this yet? It's like the best part of the book).

    I suspect that the attitude of this author is best summed up in what one of the instructors says to the Selected: "Dear girls, history isn't something you study. It's something you should just know." If Cass had actually studied history at any point, she would have realized how asinine and ill-concieved this vision of the future is.

    Moving on, though I guess it's hard to move on from that idiocy. Anyway, the book also doesn't make a particularly cogent argument against misogyny, class-ism, or even basic stupidity. For example,

    Finally, the book actually perpetrates and supports misogynistic ideas. For example, Marlee tells America that girls are all bitchy and out to backstab each other. America takes this in stride, instead of, oh, pointing out that her sisters were great to her? Why is it okay to say this or perpetrate this kind of belief about women? Of course it's true of some women, as it's true of some men. But it's not GENERALLY true of ALL women, and to say so is grossly misogynistic.

    3.

    . People lack depth, subtlety, and consistency in this book. You have the classic Bitchy Mean Girl, the Devoted Maids, the Kindly Best Friend, the Adorable Young Tyke, and on and on and on.

    As for lack of consistency: Maxon, for example, is described as being not very good with girls ("I don't meet very many women," he says at one point). . . and yet he goes around calling everyone 'my dear' (ewww sleazy, by the way?) like a dedicated Regency rake. It would be one thing if this was described as being awkward, but instead the women all seem to really like it--so he's inexperienced, yet smooth with the ladies? WTF?

    Maxon is in general the least sexy 'hero' I've ever read. First off, he's a shitty prince. Even America studied the names/faces of the other Selected, but Maxon asks to be "[forgiven] if [he's] slow with names; there are quite a few [girls]." You're a PRINCE, Maxon. Learning people's names and remembering them is a PART OF YOUR JOB, especially because you have access to that information. Sit your ass down. Memorize their names and faces.

    He's also completely ignorant of what's going on in his country until America tells him (and then he becomes an overnight communist because of her. Not that there's anything wrong with communists per se, but I'm still amused). I get that as the prince he was maybe really sheltered from the realities of the caste system, but it's still really unsexy that he hasn't even tried to find out before. It demonstrates a complete lack of curiosity, empathy, and imagination.

    As a love interest, Maxon is just really creepy. He says, "You [the Selected girls] are all dear to me. It is simply a matter of discovering who shall be the dearest." Oh, ick.

    The problem isn't that Maxon has clearly never been laid, which is fine (I love non-man-ho heroes!), the problem is he's so awkward/sketchy that he also couldn't get laid if his life depended on it. Actually, I wonder if he actually has all his manly parts intact, because he talks/acts/thinks like a not very bright woman.

    I also really enjoyed this description of Maxon: "He just looked . . . thoughtful. It was an interesting expression on his face." Because, you know, Maxon usually just looks dumb as a brick, so when he's thinking, it's totally weird.

    As for America, her stupidity is kind of endearing. Watching her navigate the world is like watching a toddler cross traffic, only really hilarious. She's unbelievably self-centered, egotistical, and smug.

    For example, her treatment of her maids is poorly thought out. It's like Cass wants to make America sympathetic by having her care about her maids (

    ), but America's actual behavior towards the girls is condescending and smug. First, she can't be bothered to learn their names/distinguish them from each other. Later, she self-righteously says that she "enjoys the company of Sixes." How about saying that YOU NEVER NOTICE CASTES, AMERICA? That would be a better way of putting it.

    Finally, America seems to think that the girls are TOTALLY HAPPY to just be America's maids and have no outside interests/lives. According to America, they just LIVE to serve her. All people have their own agendas, Cass, and to describe the girls otherwise--especially when you are using them to make a point about America's kindness/thoughtfulness--ends up making America look even more self-absorbed, naive, and oblivious.

    4.

    . There is no subtlety, no tension. If someone wants to know something? SURE. Any character will spill the inner workings of their mind immediately. Case in point: when Aspen is angry at America for cooking dinner, instead of drawing out the tension and creating a sense of unease with Aspen withholding this information, Aspen simply bursts out the (chauvinistic) truth.

    Or when Maxon asks America whether or not she can love him (the second time they meet), instead of saying, "no, you're really creepy/desperate, ew" or "how the fuck should I know, I just met you last night," which is I think how most girls would respond to that kind of question on the second meeting (NOT even the second date), America says no and then TELLS HIM WHY--a reason that can technically GET HER IN TROUBLE.

    Who does that? Someone who is acting according to the dictates of plot instead of human nature and their own characterization.

    (Then another character describes America as 'mysterious' at one point. America, who literally cannot keep her mouth shut about ANYTHING, even her own darkest secrets. Clearly, the author's definition of 'mysterious' is very different from everyone else's.)

    Cass is also VERY fond of using the dialogue tag "sing" or "sang out." Of the 7 or 8 times she does this, it fits ONCE (when May sings the "sitting in a tree" song.) This is a really idiotic move because I sort of imagine everyone singing in a Miss Piggy tone of voice.

    5.

    . The queen is described as sitting "not in an icy way," in contrast to her husband and son. Which makes zero sense. Posture is not described as icy: tone is, mien is, but not THE WAY YOU SIT. You can't just use words because you feel like it. Words mean specific things.

    Also, someone twirls her fork "menacingly." No, really. This is one of those fun things you can try to do at dinner tonight.

    (I get what Cass is trying to go here, but she hasn't described it right. The girl's expression can be menacing WHILE she twirls her fork. Or it can even be something like, "She was merely twirling pasta on her fork, but she somehow managed to make the gesture look menacing, like she meant to stab me in the eye with it after I was finished eating." But the way it's written is just abuse of the English language.)

    America also puts her books on a "helpful" shelf. That's how I describe all my furniture when they fulfill their function: chairs are "helpful" when I sit in them, beds are "helpful" because I can sleep in them, and "stoves" are helpful when they HELP ME COOK DINNER. THANKS, STOVE.

    At one point, America describes Aspen's hair as "scraggly." Here is the definition of scraggly:

    1. (of a person or animal) Thin and bony.

    2. Ragged, thin, or untidy in form or appearance.

    Now, I recognize the use of the word "or" in this definition: that it can mean ragged, thin, OR untidy. However, words have connotations as well as denotations, and using the word "scraggly" implies dirty and thin.

    Probably not how you want people to imagine one of the love interests' hair.

    Cass also likes to juxtapose words weirdly, like when America "whisper-yelled" at Aspen, or when Maxon laughs "with a bizarre mix of rigidity and calm," or a character who smiles in a way that's both "excited and timid."

    ....eh?

    6.

    . America's family is described as poor because they are lower caste. I don't buy it. She has her own bedroom, and her family owns not only a fridge, but a TV, and they eat popcorn while they watch it. Sure, they are kind of hungry (and they don't have enough makeup *tear*), but when they ARE described as having amenities, it isn't explained.

    And it would have been so easy to do! Such as, "the fridge was a cast-off from the home of a Three!" "Popcorn is cheap, so it's the only snack we can afford!" "I had my own room, but only because older sis moved out!" (It's also unclear what kind of house/neighborhood the Singers live in. Suburbs? Inner city? Rural countryside? This would have gone a long way towards establishing America's poverty).

    Or people are described as "regal" without any indication of what that means (stiff posture? Raised chin? Expressionless face? Walks with a stick up their rears? WHAT? TELL US.)

    America's first breakfast in the palace: "The eggs and bacon were heaven, and the pancakes were perfectly done, not too thin like the ones I made at home." WHAT DO HEAVENLY EGGS AND BACON TASTE LIKE TO YOU, AMERICA? CRISPY? SOGGY? SALTY? DOES THE FAT MELT ON YOUR TONGUE? Writers: make your words count.

    Here's another stunning example of Cass's descriptive prowess: "The wallpaper, the gilt mirrors, the giant vases of fresh flowers were all so beautiful. The carpets were lavish and immaculate, the windows were sparkling, and the paintings on the wall were lovely."

    What kind of wallpaper is it? How big are the mirrors? What kind of flowers? What do the carpets look like? WHAT DOES ANYTHING LOOK LIKE?

    This is not how you write description, guys.

    The telling, not showing also ties into the bad characterization. We are TOLD, for example, that Aspen's mother is kind, because she "give[s] clothes that didn't fit her kids anymore to families who had next to nothing."

    This is not an effective example of kindness. Giving away clothes that you don't use anymore isn't kind, because it lacks the element of sacrifice. It's vaguely charitable at best. If Cass wanted to use this example, she would have had to add something along the lines of "instead of selling it for money."

    7.

    . Witness the 'bargain' that America offers the prince during their first meeting: she offers to be his friend and to help him selected a bride(after spilling all her dark secrets, natch). Then, after like two meetings (dates lol), America is hurt when Maxon didn't tell her something because she thinks that they are 'friends'. Not everyone is you, America. Not everyone tells all their secrets to their actual friends after YEARS, let alone to random people after a mere days.

    8.

    . For example, at one point the prince says, "I hope to find happiness, too. To find a woman that all of Illea can love, someone to be my companion and to help entertain the leaders of other nations. Someone who will befriend my friends and be my confidante. I'm ready to find my wife."

    This is really offensive, and it's never addressed. Maxon's idea of love is incredibly self-centered: someone whom HIS people can love, someone to be HIS companion, someone to help HIM entertain leaders of other nations, someone to befriend HIS friends and be HIS confidante. And sure, a princess is public commodity and she should be popular with his people and not embarrass the country in front of other nations. But even if you strip away the "public" aspect, Maxon doesn't at all mention wanting to be friends with HER friends, to be HER support, to be HER companion, to be a part of HER life. He wants to enfold her into HIS life.

    9.

    . I'm a little confused by everyone's lack of understanding of basic statistics in this book. The selection is a lottery, and your odds are Not Good.

    And yet this book opens, "When we got the letter in the post, my mother was ecstatic. She had already decided that all our problems were solved, gone forever. The big hitch in her brilliant plan was me."

    Um, I hate to break it to you, America, but technically the first big hitch in her problem is STATISTICS. Your problems are not solved until YOU ARE SELECTED. God, if the woman thinks the "big hitch in her plan" is America's stubbornness, she must be dumber than a brick--like mother, like daughter, eh? Curse you, mathematics, for being SO DIFFICULTS.

    Later on, America notes that "families had already started throwing parties for their daughters, sure that they would be the one chosen for the Selection." SERIOUSLY? THAT'S LIKE ME CELEBRATING WINNING THE MEGA MILLIONS JACKPOT BECAUSE I BOUGHT A TICKET.

    10.

    . I would say this is pretty much a master class in how not to write a novel. Aspiring novelists, take note. You can learn more about what not to do spending ten bucks on this than in an expensive university writing program

    11.

    . Writing a book is really hard. I respect that. I don't respect the way this author treats reviewers, because reviews are for readers, who deserve to know what they are getting for their money.

    Edited: You guys, thank you so much for reading. I am blown away by all of your support. The review for The Elite is up, and I'm working on The Heir. Will attach links soon.

  • Kiki
    May 12, 2012

    This book is like those little sachets of Nutella you get as free samples with like a magazine or a packet of Ritz or something, in that it's empty calories lite but seriously delicious. It's really small and really bad for you and not really that satisfying but shit if you don't enjoy it. Because, no matter how superior you think your tastes are, you

    enjoy this. Even just on a voyeuristic level. You just have to forget all of the stuff you know. Like, all of it. Forget what you learned in

    This book is like those little sachets of Nutella you get as free samples with like a magazine or a packet of Ritz or something, in that it's empty calories lite but seriously delicious. It's really small and really bad for you and not really that satisfying but shit if you don't enjoy it. Because, no matter how superior you think your tastes are, you

    enjoy this. Even just on a voyeuristic level. You just have to forget all of the stuff you know. Like, all of it. Forget what you learned in civics class and don't you dare remember even one page of that history textbook that your teacher shoved under your nose when you were eleven. Don't untangle those headphones; don't try to line up the yellow smarties. This book is a house of cards. Really cool to look at, but totally flimsy.

    (And the controversy is such a shame. It's a shame that the creative minds behind this lovably fluffy duck-down are the sort to hurl expletives at honest, non-inflammatory reviewers via Twitter, which is literally the weakest way to attack someone, because were your reasons so flimsy that they wouldn't fill out more than 140 characters? Come on.)

    Personal shitstorms aside, this book has about as much class and substance as its creators, but that's isn't to say that it didn't nicely pad out a two-hour train journey from Dundee to Glasgow. That commute, especially on a Friday lunchtime, is a snore. Add that to a tiny waif of a story with all of the addictive allure of crack and you've got two covers that you can turn in one single sitting.

    I'm not going to lie to you and say that I didn't have preconceived notions about this one; I mean, come on. The social drama was embarrassing. Add that to a name like "America Singer" and you've got a character I'm expecting to hate. But the thing was that I totally didn't.

    I have a bit of a problem with those who expect teen girls in YA books to behave like street-smart successful thirty-year-olds with enough life experience to be able to judge any situation with a clinical and businesslike edge. I know I wasn't like that when I was sixteen, and neither were you. When I was sixteen I fell in love with a supply teacher and thought that having chipped nail polish made me look edgy.

    America is kind of like me. She's probably kind of like you, too. She's over-dramatic and foolishly optimistic and she gets swept up by a single kind action from a cute boy. So what? She's a teenage girl. She's also careful, restrained and compassionate. She doesn't swallow bullshit like it's Orange Julius. She's believable. I'm not usually a huge fan of the whole "I'm special because I'm plain" which this whole book does use as a giant smoke screen for its sexism: there's the inevitable conversation in which someone says that big groups of girls always means there's snarky bitching and tons of competition, which doesn't hang together at all if you look at what is perpetuating this competition. Cass gives us commentary on girls and their competitiveness without actually tackling the reasoning behind that, which is of course a society whose foundations rely on a lack of camaraderie between women and this idea that in terms of relationships, men come first.

    Who is funding, perpetuating, and benefitting from the Selection? Maxon, who will gain a wife, and the king, who will solidify his dynasty. The queen is merely there for decoration; she says and does nothing of import. This book, had it not been the Nutella free sample of dystopia in which there's no greater peril than running out of bow tie pasta and having to resort to lasagne sheets, could have been a fantastic allegory for the way in which women compete and are punished for it, when in fact it is men and male benefactors specifically who both incite and perpetuate said competition. We are supposed to hate Celeste because she's our stereotypical heartless mean girl - and YA caters only to the insecurities of those who are visually plain, placing girls who wear lipstick into a terribly unflattering light and only exacerbating "types of girls" - when in fact Celeste and her desperation to climb the social ladder is a blinding example of what this patriarchal power imbalance between men and women has created in Cass's world. That is, the idea that male acceptance and male pleasure has infinitely greater value than that of women. This idea that men and romance comes first, and female friendships threaten that, and get her! Tackle her! Don't let that *hussy* steal your man! He's all that gives you value, remember?

    Calling out "all my friends are guys, there's less drama because girls are bitches" gives me immense satisfaction. When I hear that self-important special snowflake shit it makes me want to hurl. Is that any way to speak about your fellow woman? Do you understand the waves that women can make when they work together?

    This book is nowhere near as bad in this area as it could have been - but we weren't spared disapproving glances at Bariel's breasts or the constant commentary on Celeste and her ridiculously exaggerated competitive antics. Do me a favour and spare me another wasted concept, because there's no peril to this, and because there's no peril, the story has no weight. None of these girls are being forced to do this. There's monetary gain involved but America's family are not exactly begging for scraps, are they? Why on earth we're watching a middle-class girl agonize so deeply over a silly competition that she chose to enter is beyond me. What's further beyond me is the whole caste system, and why it's even in place, and why this book is a dystopia. This could have been a four-star read for me had it been set in a high fantasy world, maybe in a kingdom called Candy Land where everything was frivolous and silly with an undercurrent of darkness and social instability.

    But let's look at the technicalities of this. We have a competition with no negative outcomes that everyone adores except the faceless "rebels" who lack any real presence and who are portrayed as nasty barbarians when in fact what they're rebelling against is fat cats sitting in a palace eating fruitcake while children in the lower castes starve. The prince for whom they're competing is hot and charming and sweet. Goddamn, nothing about this is dystopian. You might look at the poverty pointedly but is the poverty ever explored in any meaningful way? Is there ever any real commentary attached to it? No.

    Let's cut out some plot tumours. Add in some polygamy. What if we took this fluffy frothy dystopia lite and added in a little danger? What if? What if the king, a nasty creepy dude, wants a new wife every year? He already has twenty or so. So let's say that each year he holds a Selection to choose a new one. Girls are picked based on their photographs. They are forced into the competition against their will. When America arrives, she must fight through a competition for the heart of a man she loathes, surrounded by girls at whom she initially looks through a judgemental lens, before realizing that they are all doing what they can to survive, and forming powerful bonds with them; each girl who is struck off from the competition is executed, because the king will not allow another man in the kingdom to marry a girl he has touched. Meanwhile, rebels march on cities around the southern rim of the country in the name of avenging the daughters and sisters they have lost to the Selection.

    , America is torn between secretly loving the boy she knew outside the competition, whose family has pointedly joined the rebels, and falling for Prince Maxon, the king's seventeenth son, who lives in the shadow of the king's first son and heir. What if?

    Jesus, just add some fucking peril to your dystopia. "But it's light and fluffy! It's not meant to be serious!" you say. Newsflash: dystopia is a really goddamn serious genre. Dystopia is a genre that is built around social commentary. Don't you dare come in and fluff up a genre that was created as a platform for authors to offer creative, intelligent critique and discourse on some of the most controversial and powerful social issues in the real world. Dystopia is a gift; dystopian stories can make us better people. This is not a dystopia. It is just silly.

    Honestly? This book could have been so much more. It could have been powerful and groundbreaking. It's not like the writing was anything special (in some places, it's just plain bad. This book is filled with some of the most unnatural and stilted dialogue I have ever read) or that any of the characters, even those I liked (Maxon was an unexpected favourite of mine, even if he is a two-faced spineless dingbat), grabbed my attention enough to make me give a crap. It's just one big pile of wasted potential. And I am so suspicious of authors who say that they "write without agenda" because one cannot claim to do impossible things. Every single piece of writing in existence has agenda, big or small, powerful or menial. Don't say that you just wanted to write a little light-hearted

    that nobody should take too much to heart. Don't. Don't do that. Don't do what Lauren DeStefano did when she wrote about rape and polygamy and forced marriage and sex with thirteen year olds and then claimed that there was no social commentary behind it, and that she wasn't trying to say anything with her writing. The fuck?

    Don't fuck with really serious issues and then try to wriggle out of readers' concern or curiosity by claiming that you "didn't mean anything by it". That's lazy and also sort of insulting.

    All of that said, don't be too surprised by my three-star rating. I'm sorry, but I couldn't award less to a book that engrossed me so, and that was such guilty fun. I was absolutely hypnotized.

  • Jamie
    Jan 18, 2013

    To start off, I will say that I liked this book more that I thought I would. I was originally looking for a book for a reading challenge (needed blue covers) and just happened to see this at the library and figured it didn't look too bad and that I would just read it since nothing else was working.

    I will admit, the concepts are not very original. The ideas that is is in between The Bachelor and Hunger Games (in the dystopia sense)is fairly accurate, with heavily leanings on The Bachelor. The lov

    To start off, I will say that I liked this book more that I thought I would. I was originally looking for a book for a reading challenge (needed blue covers) and just happened to see this at the library and figured it didn't look too bad and that I would just read it since nothing else was working.

    I will admit, the concepts are not very original. The ideas that is is in between The Bachelor and Hunger Games (in the dystopia sense)is fairly accurate, with heavily leanings on The Bachelor. The love triangle setting adds a bit extra to character complexity.

    I will not say much on what the books is about. The summary already does that in itself on this book. The book is written from America's perspective and what I will say otherwise is what I thought. First, I must admit, I dislike the character names. Yes I know the last names refer to what the person does, but the first names are horrid in my opinion. Yet the main thing is the writing style and pace. I literally laid down last night thinking I would read a few chapters. Next thing I knew, the sun would be rising soon and the book sat finished in my hands. I don't get that with many books anymore. This book made me giggle at times, and twitch in anticipation at others. It left me desperately craving the sequel. Wondering who she picks, or who Maxon picks,what is up with the other girls, etc.

    So, while the concept is not original, the characters are interesting, and the story is written in a way that is easy to get wrapped up in it. I actually just put it back on hold at the library so I could skim through it once again before them next book comes out. I read it so fast I fear I might have missed things. I honestly had a hard time rating this. In the way in captured my attention once I started reading, and my desire to read it again I would normally say 5, but since it does lean SO heavily on the concept of The Bachelor. So, I give this a 4 1/2.

    *Re-read Nov 2015. Loved it even more the second time around. Found lots of details I missed the first time through. I was able to pause of focus on the other girls, and the maids, their reactions with more precision. So many minute details that pull this series together that just make the story that much richer. Also, re-reading this has really emphasized how much I would love to read this whole process from Maxon's perspective of what he thinks of the girls, his dates, discussions with America, etc.

  • Steph Sinclair
    Sep 23, 2013

    I read this book for one reason: To find out why it's a New York Times Best-selling series. After drinking several beers and banging my head against the wall after reading

    , I can

    see why. And to be fair, it's probably not the absolute worst book I've read. (I mean, there's still that time I read

    ...) Still, it is by no means something that I'd recommend.

    I know it might seem like I detested

    , but to be pe

    I read this book for one reason: To find out why it's a New York Times Best-selling series. After drinking several beers and banging my head against the wall after reading

    , I can

    see why. And to be fair, it's probably not the absolute worst book I've read. (I mean, there's still that time I read

    ...) Still, it is by no means something that I'd recommend.

    I know it might seem like I detested

    , but to be perfectly honest, I haven't had this much fun reading a terrible book since

    .

    :

    Character names: If there's one thing that I just don't understand about

    , it's why more creativity couldn't be used on character names. Really, I'm not asking for much here, but America SINGER? Character names based on their occupation? WHY? What's funny is when other characters ask America what she does for a living because THEY HAVE NO IDEA WHAT IT COULD POSSIBLY BE.

    House of Mary Sues: It might not surprise you that this book is about a super special snowflake, but did you know that virtually ALL the characters are just as special? The competition in

    isn't just about which girl can win Maxon's heart. Oh no. It's about who's the most special of them all! And since most of them are so damn selfless, they end up tripping over themselves, giving each other compliment after compliment. ("No, you're the prettiest! You'd make such a great Queen. I'm nothing but a cardboard cutout excuse for a supporting character." *giggle*) I shit you not. In fact, even Maxon and Aspen are competing, too. In my hands I hold a royal flush of Mary Sues.

    The love triangle: I almost always dislike love triangles. It turns the female character into someone who can only focus on the two boys and becomes a much less interesting person. Her entire story revolves around the boys and which one is the "most perfect" for her. In effect, she is defined by this love triangle and

    story becomes a shipping war.

    I was hoping

    wouldn't fall into that trap and was ecstatic that America was leaving Aspen behind when she left to live at the palace. But I knew things couldn't be that simple since he eventually shows up at the right fucking moment to add unnecessary romantic tension. Because what a coincidence that a poor boy, who's a glorified custodian, would find his way all the way to the palace and a guard right outside America's door! WOW! It must be fate... or perhaps bad writing. Let's go with the latter.

    So now we have both boys back into America's life. What's a 16-year-old to do? Who are you going to choose, America?!

    Bullshit. America spends majority of the book struggling with who to choose. And I would wager that the other books have the very same struggle. If there is one thing this book was good at, it was its predictability.

    Also, did I mention how America has never had a female friend? The explanation for this is that she is always working and was homeschooled. But someone she made time to have a steady boyfriend (Aspen) for 2 years. She even mentions his sisters, but apparently, they aren't friends. Even more, I found it super strange that she mentions that Maxon would have been someone she befriended at home had he been a neighbor. So I guess America only had time to make male friends back at home. It's after she is

    to be around other females that she makes female friends.

    The thing about her female friends is that the only thing they ever talk about is Maxon. Though he is a supporting character to America, he holds the center of this novel, making it complete one-dimensional, lacking any character depth. It's a real shame because the premise of

    isn't entirely a horrible one. But instead, Cass sets up a plot that is so staged that I couldn't possibly take it seriously. Supporting characters are weaker to make America seem stronger. Supporting character make ridiculous suggestions so America can seem smarter. Rebels attack the palace for... reasons not expanded on because it has nothing to do with the romance. But, hey, those scenes make America look like a leader, so why not?

    (What really kills me is how America tells Maxon that she "just needs time" to get over her ex-boyfriend, but he has no idea it's Aspen, the very guard he stationed right outside her bedroom at night. And she doesn't seem to have any inclination to tell Maxon either. Also, Maxon doesn't own a set of balls.)

    Like I said earlier, I can sort of see the appeal of this book and I've been told it's really popular among younger readers. Two hot boys, pretty dresses, a light and fluffy read. There is nothing wrong with these things. I occasionally like them in my books as well, depending on what kind of mood I'm in. But I would have liked the novel to be about more than just a girl choosing between each guy. We know nothing about her beaus outside of how "cute" they are to America. What are their traits, strengths, morals? How do they individually enhance America's life? What do these male characters represent on a larger scale? How do they even differ?

    doesn't even begin to touch on any of those questions because the story doesn't actually

    you with any to ponder. What it does leave you with is a promise of a love triangle from hell and a sinking sense that the remainder of the series could only be one thing: a waste of time. My paperback came with a sneak peek of book 2 and I was very underwhelmed even more than I was with

    . She starts off book 2 with the difficult choice of Maxon or Aspen. I think I will spare myself.

    So the question is: Is this book worth a read? In my opinion, no. Alternately, there's

    that has a very similar feel, but is an overall stronger novel in every possible way. Read that instead.

    Steph... out!

    More reviews and other fantastical things at

    .

  • Emily May
    Nov 17, 2013

    I know, I know, I probably shouldn't have read this. But when a series gets to be this popular, I can't help needing to know why. I have friends who LOVED this and friends who HATED it, so I had to see for myself.

    . Okay, I’d already made peace with America Singer before going into this book. I knew that was her name, I knew it was silly, but whatever, it does not maketh or breaketh a book. But I didn’t know that America Singer was - wait, it’s too good - a

    . Honestly, why

    I know, I know, I probably shouldn't have read this. But when a series gets to be this popular, I can't help needing to know why. I have friends who LOVED this and friends who HATED it, so I had to see for myself.

    . Okay, I’d already made peace with America Singer before going into this book. I knew that was her name, I knew it was silly, but whatever, it does not maketh or breaketh a book. But I didn’t know that America Singer was - wait, it’s too good - a

    . Honestly, why did the author think that was a good idea?

    People try to excuse her stupid name with “but Katniss Everdeen was a ridiculous name too”. Yes, it was. But let’s think about how much worse it would have been if she’d been Katniss Evergreen, local fir tree.

    . I know we can jokingly compare the competition of beauty pageants and various reality shows to

    , but the fact that this is seriously being compared to putting kids in an arena and letting them kill each other is just hilarious. This is about a beautiful girl who gets so pissed when people comment on her obvious beauty:

    This beautiful girl enters The Selection - a contest of sorts where the poor competitors volunteer to compete for the heart of a handsome prince.

    You’ve probably heard that there’s very little world-building, but I actually wish the author hadn’t bothered with the bit of world-building she tried to throw in. It draws more attention to how bad it is by the vague mention of poverty, children being beaten for stealing food, social castes that are distinguished by numbers, etc. Cass slips in a small mention of these and then very quickly moves onto the smooching.

    Also, America’s family are supposed to be a hair’s breadth away from poverty:

    And yet she has makeup products and:

    Bloody hell, is this really supposed to be a dystopia to anyone other than Paris Hilton?

    But America’s shallow self-centredness extends beyond her obsession with dresses, makeup and denying her own beauty. She somehow manages to see herself as a voice of righteousness for the people and yet she doesn’t even bother to learn the names of her maids at first. She has some notion (that I assume we’re supposed to accept as well) that she’s a really great person because she lowers herself to hang out with castes below her. Isn’t she a sweetie for mingling with the commoners?

    The characters never develop beyond the most shallow archetypes - bitchy mean girls, “nice” best friend, banal love interest - all topped off with a Mary Sue protagonist. And Prince Maxon himself is about as sexy as a doorknob, with even fewer brain cells. How creepy is it that he says:

    Is that meant to be cute? Because it isn’t cute. It’s weird.

    Just one more thing. I wasn't going to go into details about the world-building. To be honest, I went into

    willing to forgive it for not being very good on that front. I mean, it's obvious that this book wasn't written for people who care deeply about historical, political and socioeconomic factors. But Cass should have continued being vague, she really should have. Things just went even further downhill when she tried to paint in a back story.

    How did this world come about? Well, obviously there was a Third World War, duh. And if you had the most basic understanding of history, guess which countries might have invaded - yes,

    , lol - the United States. China, you say? Bingo! Oh, and maybe the Russians? Yup, those too! I cringe just remembering it.

    Also, why would China invade the US?

    Is this for real?? Why would China be so stupid? Did they think they could just march in and seize the money the Americans wouldn't give them? And then when they don't get their money, they create "The American State of China." Which then gets invaded by an expansionist Russia!

    This was way worse than if the author had simply offered no explanation for this society. It's a completely crazy explanation. Maybe Cass assumed her YA audience would be so history-dumb that it wouldn't matter if countries did stupid things for stupid reasons.

    I guess I learned my lesson about trying out those "popular" books I never read.

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