Thursday, December 26, 2013

Book Review: The Selection by Kiera Cass

Have you ever read a book that you knew wasn’t that great, yet you still couldn’t put it down? I’ve had that experience a few times before, and once again this happened.

The Selection is another addition to the “dystopian future YA novels” that seem to inundate the market these days. Indeed, the main premise feels like a less violent version of The Hunger Games. It is a future in which America has been through several wars and re-formed itself into a monarchy called Ilea, after the founder and first king. Everyone is divided into strict castes, but the Selection-essentially a competition to win the hand of the prince and future king-gives every girl a chance to rise above her station. America Singer is not interested at first, as she has a boyfriend (though in a lower caste than her); but when he breaks up with her, she enters the Selection as a way to get money for her family. She is sent to the palace with 34 other girls in an effort to catch the eye (and possibly the heart) of the prince.

Now, this sounds kind of boring (at least to me), but the parallels with the story of Esther caught my eye, and I found the actual relationship part intriguing as well. Cass actually does a good job of setting up chemistry, although her characters aren’t always the most pleasant; and as cliché as it sounds, America learns that life in the upper caste, while more luxurious, isn’t always better.

There is also more going on than an admittedly intriguing love story. The land of Ilea is in the middle of a crisis. Two different rebel groups have been staging attacks, and the tremors of uprising are beginning. This is further explored in The Elite, the second in the series, as well as giving us more about the history of Ilea.

The downside to the book is that for most of it, while there is a love story going on, America is in the usual “wish fulfillment love triangle” found in most YA novels for girls. Oh no, there are two hot guys that want me! Whatever shall I do? Given the nature of the book, I expect a certain amount of relationship drama, but drama created by implausible reactions and scenarios is incredibly tedious.

I’m somewhat intrigued about reading the last book, but I hope there is more focus on the wider aspects of the novel, as opposed to needless relationship drama.

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