Pub. Date: June, 2012
Publisher: HarperCollins UK
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.I now understand what the hype around this book is/was about. It ticks a lot of typical YA-genre boxes. There is a female lead, who is disadvantaged from birth yet very talented in something. Although she doesn't rate herself very highly, she is surrounded by people who love her. Something happens which suddenly puts her in the public eye and puts her very close to the centre of power. Naturally there is not only one man, but two involved. She will have to decide where her heart really lies and what it is she wants to do with her life. Now, all of this could very easily also be applied to The Hunger Games, Divergent and a number of other recent YA/Dystopian-novels. There is nothing wrong with following a certain trope or idea, but at times it becomes too easy to see where The Selection is going. I've read some reviews which said they didn't see the set-up for the love triangle coming, whereas I feel the blurb itself already screams 'Be aware of the love-triangle'.
Unfortunately, The Selection is a book from the early era of this kind of book. The main thing that lets this book down is what I would call "lack of". There is a lack of world-building in this first installment, even though surely this should be where you'd really want the characters and readers get settled into this new world. Aside from this, the writing isn't very deep. By that I don't mean I was expecting Cass to turn this book into a philosophic treaty, but the writing is, at most times, too simple. Things just happen and then the narrative moves on, until something new happens. The characterizations of the other girls in the Selection are relatively predictable and so far there has been no effort on the author's side to deepen their characters. Added to this, for me, is the fact that the idea of the novel thrives on the idea of female competition. There is a lot of emphasis on how people look, how they act in public etc. and I am slightly scared to think down which road this could go in the next installments when more's at stake.
Similarly, America Singer has a lot of good qualities and Cass could've done a lot with her. But I felt that at times her development was neglected in order to have the next exciting thing happen. She is a nice person and you want nice things to happen to her, but she suffers from the same ailment that many YA heroines suffer from. The author is so up-and-close with them that we know their every thought, every slightest ailment etc. without any actual development happening. As a consequence, they easily appear as whiny. The two men of the book, Prince Maxon and Aspen are clearly meant to be opposites and are meant to be as attractive as possible while still serving the narrative. As such, they're a bit flat and I didn't really find myself that attracted to either of them. To the idea they represented, sure.
I give this book...
There is a reason this novel was compared to 'The Bachelor'. Not only do they share a plot, they are also slightly addictive in the way that reality tv is. It's a bit of a train wreck at ties, while some aspects are quite fun. The Selection is predictable and follows its genre predecessors relatively closely. If you're looking for a simple, relatively girly read, then The Selection is the book for you.