I spent yesterday reading the entire Selection trilogy by Kiera Cass. I started and I had to know what happened so I ended up going through all of them. In a day. That’s not compulsive reading, it’s curiosity!
Anyway I loved these books in a way I have yet to love other dystopian trilogies, so I felt compelled to share them with you so you may grow to love them as I have.
Obviously they take place in the future, after the United States of America goes bankrupt. It is taken over by China and then General Illea starts an uprising, overthrowing the Chinese, and instituting a monarchy. Illea is king, naturally. He creates a caste system based on how much money you have. The royals are Ones, the richest people are Twos, and so on down to Eights. Your caste determined what job you performed. Now, years later, the royals are King Charleston, Queen Amberly, and Prince Maxon. Maxon is finally of age to marry and so The Selection begins.
The Selection is the “random” process to help the prince secure a Daughter of Illea, or woman of the common people. Girls from all over the nation apply and then 34 are selected “randomly” from the group. From there it’s basically the bachelor, only instead of some lame guy, you get a prince! WOOT!
America, a Five (Fives are artists, musicians, etc), has no desire to enter the Selection. She’s happy with her music, her family, and her secret love, Aspen. However, he convinces her to enter and she’s shocked when she gets picked. The night before the Lottery, Aspen, a Six (Sixes are servants), breaks up with her because he’s convinced he can’t give her what she needs.
She leaves to go to the palace with a broken heart and a determination to stay there as long as it takes to get over her love. She has her first encounter with Maxon and is completely honest with him. She tells him she’s getting over someone, but that she’d be his friend and steer him in the right direction with the girls. Rebels are constantly attacking the palace, unhappy with the current government and America learns a lot of what her country has been hiding.
Some of the girls are great, some are complete witches, but they all assume that America is in the game, same as they are. It’s a deadly game to play for someone’s heart. And it gets more complicated when Aspen is drafted and sent to the palace as a guard.
So the premise is a bit cheesy, but I loved it anyway. I liked the friendship between Maxon and America and how you can tell that he likes her right off. It takes her a little longer to warm up to him, but she likes him eventually too, and their relationship is one of my favorite things. They fight all the time. They actually get angry at each other and it’s refreshing.
Tris and Four didn’t argue much, at least not in Divergent. And neither did Katniss and Peeta in The Hunger Games (at least not that I can remember). But America and Maxon go at it, primarily because she doesn’t want to be anyone but herself and a lot of times that means ignoring the royal code. She stands up for the Sixes, particularly her maids, and she isn’t afraid to make a scene. Maxon, on the other hand, has been raised to be royal and knows that hiding your feelings can be just as important as showing them. So they butt heads constantly. He promises to keep her until the Elite (the last five) and is true to his word.
In the second book, The Elite, you get to know the five girls better and the pull between Maxon and America grows stronger. She wants him to hold off because she isn’t sure if she wants him or Aspen. It’s a little irritating. In the final book, The One, Maxon gets fed up with her and starts taking his other options seriously. I really liked that he wasn’t just sitting around waiting for her like Jacob from Twilight or Peeta. He isn’t a fop. He decided to play the field a little, which is a normal reaction when the person you want to be with can’t commit.
I like America. It surprised me a bit, because she can be full of angst, and I hate that in a heroine. However, she discards it quickly, or takes responsibility for what she’s done and moves on. She knows that it’s more important to be in the moment than to anguish over what happened. She does cry a lot. But I think it’s a purging for her. She’s cries about it and pushes past it. It’s good.
Celeste was probably my favorite character, even from the start. She was malicious, but you knew there was a marshmallow somewhere under her crusty exterior and in the third book, you find it. She was dynamic and I liked that.
Really, all the characters changed in someway, even the background ones that are typically static. I like that Ms. Cass was clearly so enveloped in the world that everyone was affected by what was going on. It was good writing and character development and it surprised me in a YA novel.
A couple of things that annoyed me…Maxon is always called Maxon. No one ever shortens his name to Max. Or calls him some endearing pet name. He calls everyone “my dear” except America who gets annoyed when he does. (It should be noted that he gets away with calling her “darling.”) I just stopped reading the “on” of his name and shortened it to Max in my head.
By biggest annoyance came at the end, so a bit of a spoiler alert. (IF YOU DON’T WANT TO KNOW SKIP THIS PARAGRAPH) Maxon eventually finds out about Aspen. He’s her guard and is always around and in the last book they are saying goodbye when Maxon is outside the door. He gets super nasty, which is a typical reaction and tells her that she’s not going to be the princess because he’s tired of her breaking his heart. Again normal. But the turn-around happens so fast. They get attacked and he has a near death experience and suddenly everything’s roses. I’m not saying near-death experiences can’t be life changing and have that affect, but I’m not sure there would be no hard feelings or problems they would need to talk through. It’s just over and they’re happy. It was a bit forced for a couple who argues so much.
Overall, the series was great. I enjoyed it immensely and I kind of want another book to tell us about their life after they get married. That would be nice. There is a novella about Maxon’s life pre-Selection, The Prince, and one from Aspen’s POV after America makes it into the Elite, The Guard. I’m excited to read both.
So go read the series. Right now. GO!