Tuesday, 14 August 2012

YA Book Review: 'The Selection' by Kiera Cass

The Selection
by Kiera Cass

Published: April 24th, 2012
Publisher: Harper Teen
Format: E-Book
Pages: 327

Cover Art

This is the kind of cover that I know is just not aimed at me. I am an illustrations, oldy-worldy, bold prints and bright colours kinda gal. This is a pretty girl in a dress with a tiara. It is good at what it does, and it is very well put together, and definitely suits the book so I actually think it does a very good job. I reckon the cover is what has sold this book to many people.

Plot Synopsis

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 the palace and compete for the heart of the 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.

My Rating:
First Line:
'' When we got the letter in the post, my mother was ecstatic. " 
Pocket-Size Review
I have a confession to make: I did not hate this book. I KNOW RIGHT!? 

Highs: This book is unintentionally hilarious; I found myself giggling away every other page! It is pure trash and utterly predictable but in a charmingly deluded way!
Lows: The bits that tried to make the book serious, such as terrorism threats and the like, are ridiculous. NO-ONE'S BUYING THIS AS A SERIOUS BOOK CASS, ALRIGHT!? Quit wit da frontin.


Can I just put a disclaimer on this review before I begin: I know all about Kiera Cass and 'the event'. I even blogged about it in my 'Authors Behaving Badly' series. I don't condone what she did, but I also don't take authors/ agents having a tantrum too seriously either. I have received strange emails and comments because of my 'Authors Behaving Badly' posts and I always take it with a pinch of salt. The situation with Cass and her publicist didn't stop me from reading this book and it didn't influence my judgement of the book or my review in any way.

That is not to say that I enjoyed this book. It is probably the most shallow book I have ever read. However, it is still readable and I had no trouble finishing it. It was just rather icky. 

Firstly, the main character. Whose name is America Singer. Hmm. She is an all American kinda girl who sings for a living. WHO SAID CHARACTER NAMES HAVE TO BE SUBTLE!? When one of the other characters asks her why she has such a ridiculous name (they may say it a little more politely) the explanation is, 

'While my mom was pregnant with me, I kicked a lot. She said she had a fighter on her hands, so she named me after the country that fought so hard to keep this land together.' 
Bleuurghh. Cheesy and kinda insulting to the rest of the world. Anyway, you do quickly get used to a name when it written over and over again, so it was only a slight annoyance for me. What I couldn't get used to was her personality. She is just a mean girl. A MEAN GIRL. Who pretends she isn't. She is basically 'Cady' (Lindsay Lohan's character) in 'Mean Girls'.

She's the kind of girl who thinks that she is better than everyone else and that everything she does is beyond reproach. It's funny, because Cass tries to make the reader believe that America is a shy, unassuming, modest girl when everything she does in the novel is the complete opposite! Look at all this completely genuine modesty;

"Of course he would love America! She's so beautiful," Mom swooned. 
"Please, Mom. If anything, I'm average'
And this:

"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.
"I can't help it. You're the most beautiful thing I've ever seen."

This book would have been a whole lot better if America didn't have this fake, false modesty thing going on. If people have been telling you your whole life how beautiful you are, and all the other characters are pointing it out constantly, it just feels like she's fishing for compliments when she's like 'I'm not pretty...oh please don't call me gorgeous I'm so sick of people noticing how fucking sexy I am. Oh PLEASE darling, stop going on about how beautiful I am it's getting tiresome now.' It was beyond irritating.

Not only can America not take a compliment, she also comes across as really bitchy and judgmental! In an attempt by the author to make America look intelligent and un-shallow she has her say,

'The idea of being entered into a contest for the whole country to watch as this stuck-up little wimp picked the most gorgeous and shallow one of the bunch to be the silent, pretty face that stood beside him on TV...it was enough to make me scream. Could anything be more humiliating?' 
This quote just really annoyed me, not just for it's melodrama and bitchiness, but also because it doesn't even make much sense. The whole country loves the current queen, who was picked via The Selection years before. She is not a silent, pretty face sitting beside the King so why would America think she would have to be? And why is the Prince a stuck-up little wimp? She knows nothing about him and hasn't even met him and nothing he has done in the past has shown him to be that way. UNFOUNDED.

However, although America's opinions and nasty comments often have either no foundation or very shaky foundations, somehow she is always proven correct about the people she despises upon first meeting. I HATE IT when this happens in books, where we are just told by the main character or author that we need to hate a character, rather than by making us hate them through their actions. She takes an instant dislike to one of the girls, who hasn't done anything at all at this point, and lo and behold this is the girl who later starts sabotaging other girls and generally 'storming' around and glaring and everybody for no apparent reason. America is so perfect that she can't even misjudge anybody. Except perhaps the Prince but then she never really admits that. Rather, she is credited with making him a better man and showing him the way. 

The love triangle in this book is so cheesy that I found it absolutely hilarious. Aspen is cast as the childhood sweetheart who America has managed to keep secret for over 2 years. Wait....what? Yes, that's right, for two years she has been sneaking off with Aspen to a tree house in her garden at night and nobody has ever caught them or suspected. Nobody has ever heard a creaky floorboard or hushed voices coming from the garden. Anyway, putting that minor niggle aside, at the beginning of the book all America wants is to be Aspen's wife. When his trousers are ripped she thinks,
'If only I could sit and patch them up for him. That was my great ambition. Not to be Illea's princess. To be Aspen's.'
Personally, I find it difficult to like a main character who claims that their great ambition is to marry someone and do their sewing. Oh, and cooking, 
"You're going to make someone very fat and happy one day," he said, his mouth full with a bite of apple.
"I'm going to make you fat and happy. You know that."
It is ALL she wants to be,
"Fine," I whispered. "I'll do it. But know now that I don't want to be some princess. All I want is to be your wife."
As someone who has never felt the urge to get married and become somebody's wife, I find all this pretty hard to relate to. When girls say that all they want to do is be a housewife and be answerable to a man something inside me just stirs and makes me want to say, 'But...but...independence? Doing things on your own and not having to rely on somebody else for everything you need?' It is personal preference but it still can't help but irritate me. And America and Aspen are all about traditional gender roles. He is the tough, alpha male, provider and he can't stand it when he feels the roles are becoming reversed,
"America, I'm supposed to be providing for you. It's humiliating for me to come here and have you do all this for me...I'm not some charity case, America, I'm a man. I'm supposed to be a provider."

Despite all of the gushing America does about her love for Aspen and how she is his princess already blah blah blah, you can tell that really she would love to be rich and famous and live in a palace. She has doubts right at the beginning of the book,
'If I had to choose between sleeping in a palace with people waiting on me or the three-room apartment with Aspen's family, which one did I really want.'
These doubts never go away, which is why the ridiculous love triangle occurs. Maxon the Prince is presented in opposition to Aspen's alpha male character, as posh, weak and wimpy,
'Maxon was so stiff and quiet. It was hard to imagine anyone being happy with such a wimp.'
Maxon likes America despite the fact she tells him she is in love with someone else, knees him in the crotch because she thinks he is trying to molest her, and on their very first meeting yells at him about being weak and posh and wimpy despite not knowing anything about him. It is the cringiest scene I have ever read in a book EVER, which, again, makes it pretty unintentionally hilarious.

This review is getting too long so I'm just going to quickly sum up everything else that was wrong with this book. 

1.) No sex before marriage is apparently a brilliant idea, and everybody abides by it,
'I was disgusted, revolted. The law, Illean law, was that you were to wait until marriage. It was an effective way of keeping diseases at bay, and it helped keep the castes intact.'
So, according to America having sex before marriage is disgusting and revolting. Oh, and before you go into The Selection you have to state how virginal you are. Non virgins are too soiled for this Prince. 

2.) World building. There was none. Apparently, America has been taken over by China and is called something like, 'The American State of China'. No explanation except during a flimsy history lesson which tells us absolutely nothing. And there are terrorists attacking the castle...for some reason? It is all very silly and farcical and Cass isn't fooling anyone that this is anything other than a very shallow, silly book.

3.) The other characters. We didn't get to know any of the other girls in The Selection process, so when they got kicked off it didn't even matter. I didn't even recognise half the names. Why couldn't we have a few back stories? All the girls are the same; they are silly and all they want to be is a princess. Give these girls backbones and we would have had a much more readable novel on our hands.

Overall, this book was RIDICULOUSLY contrived, shallow and silly. Which made it inadvertanetly hilarious and I was giggling away with incredulity for most of the story. It is awful but I will be reading the sequel and I am only a tiny bit ashamed.

Other Thoughts

This Book has Inspired me to Read: Good books.

Memorable Quote:

"America, I'm supposed to be providing for you. It's humiliating for me to come here and have you do all this for me...I'm not some charity case, America, I'm a man. I'm supposed to be a provider."

Three Words to Describe this Book: Vapid, Self-Indulgent, Hilarious.

But Don't Take My Word For It: 
  • Blog Reviews of 'The Selection': 

'I really enjoyed The Selection. America is a good-hearted heroine who goes into the Selection with a set agenda. Of course, things change as America's plan unravels. It's not all froth.'

Lit Nerd says:

'Overall, this novel is a poorly written romance that masquerades as a dystopian novel.'


  1. WOW!
    This was a great review... though I did enjoy the Selection. I thought it was a fast and easy read. And wasnt horrible.

    That being said, your review was still good and I can appreciate a difference in opinion.
    I didnt think it was the BEST book ever... but it was still enjoyable for me.

    anyways... I AM interested in the post about authors behaving badly... and that Cass was in it. SO... Im off to read that :)

  2. Well, that was a… interesting review. Personally I did not think the book was that bad, however I do agree that it was not very indulging and in some parts predictable. So in response to your nice review:
    1.)No sex before marriage. Perhaps the King and Queen just wanted to be sure their future daughter in law, and Princess of Illea, was not a slut but in their eyes ‘mortally clean’, because you must not have realized the book is futuristic but meant to be ‘old fashioned’.
    2.)World Building. The world building was simply the Castle because it was where the rulers of Illea were. So, yes former America was taken over by China after becoming poor and then taken out of China’s hands by the man that the girls learned about in their brief history class who made the country Illea.
    3.)The other selected. All there is to say about this is that the story was about America, not the other girls, and the important ones that were mentioned were explained by Cass.

    ~ Also,. The fact that Aspen was a jerk was the point that Cass wanted us to realize but her character America did not see.
    ~ America wasn’t a self-indulgent brat, she was just humble and I think you may have taken that the wrong way
    ~ America saw Prince Maxton at first as a wimp because she didn’t know him or ever been told otherwise, although I appreciate your opinion there (if it were in different words maybe more).
    ~ Some people actually want to get married to the person they love, though I see that you wouldn’t understand since you said you’ve never felt that way.
    * I think I’ve covered everything, hope you don’t take this the wrong way.

  3. This book has me after only a very few pages in and it hasn't slowed down yet. I can't wait to get to the next book. The author has done a great job on developing these characters with such a strong female lead.

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