Deborah: I decided to read this book because Kaite included it in her “Best of 2012” list. An appealing princess-y premise and a single recommendation is all I need to start a new book.
Kaite: And since we have both recently read this novel, a joint review is in order! I am pretty surprised at how different our opinions are of this one though. But let’s explain the premise first.
Deborah: The story is simple. It follows America Singer, a simple teenager who gets herself involved in a competition against 34 other girls to win the heart of their nation’s prince, Maxon, and therefore the crown. It’s set in a vague future era sometime after the fourth world war, and after what (I presume) used to be the United States was split into a caste system. It’s simple enough: royalty are Ones, celebrities and rich people are Twos and Threes, Fours are middle class, and everyone below that is the scum of the earth. Naturally, America is a Five, low enough on the scale to grant her the sympathy vote, but not so low that she’s reviled, like those poor, drifting wanderers the Eights.
Kaite: Of course America is the reluctant heroine with an established love interest at home, but if this competition will help her family out, she is ready for the sacrifice of beautiful clothes, amazing food, and a once in a lifetime opportunity. She lets an understanding Maxon know of her lack of interest early on, but as they become friendly to one another, well, things will get a bit more complicated.
Deborah: I’m surprised I finished this book. Well, sort of. Once I’d gotten past a certain amount of pages I was hooked on the outcome, needing to know how things settled up. Imagine my surprise when I realized it’s a cliffhanger ending! Ugh. Adding to my chagrin is my conviction that this has to be one of the worst-written stories ever. I sometimes felt as if they published Cass’ first draft of a novel she wrote in one night. Or worse, that it was like something I would have written at age sixteen – which is embarrassing. The dialogue was clunky; I never understood the motivations behind America’s actions; there was not one funny character (even though Cass obviously tried very hard).
I also need to mention that this plot has been done before, and it was done better. Shannon Hale’s Princess Academy, while intended for younger audiences, had a lot more to offer think-wise – without scrimping on the catty drama that would come from this type of competition. Elements of The Selection also seemed borrowed from other influences: the caste system and re-imagined North America was a little Hunger Games-y, and overall it was like an other-worldly season of reality TV’s The Bachelor. In summation: I enjoyed the premise, but it didn’t offer me anything new. If it had been amazingly-written, that might be okay, but it wasn’t, so it’s not.
Kaite: Though it has been a few months since I read this book, I don’t recall hating the writing that much. I can usually overlook these shortcomings, as annoying and distracting as they can be, and something about this fairy tale-like story gripped me and I could not put it down. This book has everything a Young Adult book ever really needs: divisive ranking, a pretty solid love triangle and lack of parental guidance. Though the level of writing was a turn-off, I will freely admit I’m pretty easy in that department. Give me a good plot and I’m in for the ride. In a perfect world somebody like J.K Rowling would take the essence of this story and do something amazing with it, but, unfortunately, this is not yet in my power. Unlike you, I still prefer this story to Princess Academy. If I had read that book growing up my opinion would probably be different, but as it is intended for a younger audience, it left me wanting something more. Something that The Selection was able to fulfill, which I suppose would be more romance. So though there were definitely parts I could have done without, this was a story I really enjoyed. Now I’m hooked and I’ve marked April 23rd down on the calender in anticipation of the release of the sequel, The Elite.
Deborah: I’m undecided about reading the sequel! I really want to know what happens, but I’m not sure if I can take it any more. That said, if they one day decide to do a movie adaptation (and I am 99% sure someone will), I’ll probably be a sucker and go see it. I feel a lot of this book lends itself to a sleepover-friendly rom-com. Who would you cast, Kaite?
Kaite: Well I hadn’t really thought about it, but with a glance at the awesome cover for the book I would go with Sophie Turner who plays Sansa on HBO’s Game of Thrones. They look so similar that actually might be her on the cover!
Well that’s it for now, but for any who have read this one or would be interested in doing so, please chime in.