The Selection by Kiera Cass, paperback, 336 pages, published by HarperCollins Children’s Books in 2012.
In a post-apocalyptic world, the land that was North America is now a Monarchy. The King and Queen rule over a rigid caste system, where ‘ones’ are royalty and ‘eights’ are the homeless and vagrants. Each caste has its own place in society, and moving between classes usually only occurs through marriage. America and her family are ‘fives’, making a paltry living through the arts. She is desperately in love with Aspen, who is a ‘six’. Meanwhile, Crown Prince Maxon comes of age and needs to find a wife, kicking off “The Selection”, where a girl from each province is selected to compete for the Prince’s hand. America is chosen, and moves to the palace with the other selected girls, leaving part of her heart behind. She may find refuge, friends, and even love in the palace, but she may also find friction and danger.
To be honest, I wasn’t sure this would be my sort of book. There had been a lot of hype over the series though, so I decided to see for myself. I was pleasantly surprised, and powered through the whole book over the weekend. And now I want to read the rest of the series.
The Selection is a light and entertaining read. I found it good bedtime reading. The plot is fairly simple, and easy to follow, without too many surprises. It made me think of a TV show I’ve seen advertised, The Bachelor. Finding love through reality television seems unlikely, and I have never felt the desire to watch shows like that, but I actually enjoyed reading Prince Maxon’s version. It probably had a lot to do with the characters, which I quite liked, despite being somewhat predictable.
America has character. She’s a bit fiery, had a desire to be non-conformist and frank; in fact she came across as rather rude sometimes, and doesn’t make friends easily. However, she’s still playing the game, no matter what she claims to feel about it. Aspen was harder to get my head around, he was more complex and darker than America. Handsome, of course, proud, and a little broken by his station in life. It will be interesting to see how his character develops in the next book.
Every time Prince Maxon said “My dear”, an image of a grey-haired, bespectacled man wearing a maroon cardigan with a rumpled dress shirt underneath, came to mind. I’m not sure that was the image the Prince was really going for! He is meant to be young, strong, handsome, but once that image popped into my head, it stayed there. He has been thrust into a position of power and must bear it the best he can, seeming brittle and strong on the outside, while really being rather shy and inexperienced at life. Since he doesn’t get out of the palace much, it’s not such a surprise.
The Selection is suitable for high school students. I will be reading the second book in the series, The Elite, to see how things progress.