Author: Kiera Cass
Genre: YA, Dystopian Chick Lit
Release Date: April 2012 (expected)
Summary: 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.
☆: 4/5 – dystopian chick lit? it’s possible. and actually pretty good.
Review: Behold, children! A new sub-genre (or is it sub-sub-genre?) is born! Dystopian chick lit. I never thought I’d see the day where two very opposite genres teamed up within one book to become on new genre. Aside from the real life drama that went on around this book (I won’t be talking about that in this review), I was quite happy to get a copy as an ARC from HarperTeen. The blurb hooked me, and then the cover pulled me in even further (I won’t deny that I’m a sucker for pretty covers). The story, however, is quite good, though I felt there were some issues that needed to be fixed further (I’ll go into that later) but if you’re a fan of reality television, you’re going to love this book. Think “The Bachelor” in a post-America ravaged by war, returning to the monarchy style of government. Sounds good? You bet it is.
Now, usually, I’m not really a fan of reality television (there are exceptions, though, and I will admit that I enjoy watching “The Bachelor” on occasion if just to see the girls cry), so at first the idea of a post-American “Bachelor”-esque story kind of turned me off. But then I thought about the implications – this is a post-America, after all, and how would things be different? So I dove in, not really sure what to expect. I will admit that while this is DEFINITELY nowhere near “The Hunger Games” in intensity and fabulousness, I can see why the comparison has been made (“The Bachelor” meets “The Hunger Games”) – in that a girl volunteers herself in a government-supported “game” with serious consequences. It’s a fair comparison in that area.
Then there’s a dispute about whether or not this society that Cass has created is truly a dystopia – it is a monarchy with a caste system, and of course, the lower you get in the caste system, the worse you’re treated by society. But throughout the book, aside from the lower castes getting treated badly and really trying to make ends meet in order to survive, I didn’t see any blatant dystopian tropes that we’ve come to expect from that genre like secret police, moral police, dictators, and the like. The chance to participate in The Selection is not a requirement from the government like becoming a tribute is in “The Hunger Games”, so you can easily not send in the paperwork to get in for the running to be one of the 35 girls as Selections and not be hunted down by the government. As this is the first book in a series, it was quite interesting that Cass made this an optional event, seemingly extended to all of the castes except 8 (the lowest and technically, “non-people”). The government seems to give a more or less equal opportunity nearly all of the castes that are in the Selected age range. I don’t know where she’s going with this, but I’m hoping future books will shed more light on this process. Nonetheless, I’m loving this world, and I definitely want to know and see more of it.
However, I will say that the worldbuilding definitely needed some work in the areas of time and place. We know we’re in a future (post)America/North America, and we know that there have been two more world wars, at least one of which has been with China. Canada is also gone, but Illea and New Asia are in its place. Between World Wars 3 and 4, there was a Chinese American Republic (or something close to that) but it failed, leading up to WWIV. This is good back story, as well as how Illea came to be as a country. Cass definitely has the backstory area covered and covered well, except for the reason for the need of “castes”. This part she never explained (or if she did, I missed it), and I wish she had. Hopefully, this will be a topic that will be expanded upon in future books.
And then there’s the kind-of love triangle between Aspen, the Prince, and America – which I actually didn’t mind, because of what happens with the actual Selection process, leaving home, and getting to know the Prince. It’s nice that there was no insta-romance with the prince, but with Aspen, we’re not given too much backstory there, and it honestly felt like two kids just being in love in order to flaunt the rules of “you don’t marry down your caste” and/or “you don’t marry for love”. We’re given such a thin backstory between these two characters that Aspen just feels like The Nice Guy who’s putting his all into making ends meet for his family and is really attractive. He felt like a much weaker Peeta from “Hunger Games” – much, much weaker. I hope that Cass also goes into more detail about this in future books. What I did like was the slow getting to knowing of the Prince, and how natural that felt even in a race like the actual process of the Selection itself. It felt comfortable, and I kind of sank right into it.
One last thing – I saw a lot of the Palace through Cass’ use of sensory/descriptive language, but I didn’t see or feel or hear much else. I wanted to know more about home, how the Tree House smelled, how the streets smelled, whether it was hot or cold, and so forth. I wanted to know more than just life in the Palace as a Selected and I felt that there could have been another draft in those areas to help enhance the book. When Cass wants to use her sensory language skills, she does it well, and we got most of that after America’s gotten to the Palace (especially in the battle scenes).
Otherwise, as a book, this is a really fun ride. You see America starting to change as a person, becoming more of herself, and that’s really fun.I’d call this book a guilty pleasure since I’m REALLY not into chick lit, but I had a ton of fun with this book. Congrats to the author for getting a pilot pick up by the CW (my ultimate in guilty pleasures when it comes to TV networks) – hopefully they’ll do a good job adapting the show to the small screen. While this isn’t on my best of 2012 list, I think that it’s still worth the read, if just for the guilty pleasure factor.