Author: Kiera Cass
Genre: Dystopian Chick Lit, Romance, YA
Publication Date: April 23, 2013 (HarperTeen – North America)
Source: Publisher-provided ARC
Summary: In America Singer’s world, a bride is chosen for the prince through an elaborate televised competition. In the second book of the Selection series, America is one of only six girls left in the running. But is it Prince Maxon—and life as the queen—she wants? Or is it Aspen, her first love?
☆: 3/5 stars – a solid follow-up to book one.
Review: If you’re hoping for a lot of action in this follow-up to “The Selection”, well, I’m afraid to say you’re going to be disappointed. Unfortunately, “The Elite” suffers from a moderate case of middle book syndrome, and feels very much like a placeholder until we get to book three. But there is a lot more worldbuilding that goes on, making this a pretty solid followup to book one. It may not be as exciting as book one, but we do get more information (and more hot love triangle action!) in “The Elite”.
Unfortunately, most of this book is spent with America trying to make a choice: Maxon and being a princess? Or Aspen and going home and being…well, poor? Seriously, guys, this is what about 2/3rds of this book is spent on, and it feels like such a waste. SUCH a waste. I was feeling pretty frustrated with America during all of this time with her almost terminal inability to choose. However, I understand why Cass did this – she was basically giving America options through each guy, revealing slow secrets about Maxon and the Illea monarchy and comparing it to simple Aspen and their life back home. On the spoiler front, I won’t give anything away, but like any good (dystopian) reality dating show, I can happily report that you guys can look forward to at least one catfight, a public punishment, rebel attacks, and some crazy tension between the potential in-laws. I may say “reality dating show” sarcastically, but that’s what it feels like. It’s a strange feeling, viewing this from at least post-two world wars in the future, and yet, one could say a piece of the core of American entertainment still remains with the practice of the Selection each generation. I don’t know whether that’s comforting, or disturbing, since I’m really not much of a reality TV fan.
However, I did really enjoy the worldbuilding that went on here. This is what saved this middle book (in my opinion), and actually made me want to go all in for book three. There’s a lot more backstory as to how the US became Illea, building upon the information we were given in book one about the Third and Fourth World Wars with China, resulting in Illea and New Asia. We get the story as we know it (and as disseminated by the Illea monarchy to the public), and then we get inside information, which kind of blows the lid off of everything – which I can honestly say that I loved. I love secrets like this in a dystopian book (even if it is dystopian chick lit/a guilty pleasure read), and it makes me want to know more. It’s a great hook to get me in for those subsequent books.
For all of America’s vacillating between both boys, we do get some character development. As we get more inside information into the Illea dynasty, we get America’s reaction to it, as well as all of the backlash that comes with it. Which, to be honest, made me like her a bit more. It also paves the way for some of the bigger reveals about the rebels’ plans, more on the rebels themselves, and the climax/resolution of this particular volume. While I still wanted a little more solid character building on the rebels, what I got was satisfactory. I honestly just wish that there’d been more time spent on worldbuilding/character building/backstory and less on ping-ponging back and forth between boys. I feel like there was a lot of potential there with all three of those aforementioned technical areas, and it just wasn’t used, or it was ignored in favor of the love triangle. Which really just lowered my enjoyment of the book.
We do get a little more character development on Maxon, but I still could have used more. And we definitely get more on his parents, which was a bit eye-opening (especially within the last fifty pages). So it’s not like there’s no development there, it just felt neglected, and there was so much there that could have been used to really amp up tensions even more, and keep interest more.
BUT, for all of my whining about it, I’m in for book three, if just to see how everything ends. “The Elite” is out from HarperTeen on April 23, 2013 in North America, so be sure to check it out when you get the chance!