This is a partial series review – I don’t usually do series reviews because I tend to read series across several weeks, and if I waited till the end I’d have forgotten my emotions at the beginning and would generalise. I will be honest and say The Selection by Keira Cass is not something I would normally pick up for myself – it’s the sort of high romance YA series I’d get for my younger sister. But the first three books in the series fit quite well into a review together, as I read them over three consecutive days and my emotions towards them differed very little from book one (The Selection) to book 2 (The Elite) and book 3 (The One). There are two more books, about a different generation of the same family that I do not intend to read.
Beware, there will be spoilers.
America Singer is a Five, a musician. She is secretly dating a Six, a friend from the caste below. When the letter arrives, America applies for The Selection – the competition held to find the newly-of-age Prince Maxon a bride. America doesn’t actually want to be a Princess, she wants to be Aspen’s wife, but he has trouble accepting she is of a higher caste, and scarpers just before the 35 Selection candidates are announced. America gets bumped up to Three, and becomes Lady America, a women after Prince Maxon’s heart. In her first few hours, America refuses to let them primp her all the way, asks for simple clothes, makes friends with her maids and tells Prince Maxon to stuff it and that she’s only here for the paycheck and the food. The next day, she “officially” meets Maxon, and tells him she wants to stay a while to provide money for her poor family, but she would rather be his friend than his wife. She makes friends with a girl named Marlee, and they hate Celeste (a model from Two with a superiority stick up her ass). Over the course of The Selection, the girls get whittled down to like, twenty-five, and find out that life at the palace involves rebel attacks and history lessons. And America realises that Maxon isn’t quite so bad a prospect as she first thought.
The Second book, The Elite, as the final six girls after a big attack on the palace. America’s ex-boyfriend Aspen turns up as a guard at the palace some time in the first book and she spends the entire book as a yo-yo between Maxon and a clingy regretful Aspen. It gets tedious. They have a Halloween Ball, Marlee gets unexpectedly and very publically eliminated, and they have to organise an even for the Italian Royal Family visiting. She ends up having an argument with Maxon at some point. It’s hard to tell where one book ends and the next begins – so in The One, there are four girls left, and America is jealous because Maxon is trying to make sure he has a second choice if America finally makes up her bloody mind and decides she can’t love him. Which is fair, Kriss seems nice. All the girls become best friends (even with the initially odious Celeste) and
I actually quite liked America, apart from the absolute tediousness of her inability to just make a goddam decision about Maxon or Aspen. I get it’s supposed to increase tension, but when she (predictably) decides, she doesn’t tell Aspen and just end the goddam game. That was so frustrating, because we could have saved a good few hundred pages if America had just told Aspen to sling his hook when he first arrived as her guard. I liked how (again, predictably) America tried to sabotage herself and ended up becoming the country favourite to become their princess, even if the King hated her. The ending is very convenient, but I did kind of like the drama involved. Aspen annoyed me because it was his own fault America left for the palace and he basically refused to take any sort of ownership and proceeded to try and win her back. Maxon was just trying to cover all bases and just seemed to upset everybody. There were a few of the other girls who were reasonably well characterised.
I didn’t like how they made picking the Prince a bride some sort of The Bachelor type situation with less sex going on – but I did like the rebels and working with the rebels to try and end The Selection, and odious, outdated and oppressive caste system. However, the fourth book in the series is about America and Maxon’s daughter holding her own Selection, twenty years later. I’m curious to find out if they actually made any of the societal changes they thought they would achieve, but they cant’ have succeeded too much because the Selection is still going ahead. But then, I didn’t really read this series for a dystopia fix it, it would have been an added bonus.
The thing is, I chose The Selection the other night because I needed a simple, easy romance novel that was entirely predictable. This series of 3 could probably have fitted nicely into one book, by missing out the reels and reels of indecisiveness about Aspen or Maxon (does it really count as a love triangle if one of the guys doesn’t know he’s in direct competition?). I read all three books over about ten hours, and it is hard to know where one ends and the next begins and America gets on her high horse a lot. I did enjoy the first one enough to buy two and three, but again it was just because I was quite happy to keep reading the really easy predictable romance and it was cheap on my kindle. My life hasn’t changed because I read it, and it was so painfully heteronormative – like, what would they do for a Selection in this country if their Prince(ess) was gay? Alas I will never know. But honestly, couldn’t two of the Selection girls have dropped out because the found the love of their lives with each other, not Maxon? instead of all the sobbing when he sends them home crownless.
Anyway, yeah, I needed an easy read, and I found one. Don’t expect anything world-altering, because it is prescriptive. It is your bog standard YA romance, with a love triangle and a stunning woman who doesn’t think she’s pretty or talented and has Morals and Opinions and people both love her and hate her. So, if that’s your jam, go crazy, there’s five books in the series and a few novella too.