Goodreads: The Selection
Series: The Selection #1
America Singer has her life planned out: she will marry her first love, Aspen, and the two will work together as Sixes, servants, to raise their family. But then America is chosen for the Selection, the television competition in which Prince Maxon will pick his future bride. Now she must decide between two men and two castes. If she chooses to compete again thirty-four other women, she has the chance of a lifetime, to become a One and change the corrupted politics of her war-torn nation.
My feelings about The Selection are pretty mixed and fluctuated rapidly during my reading of the novel. Until about page 100, I was tempted to DNF and understood why many readers have. The writing, to put it not so politely, is painful. The sentences are short and choppy and an inordinate amount of them being with “and.” Their content does not fare much better, as they contain protagonist America’s flighty and often selfish thoughts. In my notes, I pegged America in the first several chapters as “whiny” and “prone to panicking over nothing.” Although my assessment of her character does not change completely now that I have finished the book (and also the sequel The Elite), she does improve. After page 100, she begins to mature a little and even the prose reflects that. I was ultimately able to enjoy the novel as something of a guilty pleasure, crooning as America does over the luxurious lifestyles of the Ones and swooning a bit over guys.
And make no mistake: the dresses and the guys are what these books are all about. Marketing has pegged the series as a mix of romance and dystopia, but unless one is willing to call a society dystopian based primarily on the existence of a caste system, there is not much to panic about in The Selection. Yes, things are bad: people are poorly paid and often starving, social mobility is close to impossible, rebels keep attacking the palace, and a war has been raging internationally forever. The thing is, however, no one seems too worried. If the characters themselves seem to accept this all as a fact of life, are not too concerned about the draft or the rebels or their chances of dying, I find no reason I, outside the world entirely, should be. America and all her friends (enemies? frenemies?) in the Selection are all having catfights over who has the best dress and who most often makes out with the prince. The focus on them and their shallow concerns makes it difficult to believe the country has real problems. (It is possible this is intentional, that the Ones are attempting to distract the masses from their problems by offering
bread and circuses, but this possibility does not get played up.)
America’s biggest problem, of course, is supposedly which guy to choose. Her options are friend and longtime boyfriend Aspen, whom she was prepared to marry just days before being chosen for the Selection, and Prince Maxon, whom of course she has never met before the competition. A reader might suspect Aspen has the advantage in this little love triangle, but the reader would be wrong. Aspen barely makes an appearance after the beginning of the book and America spends her days fighting thirty-four other women for Maxon’s affections. This does not, however, stop America from believing Aspen is a factor, and apparently she is going to spend three books changing her mind every few chapters about which boy she loves, with no apparent provocation swaying her one way or the other. America is nothing if not a bit flighty. While I found her antics and concerns amusing and even bordering on interesting in The Selection, I began to tire of them in The Elite.
Is it even worth America agonizing over the decision? It is difficult to say. Aspen seems like a solid guy and America spends a lot of time outlining how much he cares for his family, how dependable he is, how smart he is. The reader, however, might also take note that he is proud and potentially sexist. He is ready to break up with America at the first sign she is providing for him, instead of letting him provide for her. Maxon is more of an enigma, unfolding as the book progresses. He creepily refers to everyone as “dear” and, of course, sees no problem in dating dozens of girls at the same time, but he does have some good qualities, including kindness and honesty. At the end of The Selection, I am Team Neither of Them But Leaning Towards Aspen, but that could change as the series progresses.
Despite the negative tone of this review, I am continuing the series. As mentioned above, I have already read The Elite at the time I am writing this. The Selection has a number of faults, which become more obvious the more I think about the book. It turns out it is remarkably easy to make fun of the writing, the plot, the characters…everything. However, if a reader is in the right mood, looking to settle down to a bit of fluffy reading about girls in ball gowns gossiping about guys, The Selection can be a lot of fun. I would not actually recommend this to anyone I know to read because I have a large mental list of better books to recommend, but I will not refrain from admitting I got a bit of enjoyment out of it.
Content Note: Minor swearing. Oblique references to sex.