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 a palace and compete for the heart of 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.
The Selection is utterly ridiculous.
Though this book is commonly classified as ‘dystopian’ (and it is probably regarded as such because there really isn’t any word for ‘alternate, restructured society written without critical societal analysis’), it is as dystopian as my right pinky finger (which is, not at all). Second, the plot and its developments have as much emotional depth as a reality television show. And yet, after months of thinking, I will hold my head high and unashamedly admit that I actually enjoyed this book.
I expect this will be the most confusing review I’ll probably ever write.
There is no denying that there is plenty wrong with this book. The ‘history’ is nothing short of appalling. The worldbuilding is a recipe for disaster: an absurd class system, rebel forces fighting for who know’s what, and a very convenient monarchy. There is no cultural analysis, no political analysis, no social analysis — or any sort of analysis, even though the story has so much potential for them. Here’s the thing though: The Selection isn’t any of those things because it isn’t trying to be those things. Is that a bad thing? Possibly; it depends how you look at it. If you’re looking for critical analysis, drop that copy of The Selection right now and revisit The Handmaid’s Tale or Nineteen Eighty Four. If not, allow me to explain why I enjoyed The Selection despite.
To an extent, The Selection isn’t trying to pass itself off as a subversive, gritty dystopia/utopia. It is, however, predominantly a fluffy story with fluffy dresses and a fluffy romance. What you see is what you get: a girl who gets chosen for the Selection and is trying to navigate the petty dramas therein. Perhaps she finds love, perhaps she finds friends, perhaps she learns something about herself. There are snippets of dialogue, particularly among the protagonist’s poor family who are of a low caste, that try and hint to the tribulations of the downtrodden, but really, the attempts for any sort of socio-political discourse on classism and economic inequality are so halfhearted that they are easy to dismiss and forget. And perhaps that’s why I liked it: it was so ridiculous and inane that I could not take it seriously.
And now I come to America Singer’s defense – flawed she may be, but she is sixteen years old, a teenage girl who probably hasn’t figured herself out yet. In a way, America was like sixteen-year-old-me: trying to be ‘me’ (whatever that was) by going through a process of attitude/beliefs by trial and error, is easily affected by the things around her, and is trying not to get swept away by the romance and drama but is being hopelessly swept away anyway. America isn’t perfect at all, but she is compassionate, optimistic, and honest. It’s unfortunate that America’s character development serves the thinly veiled girl-girl competition fraught in this book, particularly with the ‘I’m not like those other (preppy) girls’ trope. The relationships are laughable – in a sardonic way – and the love triangle in this takes the cake as the most contrived I have ever read.
The Selection is everything I dislike in a book wrapped into one: a joke of a ‘dystopia’, a story that makes no sense, a cheap love triangle, and utterly halfhearted in everything it does. (Did I mention that it was wrapped in a jewel encrusted bow?) However, if you are willing to set aside your critical lens and you are looking for something unapologetically silly, light, and entertaining with dresses, petty dramas and contrived romances, then The Selection is not a terrible choice. It’s a fun book that is purely escapist material. Sure, there are better places, better worlds to escape to, but at the time of reading, it was perfect for me. I was emotionally drained from work and life, and this inane story helped me wind down. Maybe if I had read it at a different time, I would have torn it to shreds but, alas, such are the wonders of reading.
So there it is: The Selection may not be a good book, but heck, I had a lot of fun reading it.
Book Name: The Selection
Book Series: The Selection #1
Author: Kiera Cass
I know the rating seems low even though I enjoyed it – but as a lover of dystopian novels, on principle I couldn’t rate it any higher. BUT I ENJOYED IT. My feelings for this book are confusing. Also, as a note, I am so happy with my book art for this! (I love sparkle and flowers.)
- Have you read The Selection, and if so do you like it? Does the series get better with each book?
- Do you have books that you *know* aren’t good but ‘WHO CARES they’re fun’?