Written by: Kiera Cass
Book #1 / 5 of The Selection series
Rating: 2 / 5 stars
Summary: The Selection began with thirty-five girls. Now with the group narrowed down to the six Elite, the competition to win Prince Maxon’s heart is fiercer than ever—and America is still struggling to decide where her heart truly lies. Is it with Maxon, who could make her life a fairy tale? Or with her first love, Aspen? America is desperate for more time. But the rest of the Elite know exactly what they want—and America’s chance to choose is about to slip away.
Favorite quote (mostly because it’s how I feel toward this series):
“It turns out I’m absolutely terrible at staying away from you. It’s a very serious problem.”
Review: Okay, y’all know how I feel about the first book (The Selection (#1) Review), and somehow, Cass’ writing has gotten worse in the second book of the series. Once again, I’m so disappointed by the idea of a Bachelorette-style competition deciding a queen in the layered society of Ilea has fallen so short of the possibilities and promises it could offer. I was waiting for some awesome revolution to happen (TBA, I’m hoping), or for the main character to be like Katniss (I know – the dreaded literary comparison), or for… LITERALLY ANYTHING to be worth my time reading this book. But, alas – it was not meant to be. Between watered down dialogue that spikes in expected places, completely unreliable and quite dislikable characters, and a complex plot line that fails to connect between chapters or to the reader’s interest, Cass has managed to produce another flop.
Trigger warning: this may offend people emotionally attached to this series, and especially to this other, but… Cass is one of the worst professional writers I’ve ever read. By “professional” I mean someone who is popularly published, and who is, in fact, managed by an editor. What frustrates me the most about her writing is that it seems lazy. If you look very, very, very, VERY deeply, you can tell Cass is not an idiot nor are her ideas, at the base, bad – but she needs someone, whether an editor other professional writer, to grab her by the shoulders, shake her, and then teach her how to properly connect and develop plot lines and characters. Then, that professional figure, whoever they may be, needs to throw a thesaurus at her, or an SAT vocab book or SOMETHING. One of my friends and I chose a chapter at random, and then counted in that chapter how many times she used second-grade level vocabulary such as “great”, “sad”, “amazing” – and it was far too many. I physically don’t understand how this book got through what I’m imagining as several layers of editors and publishers and whomever else and still was able to be published, seemingly without any edits to the original material. The plot is sloppy, weak, and honestly, quite petty and unrealistic, relating to the way that humans generally work. I have an easier time believing Mordor and Sauron exist than most of the goings-on in the Ilean universe. It’s not even like Cass is trying to be creative, which I guess I could appreciate – she’s taking a very basic trope and plot line and still fails to deliver.
Additionally, there is not a single character in this book that I actually enjoy besides maybe America’s three maids, but they are discussed in so little detail and used only to enhance the plot and make seem America more down-to-earth that I honestly like them less because of it. Characters in the first book that seemed promising – naive but sweet Maxon, the charitable and intelligent queen, and compassionate Marley – were either warped into hateful or arrogant creatures in America’s eyes, or almost entirely omitted from the story by Cass. If she is trying to get me to like any of her characters, she’s doing a horrible job, and not through her characterizations of them, but by twisting them to fit the plots she has in her head. Maxon is seen kissing America’s archenemy even when he promised her he wouldn’t, and shown to be *gasp* a real teenage boy after all, but it clashes with the moments America has thinking about how honorable and noble and intelligent and kind and blah-blah-blah Maxon is. The queen herself, previously cherished by America for also having humble origins from a lower sector, is seen as not standing up to her husband to fight for the rights of the lower sectors when she had a chance – and this is after America spent the entire first book using her as an example from which she hoped to set, should she become queen. Also, it is revealed that the founder of Ilea was actually a really horrible dude – even though Cass spoke volumes of praise about him in the first book. And please, don’t even get me started on the characters I already disliked – America, Aspen, the entirety of the Selection spare one. Kris, who seems to be America’s toughest competition throughout the book, is the only main-ish character in this entire book that I can even stomach. I’d say she was my vote for the final Selection, but I don’t want her stuck with Maxon, either.
*takes a deep breath*
Now that I’ve ranted all my emotions about my frustration regarding the book, I think it’s important to reiterate – I had high hopes for this book. High, high hopes. And I really hate bashing authors, because Lord knows I could never do what they do. But most of my frustrations can simply be blamed on America, because 95% of the time, when I hate the main character, everything else unravels for me. If America had been likable, or relatable, or even interesting in any manner, I’d probably enjoy this book a lot more and not want to scream out of annoyance when I read it. But naturally, because I’m a high Achiever (holla @ StrengthsQuest), I can’t leave this book series unfinished – and I have to see what asinine, arrogant, and airheaded thing America does next.