Monday, August 12, 2013

Arty -- The Selection by Kiera Cass

Friends, readers, countrymen - I bring you a YA dystopian romance that doesn't completely suck.

I know, I know, le gasp.  This is not to say "GO OUT AND BUY THE SELECTION RIGHT NOW CUZ AWESOME!!!1!!" YMMV and I recommend a library read before committing.


Have a Goodreads summary:

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.

I don't actually know what's up with that last paragraph, because... there's nothing much like that in the book at all.  Maybe it's a series overview, I dunno.  But it makes America sound all dramatic when she's such a down-to-earth kind of person.

America is what made the book for me, mostly.  She has her Weepy Sensitive Heroine moments, and she can jump to some pretty drastic conclusions without a lot of evidence, but for the most part, she's a really friendly girl.  Her character is pretty consistent, and along with lovely consistency is likeableness.  It's really pretty dang fantastic.  The only thing that annoyed me was the constant "Oh boohoo I'm not pretty" when basically everyone else told her she was - why that needs to be a thing, I have no idea.

Also, MAXON.  Maxon is a sweetheart.  I don't think Cass was really comfortable writing him at first - he came on kind of stiff, and not just the kind of stiff she was going for - but as it went on, he became a teddy bear.  Impulsive and naive, but a teddy bear.  And, before the inevitable Love Triangle of Wangst broke in, he and America had the most. adorable. friendship.  YOU MEAN BOYS CAN BE FRIENDS WITH GIRLS WITHOUT THERE BEING ROMANTIC INTEREST AT FIRST SIGHT?

(We don't talk about Aspen.  Aspen is a testosterone-fueled child who needs to grow up a few years before getting into a serious romantic relationship.  Go away, Aspen, no one likes you.)

Plotwise, the Selection competition - thirty-five girls being gradually whittled away until Maxon chooses his bride - isn't as fierce as the blurb makes it out to be.  Only a few of the girls turn out to be conniving witches; it's even mentioned, a couple times at least, that the majority of the girls are close and don't want to intentionally sabotage the others' chances.  I liked that, since most YA likes to depict large crowds of girls evil queen bees with a few honored exceptions (aka, the protag and her one/two friends).  Maybe it made the plot less intense, but it was unexpected and there wasn't an overload of the author trying to come up with a load of different ways to tell us "MOST OF THESE GIRLS ARE EVIL."

The rebellion groups - nice, realistic touch, there being more than one rebellion group - weren't very intimidating except for one scene, mostly because the worldbuilding in The Selection is the very weakest part of this book. (It tends to be, I've noticed, in most new YA dystopian romance.)  There is the mystery of one group (I can't remember whether it was the Southern or the Northern group) trying to get inside the castle to steal something, but it was hardly a major plot point.

I can't talk about this book without going into massive hysteria about the last chapter, which should be entitled "In Which America does what Every Female in the Typical YA Love Triangle should Do but usually Doesn't."  No spoilers other than that, but it just made me really, really happy and put me firmly in the court of Team America.

Weak and cheesy writing - on an infrequent but consistent basis.  Not really that much conflict - yes.  Almost total lack of worldbuilding - yeah.  However, The Selection has a great MC, a great prince/friend/love interest, and genuine hope for an even more awesome sequel.  Definitely a recommend!

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