Sunday, 15 July 2012

Review: The Selection by Keira Cass

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 the palace and compete for the heart of the 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.

After all the insane amounts of crazy that kicked up around authors and less than complementary reviews and BAD THINGS ALL ROUND, I very nearly didn’t read this book. Behaviour like that just makes me want to blacklist and ignore the pretty cover and not bother with the book at all.

But the pretty cover won out, as they are so often prone to do, and I put my preconceptions aside and gave The Selection a shot, and actually it was pretty good.

It was a fun and quick read, very little in the way of depth and some rather major flaws rattling around too, but at the same time I really enjoyed it. I became completely engrossed in the story and found myself desperately racing through the pages to see what happens – only to be greeted by one of the most frustrating ends to a book I’ve come across in some time, but more on that later.

Despite being set up as a dystopian post war story, the writing is never dark and focuses more on the girly pretty, cat fight and gorgeous dresses kind of side. Yes there’s hardship and poverty, but it takes a step back and puts the reader on the other side of the fence, the one we rarely see in dystopians.

I liked the characters, I did have some issues with development for Aspen and the love triangle in general, but I warmed to America quite quickly. She had a great clear voice that really drew me into the story and made me care what happened to her. She offered a slightly cynical and fresh view on the whole process, and I liked seeing how she worked and thought and dealt with things. The secondary characters were on the whole pretty good, although again they could have done with a little more development to make them stand out and really lift the book up, but it was great to see some of the personalities come through and the ways the girls interacted with each other and the constant one-up-manship of the competition.

I did feel as though it had been set up that a lot more of the competition would have been televised, it felt like it should have been something akin to big brother with the cameras so that the viewers really saw what was happening. As it was it was a couple of interviews and that was it, so I didn’t really feel that that aspect was thoroughly explored which was a bit disappointing, I think that could have been a lot of fun.

My biggest problem was the world building, or rather the distinct lack of it. Aside from the knowledge that there was a war and there are castes, the reader is never shown anything about the repercussions, we never learn more about the history or the rebels or how any of this was set up and the world survived. In fact if it wasn’t billed as a dystopian and you took out the brief reference to the war there would be absolutely no hint that it should be a dystopian novel.

This isn’t helped that due to the confined setting we see very little of the world outside the palace. I think that the hardships and struggles of some of the characters would have come across a little better if we’d had chance to see a bit more, and find out a little more about the world.

My other issue was the love triangle. So many love triangles try and fail to bring tension and believability to help it along, but sadly this one really missed the mark for me. I never warmed to Aspen, there’s a line between being proud and being a jerk, and I’m afraid that he fell into jerk territory for me. He is then absent for the majority of the book whilst America tries to get over him (and pretty much succeeds) and then he shows up being aggressive and territorial and jerky again, and he really just didn’t appeal.

I did however quite like Maxon, although it didn’t feel like we got to see enough of his character and to truly realise his potential. However I much preferred the relationship that built up between him and America – it felt natural and unforced – and I’m really looking forward to seeing how that progresses in the next book.

I like cliffhangers as much as the next person, they’re great to really leave the reader desperate for the next book, but this one kind of felt like a movie where you get to a moment and then the screen goes black and ‘to be continued’ comes up, and there’s no real reason for them to stop there other than they want you to come back and see what happens, and results in me getting overly frustrated with the whole thing. Sadly this was one of those endings. I didn’t feel like there was enough conflict or drama or resolution to justify that ending where it happened, so it felt like a little bit of a cop out, which was a shame. However I do really want to find out what happens so I will be getting hold of the next book despite my grumps with this one.

On the whole though I really enjoyed it. It wasn’t anything overblown or extravagant, nothing life changing or particularly deep, but I still liked it, I still rooted for the characters and I still want to know what happens next.


  1. I really liked this book but I totally agree with you about the ending. It just stopped dead and nothing at all was resolved, which really bugged me!
    Still, I enjoyed the book overall though and I'd still read the next one.
    Love your review!

  2. Hey Sally, thanks for the comment! I know! I get so frustrated when books don't have a 'real' ending! However my enjoyment does still outweigh the frustration. I just want the next book now!
    Thanks for reading!