The Selection and The Elite by Kiera Cass
Although this was a book that sounded so cheesy I avoided it as long as possible, it quite surprised me when I finally read it. Briefly, it’s the slightly dystopian story of America Singer who live in a future USA which has very distinct classes or castes, each with its own privileges, or lack there of. America’s family are artists and Five’s on a scale where Ones are Royalty and Eights are practically slaves. The Singer family can barely make ends meet, but all that changes when America is randomly selected to be one of the 35 girls chosen to compete for Prince Maxon’s heart. (Some people have called this book a cross between Hunger Games and the reality show the Bachelor!) Although “Mer” has been in love with her neighbor Aspen for almost two years, he insists that she go compete, at least for the extra money being one of the candidates will bring her family. Then, he dumps her, saying their romance will never work since he is a caste below her. So off she goes with 34 other young women to compete for the heart of man she finds stiff and snobbish, while being broken-hearted over Aspen’s shocking break-up.
The book was surprisingly engaging. I found the main characters to be well-drawn, with lots of intrigue and drama moving the plot along briskly. Even though there is a major cliff-hanger ending, I think readers who like romance or are looking for a light read might enjoy spending time with America. Hardcore dystopia fans could be disappointed, but could find the book takes then off guard like it did me.
This second part of the Selection series will be sure to please even the most casual fan of the first title. As in the first book, girls from around the Illean kingdom are still competing for Prince Maxim’s hand and heart, but now it has been narrowed down the the final six, the Elite. America is still narrating the story and is as confused as ever about her own allegiances. While she has been swept away by all the attention from the crown Prince Maxon, she knows she still has feelings for the childhood sweetheart Aspen, who is now a guard in the king’s palace. In addition to this, rebels are threatening to take over the kingdom and violently break into the palace. The Northern rebels make off with books during their brief occupations, and Southern ones leave threatening graffiti in the castle corridors. While the plot again relies on the intrigue, cat fights and back-stabbing among the Elite, author Cass leaves the end wide open for the next installment.
I thought this book was a lot of fun, but then I like reality TV, too. I would recommend this to readers looking for a quick, engaging read, romance and fantasy fans, and readers who enjoyed the first book in the series.