Release Date: April 24, 2012
Source: ARC from publisher for review
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.
This is one of my longer reviews, and I have some very mixed feelings about this novel, so I've split the review up on different aspects I wanted to point out!
To be honest, there's not much of a plot. I read one blurb that described The Selection as a cross between "The Bachelor" and The Hunger Games and I'd say that description pretty accurately sums up the book as a whole. I'm not an avid view of "The Bachelor" or any reality TV for that matter but I found The Selection entertaining. Like a TV show, the novel felt like an episode in a series; it's just a segment of what happens in the overall story. By the end I felt that the whole novel was a set up for what would happen next.
On Maxon and America; I wasn't really feeling that much chemistry between them. There were some sparks here and there but it seemed like they went through the mechanics of falling in love but the natural attraction and chemistry just wasn't really there--maybe this will change in the sequel(s).
The beginning of the novel had a very Twilight feel to it; America absolutely and unconditionally adored her boyfriend Aspen and was constantly praising him. His looks were described quite a few times and America fawned over him. The same features were described over and over again and nothing but Aspen's looks and supposed virtues were spoken of by America. It got rather tiresome but thankfully that bit mellowed out a bit by the time America arrived at the palace. It just wasn't a very dynamic relationship between the two and to me, it felt like they should be together more because they had already been together for two years rather than they should be together because they complement each other and are good for each other.
I'm a dystopian junkie so I was disappointed with how little the caste system in The Selection was developed and described--I would have loved to learn more about the system and the different castes! If there was more world building I think I would have liked the novel a whole lot more!
Not all the characters were well developed though the author does try for a few of them, including America, Maxon, and Marlee. I definitely would’ve liked to know more about the other characters, especially the royal family and the other girls in the Selection and I would’ve loved to learn more about their stories! But since there wasn’t that much development for the other girls, it felt like they were fillers and most of them fell into a typical stock character; the mean one, the ambitious one, the one who will marry for position and wealth (and not necessarily for love), the shy one, the power-hungry one, etc.
I feel like I should make a note about the names; the names aren't conventional, I mean, the main character's name is America! There are also characters named Tiny, Tuesday, Kamber, Gavril, among others. It took some getting used to but I suppose it grew on me a bit, after all, the world they live in has changed significantly from ours (there's been a Third World War since our time to theirs!). I will say that America's last name, Singer, did not grow on me--it wasn't exactly creative (I'm sure you can guess what one of American's main talents was).
I didn't find the writing all that great. It was rather inconsistent; some descriptions were more flowing but then there were some that spawned a few unintended snickers and others that were so basic I'm sure a grade-school student could had thought of them. The vocabulary wasn't that expansive and seemed quite rudimentary. The Selection just did not have the flow nor the polish that many other YA books exhibit, though I understand that this the author's debut novel, so hopefully it can only get better from here!
I know overall this review isn't the most flattering I've written for a book but I will say one thing: it was an entertaining novel to me. There are definitely parts I did not like but there were also parts I did like. It's not as creative as I thought it would be, plot and device-wise; for instance, the interview scenes reminded me very strongly of the interview scenes in The Hunger Games. Yes, I'm very mixed over The Selection. No, it is not the most creative YA novel I've ever read and it's definitely not the best dystopian novel I've ever read, but it is also not, by far, the worse YA novel I've ever read. It was a very promising premise and the author went with it, but unfortunately, it didn't meet my expectations and was disappointing in spite of all it's potential.
Yet, despite the reservations I have, I, for one, am looking forward to finding out what happens next in the sequel! (Does this mean I would like reality TV? The characters in this novel didn't seem as blatantly catty as a lot of those girls on the reality TV do, though.) I do hope the writing improves though!
Overall: 2.75 out of 5
Plot: 2.5 stars
Characters: 3 stars
Writing: 2.75 stars
Cover: 4.5 stars (definitely an eye-catching cover!)