Category & Genre: YA Dystopia
Summary: fast fiction, swoon-worthy.
I don’t typically go for this type of book. While it is categorized as dystopia and it does have some of the characteristics that would allow for such a classification, I would argue this book is more of a YA romance / fantasy book, complete with a love triangle and everything.
The marketing for this book describes it as a mix between “The Hunger Games” and “The Bachelor”, which is a disservice, because it’s nothing like The Hunger Games but better than the mind vacuum that is The Bachelor. And while the book isn’t perfect, it does make for an enjoyable and fast read.
That is why I have summarized the contents of this book as fast fiction, a term that I borrowed from the retail industry’s denomination of fast fashion. Like a piece of trendy clothing that wears out after a couple of months, this book is a piece of fiction that you pick up, read for entertainment, and then put away and basically forget. It’s not a classic, the story doesn’t have quite enough substance to re-visit ever again, but at the same time it fulfills the purpose of entertaining you for a given time.
There isn’t exactly a mysterious reason why this book appealed to me. It’s a princess story, and I’m a girl. And while I don’t really read romance as a genre, I am drawn to it whenever it does appear in any of the books I read.
America is a seventeen year-old girl who signs up for The Selection, making it into the group of 35 girls from every different social caste of the Kingdom who compete for the attention of the newly come-of-age Prince. Whoever wins get to marry the Prince and become the new Princess, and in the future, the Queen.
Book 1, The Selected, is engaging, even though America didn’t really feel like a fleshed-out character yet. Actually, none of them did. There were the typical stereotypes, i.e. best friend, mean girl, prince charming… and to round out the typical YA love triangle, there was also America’s sultry ex-boyfriend, whom she was still in love with despite having been dumped by him.
All in all, very standard and nothing I hadn’t read before. The worldbuilding was okay, but nothing truly spectacular. I had a hard time visualizing the Kingdom in which the characters lived in, seeing as there weren’t that many landscape descriptions. The descriptions of the palace were better. Also, the dystopic element was also slightly… off. It worked, I guess, in the sense that it fulfilled all the requirements to be considered dystopia, but it exacted great suspension of disbelief on my part, and I don’t like feeling like I need to excuse the lacks of a story in order to enjoy it. I can do it, especially with fast fiction, but I don’t like it. I want to be blown away by the worldbuilding, and frankly, this story’s worlbuilding was tepid.
However, Book 2 (The Elite) was much better. It’s actually the best book in the series. Here America starts feeling real, and even likeable. She rebels against the tyranny of the current King and doesn’t let anybody boss her around. The remaining contestants of The Selection also start displaying more personality traits. But there was too much telling and not enough showing regarding the other characters. The main character (MC) would describe another character as aloof, but there weren’t enough descriptions of this character’s aloofness beforehand, so the description felt forced, and sometimes details like these make the story feel like it was written lazily.
Book 3 (The One) was a satisfying conclusion to the whole series. But not a satisfying book in itself. Whole plot lines were opened up that had no conclusion (such as two of America’s maids having a crush on the same person). And also the ending felt contrived, too easy. The biggest obstacle in America’s romance with the Prince was the King and his dislike for her. The way this obstacle is removed at the end of the Series just felt too easy. Again, lazy. Emotionally it felt vapid, the way there isn’t enough grief, the way everything turns out great even though what happened should be considered a huge tragedy. Why should we go through the stress and excitement of witnessing how the MC who we care about has this huge obstacle in her life, only for it to be solved in a contrived and ‘deus ex machina‘ way? It’s a waste of the reader’s feelings, not to mention off-putting.
Despite all this, I still chose to give this series a 3/5 star review, if only for the fact that is knows how to appeal to the audience and the romance is genuinely touching at times. If you’re looking for a cute read that will at times make you swoon, this is it. If you’re looking for something deeper, something with more of a crunch, I may suggest you look elsewhere.
Disclaimer: Apparently there was some huge fuss over a negative review of this book written a couple years ago, where the author’s agent said some disrespectful things about the reviewer. Because of this, I would like to state that all my reviews are direct analyses of story, and of the craft of writing, and none of it should be taken as an insult or direct confrontation towards the author, whom I haven’t met and whom I wish nothing but success.
Until next time!