I don’t even know where to begin when it comes to talking about The Selection, The Elite and The One, the three novels that make up the first trilogy of The Selection series. I was hesitant to read it, simply because of my own preconceptions about these books, but I finally got around to binge reading them – and I don’t regret it. I’ll be the first to tell you that the writing in this series is not the greatest. But I’ll also be quick to add that, in spite of how I felt about the writing, I thought the overall plot was entertaining as hell. I couldn’t stop turning the pages once I’d started, no matter how frustrated I got (and believe it, I got very frustrated). It’s pure, unadulterated book crack, and I’m glad I finally gave it a shot.
These three novels tell the story of America Singer, an ordinary girl who lives with her large family, earns a living by performing and happens to be in love with a boy she’s known most of her life. Everything changes when she’s chosen to be a part of the Selection, a contest similar to the Bachelor where the crown prince is given the opportunity to choose his bride (and the country’s future queen) from a group of pre-selected girls that are brought to the palace. Before you dismiss this as being a hokey concept for a love story, let me tell you that there’s actually a lot more – a brewing rebellion in their country, America’s own journey towards understanding what she wants and what she’s capable of, and the rivalries and friendships among the girls in the competition. So yeah, it might be heavily focused on the romance, but there’s still a lot going on apart from that!
Anyway, let’s talk about the reasons I enjoyed this series:
- It was so damn entertaining. There was a lot of drama. There was a lot of angst. There was a lot of swoons. I mean, honestly, name the teen TV show trope and it was probably in this book. And yet, it was just so damn addicting to read. I was thoroughly intrigued by all the aspects of this world, by these characters (particularly two, but I’ll get to that in a moment) and by the uncertainty of what in the world the outcome of this saga would be.
- The swoons. Oh, hello, I’ll just be lying here on my swooning couch, getting all antsy and tingly and happy because of all these sweet, romantic swoony bits included in these books. I love when a book can make me intensely believe two characters belong together, and when I’m rewarded with some seriously sweet moments. (I’m just thinking about a few moments in The One particularly, and I’m dying of feelings, thank you very much.)
- The romance. It’s fairly obvious from the start that there’s a love triangle. While I didn’t necessarily love how America handles it, I did love that there was a logical reason for her to actually have feelings for both of these guys. It’s not easy to write a triangle that actually makes sense, but somehow, Kiera Cass had me believing in this triangle’s validity right from the start.
- The political aspect. I love that this is a major plot point in this series. It’s so interesting to read about the class issues and rebellions, and to try to figure out what the heck ought to be done in response. It’s a sticky situation (in this book and in real life) and it’s quite admirable to see how America and Maxon both choose to respond to what’s going on.
- America Singer. I’ll be the first to admit that our girl could get frustrating as hell at times. But when I really started thinking about it, I admired her a whole lot. It can’t have been easy to be thrust into a completely unfamiliar situation, nor is it easy to deal with the pressure of being watched at all times while you’re merely trying to figure things out for yourself. Her flaws made America feel even more relatable; her core qualities made her admirable. I was totally just rooting for her to stay true to who she was and stand up for herself!
- Maxon Schreave. Oh, you guys, I am so biased when it comes to this series, because I loved the crown prince from the very start. It’s a combination of his charm, mind and compassion that instantly made him attractive to me, and it doesn’t hurt that I imagine him to be incredibly good-looking. While he also does and says things that are extra frustrating, like America, I was willing to give him a little leeway considering all the pressure of his position in life. I wanted him to get all the good stuff he deserved, basically.
- The other characters – Aspen, America’s family, America’s maids, the girls of the Selection. While we really only glimpse these other people through America’s eyes, it was still really great that she had more than just her love interests to interact with. I liked seeing different sides of her personality show up depending on who she was with, and I also really liked that some of these characters get their very own stories too. (I’m particularly fond of her maids, who are an absolute delight to read about.)
And now, let me tell you what I didn’t particularly love about this series:
- The angst. Yes, I get that it was a natural part of this story (and I did mention it in the previous section), but man, there was a ton of teen angst in these books. I can manage some level of angst, but this was very nearly overkill for me. I seriously wanted to smack a ton of people for making dumb choices and doing stupid things, but hey, what can you do right? Everyone has to learn through their own experiences, as I kept reminding myself.
- The pacing. I think this series could have just been two books, or even maybe one really long book. It works as it is (note: I think the first book and second book end at just the right moments), but I also feel like if it had been shortened a little bit, it would have turned out fine as well. (There would have been less angst, for sure.) I also feel like there was a fair bit of uneven pacing (with lulls or skips, followed by lots and lots of action).
The truth is, while it’s not the greatest series I’ve ever read, I really enjoyed my experience reading The Selection, The Elite and The One. There might have been a ton of angst, and it could have been condensed into a shorter story, true. But honestly, I just had so much fun reading it! I was impressed by the fact that it was not just about the romance, that there was a love triangle I actually liked and that these books were so readable. If you’re thinking about giving this series a shot, you have my full endorsement that it’s well worth a read.
Series: The Selection #1-3
Publisher: Harper Teen | Publication Dates: April 14, 2012 / April 23, 2013 / May 6, 2014
Source: Hardcovers borrowed from the library