Rach's Reviews > The Selection

The Selection by Kiera Cass
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's review
Sep 12, 12

really liked it
bookshelves: after-the-end-of-the-world, 2012, goodreads-choice-finalists
Read from September 11 to 12, 2012

Why do I keep on torturing myself like this, reading the first book of a trilogy when I know I'll have to wait years for the story to be finished? Why, Internet? Once again, I've finished a book and still desperately want to know what will happen to these characters that I've grown to love.

The core of this story is a love triangle (as it often is) and the main question seems to be whether America will choose the love and life she always wanted and expected with Aspen, or will she choose to challenge herself by becoming more than what she ever could have anticipated by choosing a politically powerful and dangerous life and love with Maxon. That's not to imply that choosing a life with Aspen is not without danger, especially at this point. If their relationship should come to light, they would both be charged with treason and likely killed. Even if that never happens, Aspen is a soldier for the next four years and could die at any time. And even if that never comes to pass, America has had her heart broken by Aspen once before; who's to say he won't do it again?

--Side note: I cannot stand the name America. Even if it is no longer the name of their country, it's not even close to being an appropriate name for a person or a character. Aspen is pretty terrible, too, but seriously, America is the worst.--

The other identifying element to this story is its similarity to reality shows like The Bachelor. There's something that always seems a little false about shows like that, because they exist on the surface as a vehicle for someone to find love, while the real purpose is for a production company to create an entertaining tv show. The Selection's goals are also multi-layered. For one, the prince really does need to find a wife, and if you can invest the whole country in his search for her and his courting of her, then they are happier and more united. Of course, the process isn't nearly as democratically random as it appears at first. Though the girls are supposedly chosen by a drawing, the fact that pictures are sent with their applications is a clear indication that someone is handpicking the candidates. Also, none of the girls come from a caste below 5, which is a statistical improbability. In the end, we also find out that several of the girls are excellent matches for Maxon that might have been made if his parents and government were arranging his marriage for political gain. In the end, Maxon can choose who he wants, but not without "consulting the producers," Bachelor style.

The caste system is an interesting one that developed after the reconstruction of the former Americas post world war 4. Apparently, those that had skills that were "of use" to the government were giving a higher caste with more privilege, and once the castes were initially assigned, there were few ways to move up in the world. Though she loves that her caste allows her to play music, America and her family have suffered quite a bit as 5s, sometimes starving, barely making a living wage. And the fact that she fell in love with Aspen, a servant 6 who can barely support his mom and 6 younger siblings, makes life really challenging. Maxon had no idea how the lower castes lived, but once America explained some of it to him, he stepped up and did something to help.

The other stressor in this book is the constant threat of attacks from numerous rebel groups, none of which can be appeased. In the next several books, that tension if going to have to explode in some way.

A quick word here on America's boys. Maxon really is a sweet, caring, kind, funny guy. He never pressures America, and just enjoys spending what time he can with her. He is earnest and honest and doesn't hide how he feels. He works hard, is fair, and is going to be an excellent king someday. Maxon and America have some great moments together. I love that he made her tell the story of their first meeting to a live television audience. I also love their sweet first kiss, after America succeeded in wiping the awkward one from their memory. I love how excited Maxon was to be near her, and I love seeing America start to open her heart up to him little by little. Aspen, on the other hand, seems a little too aware of his own situation, and a little too careless about America's feelings. Having too much pride, or having someone do something just so you'll feel better -- neither of those are good things. And though Aspen can be sweet with America, he's also extremely selfish by pushing his love back on her at the palace, when he knows the dangers. Interestingly enough, I liked both boys throughout most of the book, and it wasn't until the last bit, and while I wrote this review, that I realized I'm definitely Team Maxon!

So, since it's going to be ages until the next book comes out, here is a reminder of how things were left. (view spoiler)

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