Kiki's Reviews > The Selection

The Selection by Kiera Cass
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This book is like those little sachets of Nutella you get as free samples with like a magazine or a packet of Ritz or something, in that it's empty calories lite but seriously delicious. It's really small and really bad for you and not really that satisfying but shit if you don't enjoy it. Because, no matter how superior you think your tastes are, you will enjoy this. Even just on a voyeuristic level. You just have to forget all of the stuff you know. Like, all of it. Forget what you learned in civics class and don't you dare remember even one page of that history textbook that your teacher shoved under your nose when you were eleven. Don't untangle those headphones; don't try to line up the yellow smarties. This book is a house of cards. Really cool to look at, but totally flimsy.

(And the controversy is such a shame. It's a shame that the creative minds behind this lovably fluffy duck-down are the sort to hurl expletives at honest, non-inflammatory reviewers via Twitter, which is literally the weakest way to attack someone, because were your reasons so flimsy that they wouldn't fill out more than 140 characters? Come on.)

Personal shitstorms aside, this book has about as much class and substance as its creators, but that's isn't to say that it didn't nicely pad out a two-hour train journey from Dundee to Glasgow. That commute, especially on a Friday lunchtime, is a snore. Add that to a tiny waif of a story with all of the addictive allure of crack and you've got two covers that you can turn in one single sitting.

I'm not going to lie to you and say that I didn't have preconceived notions about this one; I mean, come on. The social drama was embarrassing. Add that to a name like "America Singer" and you've got a character I'm expecting to hate. But the thing was that I totally didn't.

I have a bit of a problem with those who expect teen girls in YA books to behave like street-smart successful thirty-year-olds with enough life experience to be able to judge any situation with a clinical and businesslike edge. I know I wasn't like that when I was sixteen, and neither were you. When I was sixteen I fell in love with a supply teacher and thought that having chipped nail polish made me look edgy.

America is kind of like me. She's probably kind of like you, too. She's over-dramatic and foolishly optimistic and she gets swept up by a single kind action from a cute boy. So what? She's a teenage girl. She's also careful, restrained and compassionate. She doesn't swallow bullshit like it's Orange Julius. She's believable. I'm not usually a huge fan of the whole "I'm special because I'm plain" which this whole book does use as a giant smoke screen for its sexism: there's the inevitable conversation in which someone says that big groups of girls always means there's snarky bitching and tons of competition, which doesn't hang together at all if you look at what is perpetuating this competition. Cass gives us commentary on girls and their competitiveness without actually tackling the reasoning behind that, which is of course a society whose foundations rely on a lack of camaraderie between women and this idea that in terms of relationships, men come first.

Who is funding, perpetuating, and benefitting from the Selection? Maxon, who will gain a wife, and the king, who will solidify his dynasty. The queen is merely there for decoration; she says and does nothing of import. This book, had it not been the Nutella free sample of dystopia in which there's no greater peril than running out of bow tie pasta and having to resort to lasagne sheets, could have been a fantastic allegory for the way in which women compete and are punished for it, when in fact it is men and male benefactors specifically who both incite and perpetuate said competition. We are supposed to hate Celeste because she's our stereotypical heartless mean girl - and YA caters only to the insecurities of those who are visually plain, placing girls who wear lipstick into a terribly unflattering light and only exacerbating "types of girls" - when in fact Celeste and her desperation to climb the social ladder is a blinding example of what this patriarchal power imbalance between men and women has created in Cass's world. That is, the idea that male acceptance and male pleasure has infinitely greater value than that of women. This idea that men and romance comes first, and female friendships threaten that, and get her! Tackle her! Don't let that *hussy* steal your man! He's all that gives you value, remember?

Calling out "all my friends are guys, there's less drama because girls are bitches" gives me immense satisfaction. When I hear that self-important special snowflake shit it makes me want to hurl. Is that any way to speak about your fellow woman? Do you understand the waves that women can make when they work together?

This book is nowhere near as bad in this area as it could have been - but we weren't spared disapproving glances at Bariel's breasts or the constant commentary on Celeste and her ridiculously exaggerated competitive antics. Do me a favour and spare me another wasted concept, because there's no peril to this, and because there's no peril, the story has no weight. None of these girls are being forced to do this. There's monetary gain involved but America's family are not exactly begging for scraps, are they? Why on earth we're watching a middle-class girl agonize so deeply over a silly competition that she chose to enter is beyond me. What's further beyond me is the whole caste system, and why it's even in place, and why this book is a dystopia. This could have been a four-star read for me had it been set in a high fantasy world, maybe in a kingdom called Candy Land where everything was frivolous and silly with an undercurrent of darkness and social instability.

But let's look at the technicalities of this. We have a competition with no negative outcomes that everyone adores except the faceless "rebels" who lack any real presence and who are portrayed as nasty barbarians when in fact what they're rebelling against is fat cats sitting in a palace eating fruitcake while children in the lower castes starve. The prince for whom they're competing is hot and charming and sweet. Goddamn, nothing about this is dystopian. You might look at the poverty pointedly but is the poverty ever explored in any meaningful way? Is there ever any real commentary attached to it? No.

Jesus, just add some fucking peril to your dystopia. "But it's light and fluffy! It's not meant to be serious!" you say. Newsflash: dystopia is a really goddamn serious genre. Dystopia is a genre that is built around social commentary. Don't you dare come in and fluff up a genre that was created as a platform for authors to offer creative, intelligent critique and discourse on some of the most controversial and powerful social issues in the real world. Dystopia is a gift; dystopian stories can make us better people. This is not a dystopia. It is just silly.

Honestly? This book could have been so much more. It could have been powerful and groundbreaking. It's not like the writing was anything special (in some places, it's just plain bad. This book is filled with some of the most unnatural and stilted dialogue I have ever read) or that any of the characters, even those I liked (Maxon was an unexpected favourite of mine, even if he is a two-faced spineless dingbat), grabbed my attention enough to make me give a crap. It's just one big pile of wasted potential. And I am so suspicious of authors who say that they "write without agenda" because one cannot claim to do impossible things. Every single piece of writing in existence has agenda, big or small, powerful or menial. Don't say that you just wanted to write a little light-hearted dystopia that nobody should take too much to heart. Don't. Don't do that. Don't do what Lauren DeStefano did when she wrote about rape and polygamy and forced marriage and sex with thirteen year olds and then claimed that there was no social commentary behind it, and that she wasn't trying to say anything with her writing. The fuck?

Don't fuck with really serious issues and then try to wriggle out of readers' concern or curiosity by claiming that you "didn't mean anything by it". That's lazy and also sort of insulting.

All of that said, don't be too surprised by my three-star rating. I'm sorry, but I couldn't award less to a book that engrossed me so, and that was such guilty fun. I was absolutely hypnotized.
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Reading Progress

May 12, 2012 – Shelved
May 12, 2012 – Shelved as: ethically-questionable
May 12, 2012 – Shelved as: ya
August 9, 2012 – Shelved as: books-to-use-as-weapons
August 9, 2012 – Shelved as: dystopian
August 9, 2012 – Shelved as: whiter-than-white-bread
April 22, 2015 – Started Reading
Finished Reading
April 25, 2015 – Shelved as: lolwut
April 25, 2015 – Shelved as: will-read-the-next-one
April 25, 2015 – Shelved as: wash-your-mouth-out-with-soap
May 15, 2015 – Shelved as: i-hate-that-i-love-you

Comments Showing 1-50 of 109 (109 new)

message 1: by [deleted user] (new)

Woot!! What will we call it? The Twitter To-do, the Tweeting Tussle, the Twit Tiff, the Social Media Scrimmage?

message 2: by [deleted user] (new)

Why only Bell? Why can't Rogers join in? *Hates Rogers with a burning passion*

Christina (A Reader of Fictions) Twittopia. Tweetocracy!

Natverse Are we sure this will not extend past Twitter and into other forums, author blogs and online news journals (Huffington Post, The Guardian, etc.)? It could be WWWW3: World Wide Web War 3.

Perhaps your personal twitterfeed will end up being collected into "The Tweets of a Young Woman".

message 5: by Kiki (last edited May 12, 2012 09:34PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Kiki Mocha ღ Latte wrote: "Why only Bell? Why can't Rogers join in? *Hates Rogers with a burning passion*"

I hate Rogers too. You're right; they're awful. Let's throw Rogers in there too. *eyes of rage*

Experiment BL626 There's also Twittercide.
Twittercide [twit-er-sahyd]: the killing of one human being by another while the victim is in the act of tweeting.
Social Suicide

Natverse Experiment BL626 wrote: "There's also Twittercide.Twittercide [twit-er-sahyd]: the killing of one human being by another while the victim is in the act of tweeting.
— Social Suicide "

What if you're a serial Twittercidal maniac?

message 8: by Lisa (new) - added it

Lisa I like all these comments.

message 9: by [deleted user] (new)

BWAHAHAHA! That's hilarious, but entirely because it's true.

message 10: by Giselle (last edited May 30, 2012 12:47PM) (new)

Giselle Ugh I totally agree! It's why I never got really interested in this book. Then the whole drama Wendy had to go through with this author's agent (they never learn, huh!?).

message 11: by [deleted user] (new)

Kira wrote: "Mocha ღ Latte wrote: "Why only Bell? Why can't Rogers join in? *Hates Rogers with a burning passion*"

I hate Rogers too. You're right; they're awful. Let's throw Rogers in there too. *eyes of rage*"


Hana❦Joy wrote: "BWAHAHAHA! That's hilarious, but entirely because it's true."

Shh! No cupcakes for you! *takes cupcakes away*

Experiment BL626 wrote: "There's also Twittercide.Twittercide [twit-er-sahyd]: the killing of one human being by another while the victim is in the act of tweeting.
— Social Suicide "

Gah! You just reminded me that I still haven't read Social Suicide yet!

Victoria Re: the monarchy, true dat, Kira. The age of absolutism died with the Russian czars.

I'm not going to lie, though. This book is great for cocktail party conversation. I always tell people, "DO YOU WANT TO HEAR ABOUT THE WORST BOOK I'VE EVER READ?" And then I summarize the plot/worldbuilding, and there is general hilarity, and everyone asks for more liquor, because that's the kind of book it is.

This replaces my previous favorite cocktail party topic of conversation, which was Worst High School English Teacher Ever.

Amelia This is so true. Kings and Queens and Princes have no power really in today's world.

message 14: by Rinoa (new)

Rinoa Heartilly Pfft. Who cares about logic when you can have, like, fancy dresses and titles and stuff?

message 15: by Kiki (new) - rated it 3 stars

Kiki Rinoa wrote: "Pfft. Who cares about logic when you can have, like, fancy dresses and titles and stuff?"

I know. Funny, dat. Looking at the covers for recent YA dystopian releases, it seems the only thing that ever survives the apocalypse is hair product and colored taffeta.

message 16: by Rinoa (new)

Rinoa Heartilly You forgot the insta-love. That shit will live through anything if recent successfull YA authors are any indication. x.x

Nobonita - The Bengali Nomad Nice Review!I totally agree with twitter being the cause of WW3.What about Facebook?Maybe that's why my mom doesn't let me use any other social networking sites instead of goodreads.Or maybe not.....

message 18: by [deleted user] (new)

When are you you going to read 50 Shades Of Shit????

message 19: by Kiki (new) - rated it 3 stars

Kiki Bo wrote: "When are you you going to read 50 Shades Of Shit????"

Lol, I'm psyching myself up for it, Bo! But soon...

Mel (who is deeply in love with herself) Kira wrote: "Skyla, I'm glad you enjoyed my review! What's important to note, though, is that Kate really isn't a commoner. She comes from a family of huge wealth and privilege. She and William met at St. Andre..."

Yes, exactly.

message 21: by Kiki (new) - rated it 3 stars

Kiki "the Scandinavian countries become Sweddway or something like that."


Amelia When I got to the photo, I literally fell out of my chair laughing.
I'm so glad I didn't buy this when I could've.

message 23: by Kiki (new) - rated it 3 stars

Kiki Aelia wrote: "When I got to the photo, I literally fell out of my chair laughing.
I'm so glad I didn't buy this when I could've."

OMG, I almost bought it too. I was brainwashed by the cover. But I did a Mamo-chan and snapped out of it before I ended up gutting my wallet.

Aarone You should have put a McKayla Maroney unimpressed meme in this review, lol!

Elizabeth(The Book Whisperer) Well I guess I will remove this from my to read list

Despair Speaking *looks at money in hand to buy The Selection and slowly puts it away* I guess I should look for another book then. I'll read it if my friend buys it which I think she would since she likes stuff like this. There are a lot of other interesting books left. Maybe I should buy The Mysterious Benedict Series or something...

Serina ROLF!!! omg yall had me laughing so hard esp at part when ur like woe is me i only can have one glass of tea!

message 28: by Angel (new)

Angel I'm going to listen to your review. Ive learned the hard way of not noticing all the bad reviews of a book, and then reading it anyways (Beta - Rachael Cohn = WORSE BOOK EVER!). Thank you for letting me, and other readers, know how terrible this book is. The cover looks great, but I won't let that trick me :)

message 29: by [deleted user] (new)

Angelee wrote: "The cover looks great, but I won't let that trick me :) "

It's a trap!!

message 30: by Becky (new) - rated it 1 star

Becky Ha. I made the mistake of picking this book up after all (what was I thinking? I'd been away from GR for too long!) and it was just as awful as everybody said it was. I wish I'd remembered the behavior of the author before I read it, but oh well.

I'm with you, America's poverty didn't actually seem all that terrible. I mean, they didn't have any food for seconds?! Sure, that sucks, but there are families without any food at all. I had a hard time feeling like it was really necessary for America's family to pimp her out when they had a roof over their head and food on the table.

message 31: by Erin (new)

Erin Please, please read and review The Elite! I can't bring myself to read these books but I love good reviews of bad books!!

Allison While I did enjoy the book, I found the review insanely funny and much more entertaining.

message 33: by Polly (new) - rated it 1 star

Polly Roth I've got to say...ur review was WAY more entertaining than the book itself! And the book was like 250 pages!

message 34: by Efil (new)

Efil THANK YOU!!!! Your review just kept me from making one of the BIGGEST mistakes of my life (apparently). I admit I'm a sucker for cover art so I was going to read this book but when I saw the names (AMERICA SINGER??!! Really?) I decided to investigate. Thank GOD I did!

Becca Really? You're comparing this to a book written by Hitler?

message 36: by [deleted user] (new)

Becca wrote: "Really? You're comparing this to a book written by Hitler?"

And you are yet again trolling another review of The Selection. Wander off now.

message 37: by Laura (new)

Laura Imma let you finish, but "so-boring-i-ate-my-own-face" is my favourite bookshelf of ALL TIME

message 38: by Kiki (new) - rated it 3 stars

Kiki Becca wrote: "Really? You're comparing this to a book written by Hitler?"

Your point being?


message 39: by [deleted user] (new)

Becca wrote: "Really? You're comparing this to a book written by Hitler?"

Nah. She just hid this sentence inside her review in the hopes that a brilliant, extraordinary intellect would come over, dig it out and question it to show the rest of us simpletons how it's done.
Congratulations, Beccs, you're officially the brainiest person in this thread.

Aarone Im confused. Was the rating for this book always 4.10 stars... or did it suddenly rise up within the past week??

message 41: by Kiki (new) - rated it 3 stars

Kiki I don't remember it being that high, Aarone. You're rightfully suspicious.

Honestly, with the author and agent's past behavior, everything surrounding this book is suspicious to me.

message 42: by Sarah (new)

Sarah I rejectedit just because it was a gendered cover.

message 43: by Annwyn (new) - added it

Annwyn Powah to you gurl!

Dionetta Your review is blatantly true, with that touch of humour sarcasm. Well done i say

Adrienne Brilliant just brilliant! Honesty Finally!

Ryanne Amen.

message 47: by Zero vi Britannia (last edited Feb 14, 2014 07:56AM) (new) - added it

Zero vi Britannia ...they forgot what poverty is...they were preparing chicken and pasta for dinner, and iced tea. With LEMON.

Maybe it was one of those 5 for 19.95 packs of chicken and the dollar store pasta...probably not. Nothing but the best for our heroine.
And she has her own room. Does the book mention government aid or stuff like that?

message 48: by Anne (new) - rated it 5 stars

Anne Charming @Zero. It's stated that she had shared a room previosuly with May. So I assume that the older sister had that room previously

message 49: by Charity (new)

Charity Readsalot what happened with the agent? I'm confused...

message 50: by [deleted user] (new)

I honestly respect you for giving your opinion, but I disagree with it. I love the way Cass writes, so the plot may not be the best, but the writing.......

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