Wednesday, July 29, 2015

The Selection Series - Kiera Cass

The Selection
Title: The Selection, The Elite, The One
Author: Kiera Cass
Publication Date: 4/24/12 - 4/23/13 - 5/6/14
Pages: 336 / 336 / 323
Date Completed: 6/28/15 - 7/10/15 - 7/12/15

Summary: The Bachelor meets The Hunger Games in this dystopian romance. America Singer (yes, that's really the protagonist's name) finds herself headed to the palace of Illéa to compete for Prince Maxon's hand in marriage. Politics, princess lessons, rebel attacks, and general mean girl antics ensue as the contestants battle it out for Maxon's heart and an escape from the lower social castes into which they were born.

What I Thought: I read this entire series over the course of a couple of weeks courtesy of my library's digital copy, which lumps all three novels into one download. Honestly, I am so glad I ended up reading them this way because, in retrospect, the segmentation of the novels would have irked me immensely. The series is really one whole story broken into three parts, rather than three stories which compliment each other.

The Elite
I have to give Cass props for combining some of the most popular pop culture trends of the moment: mass dating, dystopian societies, commoners becoming princesses......all present and accounted for. I really cannot think of a better way to describe this series than I did in the summary. Girls are selected from throughout the kingdom - a realm I gathered to include present-day North and Central America, if not South America as well - and brought to the palace to compete for the heart of the eligible heir to the throne. Along the way, girls are eliminated - albeit without the regularity or structure present on the hit TV show - until the field is narrowed to two, one of whom gets engaged to Prince Maxon. Sound familiar? 

The biggest downfall of the series is, without a doubt, the protagonist. Which, really is not a good downfall to have, if you are going to have one. America is fickle and pretty annoying at times. I realize she is a teenager and many of her emotions and actions can be attributed to that emotionally tumultuous time of life. Still, when you read a series, you hope to enjoy the main character.

The One
Another disappointing aspect was Cass's endeavor to write male dialogue. This failing is a particularly pet peeve of Kevin's which has made me hyper aware of it in the past few years. So often, male writers struggle to find a convincing voice for their female characters and vice versa. Cass falls victim to this. The men and boys in her books just do not have that air of authenticity in their words; they do not necessarily say anything wrong so much as not right. It's one of those writing qualities that you notice when it is missing, but not when it is done well. I noticed it here, so that is a bad sign.

I will say, there were several moments where I was practically shouting at The Hunger Games parallels. I mean, come on; this line could be about Katniss: "For all the planning I was doing to get you to show the people who you are, it turns out you just do it on an impulse." Didn't Haymitch or Plutarch say basically exactly that in Mockingjay? And the moment when the selected girls reach over and hold each other's hands on national television? SO reminiscent of the moment between victors in Catching Fire. I suppose none of this is inherrently bad. After all, so much of literature consists of the recycling and repurposing of ideas. Still...maybe Cass could have stretched her originality a bit farther in those moments. Of course, for all I know, she is as much of a Suzanne Collins fan as I am and did it completely subconsciously, in which case I should pass no judgement. I imagine some Hunger Games themes and moments will appear accidentally in my future writings. 

The books really are fun, despite some aspects which could have benefitted from more polishing or stronger writing. Cass's attempts to interject some intensity and danger come across a little forced, though they do add a nice layer of gravity to what would otherwise be a story of a flighty teenager girl trapped in a love triangle with serious social and political ramifications. 

Rating: ★★★☆☆
Will I Re-Read: No need
If You Liked This Try: The Royal We / Matched / Cinder

A Reduced Review: This amalgamation of pop culture themes is pretty fun, despite some downfalls in the writing. 

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