Series: The Selection #1
Release Date: April
Source: ARC from the publisher
Read it in: 3 days
[**NOTE: This review was not affected by online drama or controversy. Everything I have to say here is based on my own personal opinion about the book itself, even though I definitely think Cass needs a new publicist.]
[**NOTE #2: All the captions in the non-animated picture memes were made by me-- because, you know, I'm just THAT brilliantly witty. So please don't use them without asking my permission first. Thanks :)]
35 GIRLS. 1 CROWN. THE COMPETITION OF A LIFETIME.
Now with a story premise like that, honestly I thought it would take a lot to ruin this book for me. 35 girls all competing for one crown and the heart of one handsome prince? Sign me up and bring on the popcorn! However, The Selection turned out to be one of those unfortunate books that had about twenty-dozen little things in it that just aggravated the crap out of me, with the end result being that I was entertained by it for all the wrong reasons.
So first, a word about love triangles. I honestly don't mind them IF they are done well. But in this case, the love triangle was SO freaking forced, cliche, and angsty, I was ready to tear my hair out strand by strand. The whole thing between America, Aspen, and Maxon was just completely ridiculous, and the motivations behind their actions made absolutely no sense whatsoever. There were so many instances of juvenile misunderstanding, miscommunication, etc. that I'm not even going to bother going into specifics. All I have to say is: STOP TRYING TO MAKE THE LOVE TRIANGLE HAPPEN.
Moving on, America as a main character was just about two steps away from being completely intolerable. She was-- to put it simply-- extremely annoying (Highlight, underline, and bold extremely). I *might* have been able to stand her if all the little things that were supposed to make her seem like a fun and feisty redhead hadn't come across as painfully redundant and irritating. For example, she denies ad nauseum that she's beautiful even though she clearly is. She makes constant quips and remarks about the stuffy life that Maxon leads and he finds it to be cute (it's not). She's got the whole cliche tom-boy thing going on while every other girl is a Stepford clone-- It was just like, OK, I get it, she's one of those totally-gorgeous-but-she's-the-only-one-who-thinks-she's-not girls. And ironically? She stands out in the story because she's so "different" from the other girls, while simultaneously being about as cliche as they come.
As for the rest of the girls in the book? Well, let's just say that added to the exasperating America Singer, this book just made me hate girls. For real. Even more than ANTM.
And the guys weren't any better. Probably because they were about as manly as:
Prince Maxon was seriously one of the most awkward characters I've ever encountered-- and not in that adorable, hott kind of way either. In typical Disney prince fashion, he was so perfect and nice that I couldn't even take him seriously. He bored me to tears and was overly-sheltered to the point of being pathetic. And his behavior? It made NO SENSE. Let's review: America wrongly assumes that Maxon is about to rape her-- then she proceeds to knee him in the royal jewels-- then he pretty much brushes it off like a day later and goes back to let's-be-best-friends-because-I-don't-have-any mode. Seriously dude? I've never watched The Bachelor, but I'm pretty sure that if some strange girl told the guy that she had zero interest in him, that she was in love with somebody else, that she was only there for the food (no I'm not making this up) AND THEN wrongly accused him of being a rapist, I'm going to take a **wild guess** that he would've kicked her out of the mansion on the spot. I mean, that's a pretty serious way to offend someone, no?
But then when America tries to explain to him that Celeste the Biotch is sabotaging the rest of the girls, he throws a hissy fit, being all like, "YOU WILL RESPECT MAH AUTHORATAH!" -- and almost sends her home. Whhhhhaaaatttt???
Then there was Aspen, the chauvinistic jerk-wad who gets his panties all in a bunch when America tries to make him dinner and then immediately bails on her because he can't handle the helpless, little woman being the one providing for him. The guy seriously needed to grow a pair.
Another beef I had with this book was that I couldn't find any context for the kind of society that America Singer lives in. HOW did Illea come to be the way it is? What major events led up to the creation of a society where there's a monarchy, an eight-tiered caste system, and two different groups of rebel forces trying to bring it down? And why again was The Selection created?? (Vague explanation: it creates hope. okaaayyyy...) And don't even get me started on "The History Lesson" that was randomly thrown in, because it made absolutely NO SENSE (The American State of China? HAHAHAHAHAHAHA). Apparently there was a Third and Fourth World War where the US was invaded by China and then Russia because it couldn't pay off its massive debt. Riiiiiiiiiiight... Explain that one to me, please. In a nutshell, the "history lesson" that attempted to establish the world of Illea explained nothing.
So for me, it was difficult to find a connection to this world because it wasn't built on any solid foundation that would have made it remotely believable. And I'm sorry, but if a book can't manage to adequately explain how a society came to be and what the motivation is behind the ones leading it or trying to tear it down (**cough, cough** Matched! **cough, cough**), that for me is a major dystopian FAIL. In the end, I just had to take Illea for what it was-- a make-believe fairy-tale kind of setting that had no plausible explanation for why it exists or how it came to be.
Now if the long-awaited, delicious drama of a 35-girl competition had actually happened, I really wouldn't have cared about the absence of a thought-provoking dystopia. But where the heck was the crazy competition part of the story?? That whole Bachelor spin-off was the number one reason I was looking forward to reading this book in the first place! And the entire thing ended up being one big, sloppy mess. There were some random acts of cattiness and backstabbing, a few girls got kicked off, a few dresses got ruined, but hardly anything was explained and there was little to no build-up or suspense. What happened to--
Not only was there no drama, but I honestly couldn't have cared less about who got kicked off and who stayed. Note to the author: If you aren't going to even bother telling your readers WHO your characters are, WE AREN'T GOING TO GIVE A CRAP WHEN THEY GET BUMPED OFF. We have ZERO investment in them. So faceless, never-before-mentioned Girls #1, 2 and 3 got the ax? Umm, yeah don't care. No shock value. And Celeste the spoiled little rich girl? C'mon now, she was one big glaring stereotype and had about as much personality as a thumbtack. It was boring!! And one of the girls was named Tiny. I'm sorry, but how can I take a book seriously with character names like Tiny, Tuesday, King Clarkson, and Maxon Schreave? (Answer: I can't.)
So for me, the only thing that this book had going for it was that it was *mildly* entertaining in a mindless kind of way, and there was nothing about it that made me want to seriously punch a hole in the wall. But the rest was either very confusing or highly predictable. Everything from the characters, to the love triangle, to most of the outcomes of The Selection were all very easy to see coming from miles away. I'm sorry, but I really couldn't find anything about this book that was terribly exceptional or interesting and overall, I just wasn't impressed.
After this, I think I'll be picking up a book about killer dragons. Or bioengineered war beasts. That really sounds like a good idea right about now...
The cover of this book is clearly eye-catching. But what I love about this book isn't the dress-- in fact, I think the dress is rather hideous if I'm going to be completely honest (sky-blue tulle ruffles?! Um, eew). I actually love the graceful pose of the model on the cover, how her arm comes up to hide half of her face (even though Cass from Words on Paper observed that it looks like the chick is sniffing her arm pit which made me laugh) and I also like how you can see just glimpses of the other girls from The Selection in the background behind her. To me this is a really intriguing cover, and it definitely made me want to pick this one up, which... in hindsight... didn't work out all that well for me, but just the same, I am rather fond of the cover.