Monday, September 15, 2014

The Selection Series by Kiera Cass

Publishers Weekly captures the my initial reaction to this series: "A cross between The Hunger Games (minus the blood sport) and The Bachelor (minus the blood sport)." While it doesn't have the action that the Hunger Games has, you see similar qualities in the main characters. This is a captivating trilogy that constantly pulls you in different directions but always back for more.

Book One: The Selection
In a future version of the United States (after two World Wars and now known as Illea), the Selection has been established to find a princess for the prince of Illea. Girls of a certain age are encouraged to enter a lottery to be one of 35 girls chosen to be candidates for the Prince's heart. America Singer, has no desire to be a princess. Although she is only a Five, she is currently in love with a Six - a boy named Aspen who is in the caste below her. Everyone knows, though, that getting chosen for the Selection would change everything for her family, so her boyfriend and family both urge her to enter. When she is selected and Aspen breaks up with her, everything does change and a trip to the palace is the perfect escape for her heartache, even though she has no interest in Prince Maxon - a fact she makes clear the first time she meets him. So rather than fighting for his heart, she becomes his friend, which seems to be the perfect solution until Aspen shows up at the palace as a guard and she realizes that she just might have feelings for the prince after all...

Book Two: The Elite
After the Selection was cut down to six, the competition became more serious, as does the conflict America faces between Maxon and Aspen. The decision of which man holds her heart faces multiple obstacle - just when she seems committed to Maxon, something happens that makes her question his true character, but then she also realizes the real consequences of what being caught with a guard in a compromising position. It doesn't help matters that five other girls are monopolizing Maxon's time and affections. How can she be certain of his love is he's also sharing his love with others? On top of the drama of the Selection, the rebels are unhappy with the palace and repeatedly attacking, leaving behind immense destruction and fear. Their displeasure is related to the caste system and how poorly the lower castes are treated, something America is well aware of being the only candidate from one of the lower castes. When given a chance to speak her mind, America finds herself making an enemy of the king who wants her out of the competition, but what about Maxon?

Book Three: The One
America's antics have her walking on thin ice as she has to prove she's worthy of being a princess, despite the fact that she's growing in popularity with the public. After Northern rebels (less violent compared to the Southern rebels) contact Maxon and America, the truth about how little they know about their country's history comes to light and what needs to be changes to create peace. With the king's displeasure mounting against America and the stress of running a country growing, it's time for the Selection to come to an end. While the answer seems clear, it won't be easy.

To be honest, I don't know what it was about this series that I loved so much, but it hooked me and I couldn't put the books down. Even thought the books take place in the future, it feels like the past with kings, queens, princes and a caste system. Whether past or present, it all works to create setting and drama. The first book does a good job of setting America apart from all of the other girls. Come the end of that book, there is the love triangle which initially made me fear that it would be a constant back and forth of who she chooses and it would just make her a wishy-washy character. I thought, though, that the series does a good job of making realistic obstacles for whatever wishy-washiness that arises. She's not just in love with two people, it's history with one and the responsibility of being a princess with another and the fact that he's sharing his "love" with a number of other girls. It's real to be torn and you sympathize with America's struggles. The first book felt the most fluffy - just a romance, but there hints that it would be more and the series delivers in the final two books. The stakes are upped and it's no longer just a competition to win the Prince. Before you know it, you're fully invested in all of these characters, wanting to see a happy ending for everyone and the just desserts for the enemy.

I really enjoyed the series. The first book is nominated for an Abe Lincoln award, which is why I picked it up in the first place. I'm glad I did. This was one of the most enjoyable series I've read in a long time.

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