Saturday, August 29, 2015

[Multi-Review] The Selection: Books #1, #2, #3 & #4 by Kiera Cass

The Selection by Kiera Cass
The Selection #1
Published April 24th, 2012
Young Adult Dystopia

For thirty-five girls, the Selection is the chance of a lifetime. The opportunity to escape the life laid out for them since birth. To be swept up in a world of glittering gowns and priceless jewels. To live in a palace and compete for the heart of gorgeous Prince Maxon.
But for America Singer, being Selected is a nightmare. It means turning her back on her secret love with Aspen, who is a caste below her. Leaving her home to enter a fierce competition for a crown she doesn't want. Living in a palace that is constantly threatened by violent rebel attacks.
Then America meets Prince Maxon. Gradually, she starts to question all the plans she's made for herself—and realizes that the life she's always dreamed of may not compare to a future she never imagined.

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My thoughts:

I honestly didn't think I was going to enjoy this one as much as I did. I was expecting it to be pretty mild and for some reason I thought of it as historical fiction (plot twist: it's not!) which I don't really enjoy for the most part. But I was surprised at how fast I became drawn to the story. I'd read other reviews that said the beginning was kind of slow so I was prepared to hate it and I started reading it thinking of it as little more than a chore.

Oh, boy was I wrong! America's voice is so captivating I couldn't put this thing down, I read it in one sitting. I was so curious about the world she lived in and her secret relationship with Aspen that I didn't feel like the beginning was slow at all. Things were happening, at least in my eyes. Maybe it wasn't action-packed or anything, but it was fairly good for a beginning. 

The thing is this is the opposite of a chore, it's like what you do when you're supposed to be doing chores, to avoid doing them, you know what I mean? Like you know you shouldn't be doing it, giving that you have so much stuff to do (important stuff!) but you can't help it, it sucks you in.

This story takes place in what would be the United States after several World Wars, but now it's called Illéa. People are divided in castes designated by numbers from One being the royal family, all the way through Eight, being the outcasts. These castes are hereditary and determined pretty much what kind of life a person will have, their profession and social status.

America Singer is a Five, she's in the artists caste. She's a musician as well as her mother, while her father and little sister are painters and her little brother doesn't really know if he's any good at anything. The Singers are not the worst off, but they definitely struggle to make ends meet and their jobs don't provide a stable enough source of income to sustain a family of five the whole year round. So when, America receives a letter informing her that she's in the right age category to take part in The Selection, her family is so excited they can barely contain themselves.

The Selection is a contest hosted by the royal family, when a prince comes of age, in the hopes of finding the new princess of Illéa. In this contest, a girl from each province, no matter which caste she's from, is chosen to go live at the palace and mingle with the other contestants and especially, with the prince himself, and her family receives a generous compensation while she's away. As the prince gets to know them, he's supposed to narrow the list down until he decides whom he will marry. This whole process is televised to the whole country, so everyone can see him court the girls and hopefully fall in love. It's pretty much like The Bachelor or some similar TV shows out there.

America didn't want to enter the contest in the first place. She had dreams of her own. She had been dating Aspen, a Six, in secret for a while, and she was in love with him, she wanted to marry him and she didn't care that he was of a lower caste than she was. But her family kept pushing her and so did Aspen, arguing that he wouldn't be able to forgive himself if she missed the opportunity of having a better life than the one he could provide for her (which was even worse than what she was used to). I hated America's mom for being so pushy, I hated the way she manipulated America and tried to make her feel guilty for wanting something for herself. It was her responsibility to take care of her family, not America's and I couldn't stand her snob-ish ways. 

America is a complex character. She has strong beliefs about justice and what's fair, and that can be her best and worst quality at The Selection competition. She has a sweet side to her that will make you love her and want to be her friend. But also, she doubts herself a lot and ends up making poor decisions more than a couple of times and that irritated the crap out of me. 

Since America's the main character you could say there's a love triangle going on. But taking into account what the Selection is, you have a lot more combinations possible for a couple. Let's talk about some of the most relevant characters in this book.

Aspen, America's secret boyfriend was a douche at the beginning and broke America's heart and mine in the process. I hated the way he handled things when America was announced as one the Selected. His way of thinking about life and his sense of pride were profoundly sexist and that prevented me from liking him as a love interest. I'm not saying this way of thinking is only his or that he's the one to blame for it, but for me he embodied in a way and at least at the beginning of the book, the way men thought of women as inferior to them. 

I really liked Prince Maxon, he was really sweet, even though he was kind of oblivious and there were scenes in which I really wanted to punch him in the face for not having a clue about life outside of his bubble. But again, it's not like I could blame it all on him, because that's the way he was raised and I finished the book thinking that he and America could be great together, because they complemented each other.

Among the Selected, Marlee is worth mentioning, since she's like America's best friend and I thought she was really sweet to her and I really liked that America had someone who wasn't out to get her during the competition. On the other hand, there's Celeste, who's a complete bitch just for the sake of being one. I thought this one was the most stereotypical character in the whole book and I didn't like her at all. She felt really flat, no backstory, just a spoiled rich girl with no redeeming qualities. I wish Maxon would've been ballsy enough to kick her out as soon as she started pulling her stunts to try and eliminate the competition.

Moving on to the writing. I thought the writing was pretty simple but yet really captivating, I couldn't put the book down even though there were many moments that had me rolling my eyes. I don't really know if it was the plot or the writing but somehow, I felt like I was watching one of those TV shows that you know is not the best, but still can't stop watching it. 

The ending was crappy, I felt like we were in the middle of the book when it was suddenly over. It made me want to pick up the next book immediately but also I felt cheated. 

Overall this book is pretty good. Not because of excellent writing or world building, but the sheer drama of what's going on will have you glued to the pages because even though you're hating some of the decisions the characters are making, and you want to yell at half the cast, the story is still entertaining and you want to know how it ends. I would recommend it, but I'd strongly advice that you lower your expectations before going into it. 



The Elite by Kiera Cass
The Selection #2
Published April 23rd, 2013
Young Adult Dystopia

PremiseThe Selection began with thirty-five girls.Now with the group narrowed down to the six Elite, the competition to win Prince Maxon's heart is fiercer than ever—and America is still struggling to decide where her heart truly lies. Is it with Maxon, who could make her life a fairy tale? Or with her first love, Aspen?America is desperate for more time. But the rest of the Elite know exactly what they want—and America's chance to choose is about to slip away.

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My thoughts:

This book made question my life decisions, especially my decision of picking up this series in the first place. I know I wasn't completely sold on the characters in the previous book, but this one made me hate them all and I was about to put it down and be done with this series for good on multiple occasions. 

This books picks up right where the previous one left off. Now there's only 6 girls competing for Maxon. America is one of them and so are Marlee and Celeste. But now there's also Kriss, Elise and Natalie and I thought we would get to know them all a little bit better.

With this, I hoped that we would get a bit more about Celeste and maybe she would stop being this one-dimensional character, and we would learn why she's how she is. But oh no! She's worse than before if you could even imagine that. And there still are no reasons why she's a bitch, we just have to accept that she is. 

The other girls also felt kinda flat. Like, take Kriss for example, she was okay, but I felt like she didn't have anything that would make her stand out. She was sweet I guess, but so were a lot of the other girls and for the life of me I couldn't find a plausible reason for Maxon to have kept her over them. The same with Natalie, she was completely forgetable, nothing especial about her and I even had to look up her name to write this review. Elise I got. I didn't like her, but I understood why she needed to stay since she had important connections as well as Celeste. 

The romance between Maxon and America in this book was all of two scenes and the rest was just drama and fighting and yelling. I hated Maxon during the book. I know that he had some good moments before, that he could be kind, but in this book he was so oblivious, so self-absorbed that I didn't want America to end up with him, because I knew he would keep breaking her heart over and over again, every time he put duty or appearances over her or what was right. I didn't understand why he would spend so much time with other girls if he truly just loved America. 

And America wasn't much better. She kept whynning about Maxon not paying her enough attention, but she was still sneaking around to see Aspen. I even liked Aspen better than Maxon in this book for how much time he spent with America, at least with him it was clear that America was the only girl he had eyes for, unlike Maxon. 

Overall, the whole book was ridiculous. The decision making was awful. Some of the things Maxon did were not something you just take in stride and say "it's okay, let's move past this" as he expected America to do. The explanations and the thought process behind some of their actions (America's and Maxon's) were completely absurd and didn't make sense at all. Then at the end in one of the big arguments they had, he dared say he didn't trust her! Are you fucking kidding me?! How could he be so inconsequential?! He knew everything that was happening and didn't do anything, didn't even thought of telling America. I lost all my respect for him in this book and I just didn't care for him at all by the end of it. 

This book was a complete disaster but I can't deny that even if it made me completely furious and I didn't agree with anything of what was happening I still got through it in one sitting. It entertained me even if it was completely ridiculous, maybe because of it. And now I'm continuing the series only because I want to see how it all will end up. 



The One by Kiera Cass
The Selection #3
Published May 6th, 2014
Young Adult Dystopia

Premise:The time has come for one winner to be crowned.When she was chosen to compete in the Selection, America never dreamed she would find herself anywhere close to the crown—or to Prince Maxon's heart. But as the end of the competition approaches, and the threats outside the palace walls grow more vicious, America realizes just how much she stands to lose—and how hard she'll have to fight for the future she wants.

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My thoughts: 

This is the last book of this series in which America is the protagonist. I enjoyed it a bit more than the disastrous second installment but it was far from perfect. 

As I expected, this book picked up exactly where the second one left off. America is packing her things and preparing herself for leaving the Palace after her speech about getting rid of the castes was aired on national television and everything went to hell. 

As you could probably guess she doesn't end up going home just yet. She stays to fight another battle in the Palace. But now it's not just Maxon who doubts her, but also the King seriously hates her guts and is willing to do everything in his power to get rid of her. 

There's only four girls in this book, but it is fairly clear since the beginning that the final decision would be between America and Kriss. Celeste is still there somehow and now we do get to her a little bit better, but I don't think her backstory made any difference at this point, she's still a bitch. In this book we finally get to find out the true motives of each of the Elite girls for wanting to win the Selection. 

There was plenty of drama in this book too. Not only romantic drama, but also this one is the most political of the series and there's a lot of political drama. The rebels are freaking everywhere and Maxon has a lot to deal with in that sense.

But the romantic drama is still there. Maxon is still going on and on about not being sure of America. And I get it, I mean I know she's been seeing Aspen on the side, but he doesn't so I don't see why is he complaining, really... They both had made so many mistakes and hurt each other really badly, it's like every time they open their mouths you can expect a fight, quite literally in fact. 

I was disgusted by the first romantic scene in this book. America lost every last trace of sympathy and respect I had for her when she sunk to Celeste's level. And Maxon was so cruel to her. Their whole relationship drove me insane for the most part, it was ridiculous how they would get mad at each other for the tiniest things and they they would yelled and stomp their feet like little kids and then just walk away without having solved anything at all. They got so caught up in their own pride that they refused to say "I love you" before the other one said it, and that was like half of the book. There were cute scenes, like the one in the rain, but it was mostly fighting and finger pointing and I just couldn't get over the fact that the book was about to end and America still hadn't told Maxon about Aspen.

In this book we get to see the king's true colors. We suspected he was an ass since the beginning obviously but now we really know he is ruthless, always trying to tear America down because she represents the change he doesn't want. But if we're being honest she doesn't make it easy on herself. I understand of principles, but it's like she's always asking for trouble,  it's frustrating as hell! Like come on! You know he's going to kill you if you pull one more stunt and she goes and does it again... She must have no brain, that's the only explanation.

The ending was fine I guess. But I felt like it was too easy. They never had to actually deal with their issues and got kind of a free pass and  forgot about everything that had happened like it was nothing. 

I don't even know why I still like this series. Seriously is beyond me how can I find this entertaining when there's so much that is wrong in these books. But I do. I can't put them down, I've read the three books in two days and I'm going into the next one completely resigned. I actually like this series despite its awfulness or maybe because of it, as I have said before.



The Heir by Kiera Cass
The Selection #4
Published May 5th, 2015
Young Adult Dystopia

Premise: Princess Eadlyn has grown up hearing endless stories about how her mother and father met. Twenty years ago, America Singer entered the Selection and won the heart of Prince Maxon—and they lived happily ever after. Eadlyn has always found their fairy-tale story romantic, but she has no interest in trying to repeat it. If it were up to her, she'd put off marriage for as long as possible.But a princess's life is never entirely her own, and Eadlyn can't escape her very own Selection—no matter how fervently she protests.Eadlyn doesn't expect her story to end in romance. But as the competition begins, one entry may just capture Eadlyn's heart, showing her all the possibilities that lie in front of her . . . and proving that finding her own happily ever after isn't as impossible as she's always thought.

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My thoughts:

This book tells the story of next generation, after Maxon and America got married and became King and Queen. It's told from Eadlyn's point of view. She's their daughter and the heir to the throne.

A lot of things have changed since we left Maxon and America in the previous book. They have had four children, the castes have been eliminated and now the first born in the royal family is entitled to be the next ruler, even if she's a woman. And Eadlyn was born a few minutes before her twin Ahren, so she will be the next queen. 

Eadlyn has grown up knowing everything that's expected of her and also very conscious of what the country used to be like with the castes system. Her parents have made sure to tell her of all the adjustment that had been made so the country could work without the castes. She knows it all has been hard work, but there's still people unhappy with the government. So it's no surprise when she doesn't understand why people can't just be happy already. 

The problem still stands. Despite their best efforts Maxon and America haven't been able to make everyone happy, and their people are starting to rebel. They need a distraction while they figure out the next step, so they ask of Eadlyn what they swore they would never do. Eadlyn has to host her own Selection. 

Of course, Eadlyn says "hell to the no" as soon as they bring it up, since she considers herself an independent woman who doesn't need a man to rule her country. But no matter how much she protests, it's been already decided and she must go through with it. But she negotiates a full set of new conditions while she secretly plans to get rid of all her candidates before things get out of her control. She will put on a good show but there is no way she'll actually get married to any of those guys.

I didn't like Eadlyn at first. She comes off as really bratty and self-centered. She takes on the worst parts of the job of being a princess and let that govern her life. She's kind of blinded to the reality of others and is pretty oblivious of the message she sends with all of her antics because she thinks she's entitled to do whatever she pleases. We get to see a few cracks in the armor throughout the book and the whole experience is pretty amazing. 

I really like Kile and Henry and Erik as possible love interest material. And I'm really looking 
forward to see how the dates go in the next books. I know we've had some dates in this book, but Eadlyn's heart wasn't really into them. Even then, some of the dates have gone pretty well, while others have turned out to be completely disastrous, you never know which Eadlyn you're gonna get in each date, though, so they are all pretty interesting and kind of funny.

I love that we get to see a little of America and Maxon, and that they seem to have left their childish selves in the past. But I don't like that they've fallen too much into protocol and are no longer as vivid and fresh as they were in the novels before this one. I understand they've grown up and are now more mature and I really appreciate that, but now they're like in the other end of the spectrum. I still hoped to see that different kind of royal life for them and they just seem to be more of the same, like they've been transformed into the stereotypical royal family. Puaj!

I loved Kaden and Olsten, they were adorable and I hope we get to know them a bit better in the next book. I didn't like Ahren that much though. He was protective of Eadlyn and that was cute, and I understood that he was in love, but I felt like he was a bit of a coward for some of the things he did and that his promises of being always there for Eadlyn were empty one. I know I wouldn't have done that to any of my siblings, not in a million years, especially not when they're in such precarious situation as she was. He didn't even care that his family was struggling to keep the country together... that infuriated me, because everyone always was saying how selfish Eadlyn was, and yet she was giving her life for her country amusement and Ahren was just looking out for himself and his happy ending over everyone else's. Such double standards!

Overall, I think I like the drama and the main character of this book more than I liked America and Maxon in the second and third book of this series. I think the love interests are more interesting too and I felt less offended reading this installment than the ones before it. I really hope things don't take a turn for the worse in the next book. Fingers crossed. 



About the author

Kiera Cass is a graduate of Radford University with a B.S. in History. She grew up in South Carolina and currently lives in Christiansburg, Virginia with her electrical engineer hubby, car-obsessed son, and princess-loving daughter. She's a #1 New York Times bestseller. She's also a valued customer at her local cupcake shop. 

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