Saturday, April 7, 2012

The Selection, by Kiera Cass: When The Bachelor does Dystopia, we ALL win

The Selection
by Kiera Cass
HarperTeen, 2012 (available 4/24/12)

In this highly anticipated vision of the future, the United States is no longer a democracy.  Monarchy has returned and a caste system is now in place with social groups rated one (highest) to eight (lowest).  Straight shooting and musically talented America Singer and her large family are fives, artisan class.  When The Selection is announced, a reality show to find teenage Prince Maxon a wife and a future Queen, America feels obligated to enter.  Entrants are well compensated for their participation, and her family can use the money.  But America is madly in love with her secret boyfriend, Aspen, a six, servant class, and for the obvious reasons is hesitant to enter.  Aspen clears the way when he breaks up with her instead of proposing; his pride can’t bear to drag her down a caste level.  Soon America is flying off to the palace with 34 other contestants, one from each province, to compete to win the heart and hand of Prince Maxon.  But things in the palace are not as they seem to be on a TV screen; there are frequent attacks by rebels, not to mention learning to navigate the new royal caste expectations, trying to make friends in a tinderbox, and trying to fall in love with a broken heart.  This book has high pop appeal (a TV pilot has already been filmed), and should find its way into all YA collections with high demand anticipated from girls (11-16) and adults when the pilot airs.

Guys – I think we can all cop to the obvious.  A summary of the basics of this plot is like a recipe for Paperblog kryptonite.   It’s basically The Bachelor meets The Prince and Me meets a beauty pageant meets a girly version of dystopia meets the CW meets fantasies of Kate Middleton and Prince William’s wedding, shaken, and served in a glass labeled: Strong Potential for Highly Addictive Case of the Terribles.  HOW COULD I SAY NO?  Now, before I go much further, I’ll make a disclaimer:  I have not actually finished this book (my copy is not a complete one), and the origins of my copy, while legit and legal, are slightly not directly from the publisher.  Let’s just say the bidding war paid off for all of our curiosity about this buzzed about book (and don’t worry, HarperTeen legal department, I’m not passing it on...unless of course you want to send me a real ARC, which I’d be delighted to pass on to my many, always eager to read fun things teenage students…). 

Now that we’ve cleared that up and all the boys have stopped reading, let’s debrief. 

Pretty much, my delight in reading it began when I realized the protagonist was named America.  Living in the future country that is still ours but is no longer referred to as America.  Pause.  Then my brain did a cartwheel of delight while my mouth let out a “mwaaaahahahaha!” when I realized that our gal America is a singer/musician, and her last name is Singer.  PAUSE.  And then when she enters the pageant and starts being called Lady America?  STOP.  I mean, all I can say is thank you, Kiera Cass.  Thank you.   

My in your face literals delight continued throughout; this is not a book in which showing is telling.  Kiera Cass straight up paints us a word picture with America more or less narrating her world for us dummies.  It’s not a bad thing; this book is still seriously fun to read.  As such, it’s really not terribly hard to figure out what will happen next (spoiler alerts, I guess, if you’re not that good at predicting things): that Maxon is totally going to get the hots for Lady America, or that she’s going to go all reforming spirit “Shame on you for not helping the poor while you sit here in your pretty pretty castle,” and that he’s totally going to listen because he has the hots for her, or that down to earth super cool, super pretty but doesn’t know it and thoughtful Lady America is going to be a fan favorite, or that good ole Lady America is totally going to spend at least the first half of her time in the competition having a sad about stupid Aspen and then the second half denying she’s got a crush on Maxon (who has some super cut biceps, btw), or that (this one I’m not 100% on – remember the missing ending part - so it’s pure speculation), there’s going to be a twist involving the invading rebels and someone we tooootally don’t suspect (except we do suspect you, LADY…I won’t say any more!) being not who we think they are, thus leading to it ending on a cliffhanger.  

Which is why I’m DYING to read the second half/ending AND see the pilot.  I could have done with America calling Aspen out on being a moron, albeit a hot one, and moving on, but then we wouldn’t have our requisite love triangle or even this story, so I’ll back off.  I also could have done with a few more normal character names; seriously, YA, would it kill you to take a break from what must surely be a secret pool to see who can come up with the most ridiculous names?  Otherwise, I thoroughly enjoyed this book.  It’s not going to be the book to blow your mind, but it’ll be a damn fun book to read on the beach this summer, especially if you like any of the following things:
  • YA
  • Love triangles
  • The Bachelor
  • Beauty pageants
  • Reality TV
  • Girly books
  • The Prince and Me (my favorite and the original Case of the Terribles)
  • The Royal Wedding (come on, you know you watched)
  • The CW
  • Ethan Peck (aka Prince Maxon in the show)
  • The Chronicles of Narnia (everyone’s favorite inappropriate crush, Peter Pevensie, has landed the role of Asher!)
  • America (Because I’m pretty sure if you don’t read this book and spend some quality time with Lady America, you’re not a red blooded American.  See what I did there? )
Even better?  Confession: I’m a huge Friday Night Lights fan.  If you are, you too will be highly amused that Julie Taylor will be getting a dye job and playing Lady America.  Coach would be so confused.  Clear eyes full hearts, you guys!

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