In honor of the latest Netflix TV series announcement, I decided to reread one of my old middle-school YA favorites: The Selection. When I was younger, I saw this book as a comfort read with its “ordinary girl becomes a princess” fairytale.
Now that I’m rereading it 8 years later, I’m still comforted by the romanticized plotline, but I’m also much more aware of how trashy and cliche this book is (It’s almost a rip-off Hunger Games). 😂💖 If you’re looking for a kickass dystopian novel, this isn’t the book for you. If you’re looking for the book version of The Bachelor with some royalty, you’ve come to the right place.
THE SELECTION by Kiera Cass
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.
The Selection is set in a “dystopian” version of the United States called Illéa where the country is run by a monarchy, and society is organized by a caste system. 👑 Ones are the wealthy and respected royal family. Twos and Threes are the wealthy aristocrats. Fours through Sevens are various trade workers and servants while Eights are seen as the lowest of the low.
Our protagonist, America Singer is a 17-year-old Five who is chosen to join 34 other girls to participate in the Selection, a competition to win the heart of Prince Maxon Schreave and become the princess of Illéa. (AKA it’s The Hunger Games meets The Bachelor) After entering the competition unwillingly after insistence from her mother and long-time secret boyfriend, Aspen Leger, America is uprooted from her happy mundane life and thrust into the royal spotlight.
“True love is usually the most inconvenient kind.”
Like many other YA novels published between 2008 and 2012, The Selection is filled with all your classic tropes: the “she’s not like other girls”, “the mean popular girl who wears too much makeup and shows too much cleavage”, “the love triangle”, and more! 🤪 Depending on what you’re hoping to get out of this book, these cliches may or may not be for you.
The crux of this story focuses on the budding romance between Prince Maxon and America so unfortunately, all the other characters do come off as fairly one dimensional (though I will acknowledge they show more depth in Books 2 & 3). For example, Marlee is the bubbly best friend, and Celeste is the bitchy mean competitor.
Initially, Prince Maxon also came off as a flat love interest, especially in comparison to Aspen, but as we progress throughout the story, we see him gain more confidence in himself and show genuine care for his subjects and his country. His conversations with America help him become aware of his privileges and the positive impact he could leave as the future king.
“I hope you find someone you can’t live without. I really do. And I hope you never have to know what it’s like to have to try and live without them.”
I can see why many people would dislike this book because the writing can come off very juvenile and the major plot points throughout the book have been seen and done before. I honestly thought it was very easy and fun to read. However, my biggest problem with this book is how similar it is to The Hunger Games which came out 4 years prior. 🤔
Part of me genuinely wonders how much inspiration Kiera Cass took from Susan Collins because there are virtually identical plot points. From the numeric caste system to the eccentric reality TV show announcer to the innocent younger sister, it could almost be the same book just set in a different “world.”
During America’s image transformation scene when she arrives at the palace, it feels so similar to Katniss’s transformation when she arrived at the Capitol…down to having a spunky stylist (Cinna) who determines they should highlight her “natural beauty.”
Ultimately, I wouldn’t call this book a dystopian novel. There’s no political analysis, government upheaval, and no determination to transform the country (at least in Book 1). If these are things you want, I’d highly recommend reading the Legend trilogy by Marie Lu.
The Selection is truly meant to be a princess version of The Bachelor down to the periodic cuts to the “Does he love? Does he not?” moments. If this sounds like something you’re willing to indulge in, consider picking up the book before the movie release. Otherwise, I’d suggest putting your time to another book instead.
“No, I’m not choosing him or you. I’m choosing me.”
In the meantime, let’s check out this terrible script of the TV show when it was first optioned for production (then failed):