The Selection (2012) by Kiera Cass is a teen dystopian romance, and is pretty much as close to perfect as you can get. This novel has everything: world-building without the crutch of magic, royalty, a futuristic dystopia-lite U.S., a love triangle, tons of clean romance, and a protagonist who’s a phenomenal role model. Not to mention, Cass’s writing is like candy; it’s so easy to read, impossible to put down, and non-stop gripping, though without being too action-oriented. The tempo of the novel is perfect, maintaining a seamless, well-paced rotation between the main character’s inner thoughts, her relational interactions, and a mild but fascinating political plot brewing in the background.
For the synopsis: America Singer is a teenaged musician living in a futuristic version of the U.S., called Illéa. In this world, the country operates on a caste system. Being in the artists’s caste, America’s family often find themselves hungry and having to go without. Meanwhile, America is deeply in love with her secret boyfriend, Aspen, but he’s in a caste even lower than her family’s. Her mother would never permit their matching.
America’s world is about to change, however, when it’s announced that the Prince of Illéa, Maxon, has come of age, and the royal family will be hosting a Selection for him comprised of 35 girls, from whom he’ll choose his bride and future queen. America thinks the whole ordeal sounds shallow and pathetic. But Aspen persuades her to enter the competition for a shot at a better life. To their amazement – and devastation – America is chosen as one of the Selected.
I LOVED the concept that, of the 35 girls competing to marry the Prince, our protagonist doesn’t want to win! Even more, I adored the scene when she finally meets Prince Maxon, and discovers he’s not the stodgy, spoiled little stiff she’d been expecting. What proceeds to unfold is the beautiful and honest friendship between America and the Prince. Another of my favorite aspects about this novel is that the author doesn’t let stupid misunderstandings hang between her characters, which is a trope in so many novels and movies (I’m probably guilty of it , too!). Instead, America and Maxon are always quick to EXPLAIN THEMSELVES and clarify things to one another, so the reader isn’t tortured by silly misunderstandings that could be fixed, if only the characters would have a normal conversation. Author Cass was brilliant in avoiding that trope and making all of her main characters act like completely normal, three-dimensional and sympathetic people.
But what I loved about this book most was America herself. She’s assertive, loyal, and says what’s on her mind. America Singer is, in my opinion, the best female protagonist in YA literature that I’ve read so far. She’s not helpless, but is unafraid of her own vulnerability. She doesn’t want to wear a lot of make-up or be in any way fake or inauthentic. She puts others before herself, but not to the degree of self-sabotage or stupidity. She seems very comfortable with her femininity, but she’s not vain or catty. She strongly believes in the value of people regardless of their caste, and she’s not afraid to stand up to anyone in defense of her convictions. She’s an individual who’s comfortable in her own skin and doesn’t try to be anyone but herself; she is natural. This is so incredibly rare to find in YA, where so many heroines either seem so unsure of themselves, or else are callous warriors who are way too tough for me to relate to.
If you like chick lit and romance, I can’t recommend The Selection enough. And of course, it’s the first in a trilogy, so I’m eager to devour the next book, The Elite, very soon. A fun, heartwarming and wonderful escape. Yes, yes, yes!