Book Review: The Selection

The Selection, from Barnes and Noble

Overall review: 3/5 ⭐️

Plot: 2.5/5 ⭐️

Pacing: 4/5 ⭐️

Character Development: 2/5 ⭐️

Three words: I hated it. But, to be fair, 13 year old me would have been absolutely enthralled by the dystopian idea that is The Selection. There was forbidden romance, political intrigue, danger, beautiful dresses, and most importantly, a bland main character who wasn’t like any of the other girls, who’s main personality trait was that she hated all things girly, because… feminism.

In a dystopian America (that’s no longer called America, but 1000% is just a sloppy rendition of the US map), ruled by factions and a caste system, America Singer, our main character, lives with her large family as a Five — the caste responsible for bringing art into this dismal world. America and her family made their living by singing and performing at parties for higher castes. When the story first begins, America finds herself craving her independence, begging her mother and father to allow her to sing on her own from time to time.

She had the goal of putting money aside to save for a life she wanted to build with her secret lover. She couldn’t tell her family about him, because he was in a lower caste, and he didn’t want anyone to find out about their relationship until he had enough saved to provide the most stable life his caste system could provide. (It’s important to note that if America were to marry this secret lover, she would be forced to drop down to his caste system, and perform manual labor for the rest of her days. The only way to escape a caste system for a girl was to marry a higher stationed young man.)

Fairly soon into the story, America reveals a small bit about traditions of her kingdom. If the royal family produces a male heir, then they promise to marry him off to one of the citizens in the kingdom. It was their way of bringing about hope in otherwise bleak circumstances. If they had a daughter though, she would be married off to another royal from a different country.

It just so happened that the royal family had a son who was around America’s age, who was looking for his bride to be. The entire kingdom was in uproar over the situation. Girls from every caste system dolled themselves up, filled out a questionnaire, and had their photos taken. America was wholeheartedly against the concept of flaunting herself as an object, but she struck a bargain with her mother: she did this, and her mother would allow her to perform on her own from time to time. (If a girl were to be chosen to participate in this dystopian version of The Bachelor, then her family would be sent a substantial amount of money to compensate for her being gone. The sum would increase the farther along she made it into this competition, and her status would be raised regardless of how she faired in the overall competition.)

Low and behold, America is chosen as one of the contestants. She is then swept away to the palace, where she meets the charming young prince, Maxon. Alas, her heart still belongs to another, however Maxon has decided that he shall try and coax America’s heart into loving him. He makes significant progress, when all of a sudden, America’s forbidden secret lover mysteriously shows up at the palace as a new guard. (Apparently he rose in ranks really quickly).

Thus ensues a bittersweet love triangle. To make matters worse, young, innocent Prince Maxon assigns America’s secret boyfriend as her personal guard. He wanted to ensure she was comfortable in the palace, and believed that a familiar face would be the best way to ensure that. (Have I mentioned that if a participant is caught having romantic relations with with anyone other than the future king, she is immediately removed from the competition, and jailed for treason?)

(Yes, her secret boyfriend knew this and still decided to put both of them at risk to get a little smooch smooch from America.)

You’ll have to read the book to see where the love triangle goes, but at the end of The Selection, Prince Maxon decides who will be moving on to the second stage of the competition.

Will America make the cut? Or have her foolish actions cost her not only her station and life, but a chance to find true love?

I would recommend this book to anyone who is a fan of coming of age stories, love triangles, or earlier YA. If you have 12–15ish year old YA reader who loves princesses and political intrigue, this will probably be the perfect book for them. (Note: there are a few kiss scenes/butterfly moments, but that is as graphic as the story gets, so if that is something you like to be aware of before purchasing a book for your younger reader with an impressionable brain, this is on the safe side.)

Note:

This book was published in the early 2010s, where it was extremely common for the protagonist to be bland and arguably unagreeable. My opinion on this novel was harsh, but mostly because I remember reading stories like this at 15, and wondering why the adults who wrote these stories thought so ill of teenage girls. The only way for us to be heroes was to disassociate part of our identity. We couldn’t like collectively girly things, because if we did, we were feeding into the patriarchy.

It was a concept I fed into as a younger reader, but the older I got, the more I realized that a badass girl comes in all different shapes and styles. Some might hate traditionally girly things, and that’s awesome! Others might embrace traditional femininity, and still kick massive but, and that’s amazing!

With the turn of the decade, we have been exposed to diverse stories especially in the YA department, which gives my young reader heart hope that the new generation of teenage girls will not have to face the same problems I did. They can learn that badass energy comes within, and a female protagonist can kick massive butt and kill their enemies with their impeccable contour skills.

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Lauren is a fantasy writer who believes everyone has a bit of magic in their hearts. She hopes to read every fantasy story of the modern era as well as publish!

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Lauren Kayzles

Lauren Kayzles

Lauren is a fantasy writer who believes everyone has a bit of magic in their hearts. She hopes to read every fantasy story of the modern era as well as publish!

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