I’ve seen a lot of hype for The Selection in the YA blogging world, so I jumped at the chance of getting hold of a review copy. The Selection is classed at YA dystopia, but the dystopia element is a lot milder in than in other novels in the genre. It’s about America Singer, a singer living in a dystopian version of America, now called Illea (yes, she’s called America Singer and she’s an American Singer). The country has been rebuilt following war using rigorous caste systems to ensure people stay in check. America is a caste Five in love with a Six called Aspen – a relationship which they have to keep secret due to the country’s strict rules about sex before marriage and inter-caste relations.Their relationship takes a turn for the worse when Aspen begins to feel that she can’t provide for her and she’s pushed into begrudgingly applying for the Selection. And she’s accepted. Ooh.
When reading the early chapters of this book, one of the first things that struck me is the juvenile writing style. In its defence, this book is young adult, but I feel it might be aimed at slightly younger young adult than some others in the genre. I think I could have happily read this at aged ten, and I would have probably fallen in love with it at fifteen, but ten years later I wasn’t as taken with it.
But it’s easy reading so I carried on and got through the story very quickly. While I don’t think this would necessarily satisfy all hard-core dystopia lovers, I did enjoy it. It’s a fluffy, light read with a big focus on romance. The Selection is a televised process all about finding the next queen; 35 girls enter and compete, going on dates with the prince until at the end he chooses just one. With a storyline like that, there’s going to be a lot of romance, tears and tantrums, And it’s fun (if a little bit sexist).
I liked the idea of the castes and the strict system, but I don’t really feel this was explored enough to truly class this book as dystopian. There’s also the hint of rebel attacks, which feels quite shallow with no serious consequences which we can see, but I think this may be explored further in the rest of the trilogy. The caste systems does offer a different view of the division between rich and the poor, and America and the Prince’s relationship begins to bridge it in a way which could be inspiring.
But, the Selection process was the real focus, and the tension and bickering between the other girls was entertaining, even though not many of their characters were explored in depth.
I did have a bit of a problem with America herself. In my opinion, she was a little bit whiney and immature and she seemed incredibly ungrateful for the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity she’d received. But, I guess I’d rather have a flawed main character than an overly perfect one, and she does grow as the novel comes along and begins to accept and embrace her situation. And, I did love Prince Maxon. He was adorable, and he really made up for America’s diva behaviour with his charming yet naive nature.
I’m a little bit torn about this book. It doesn’t stand up to others in its genre in the fact that there never feels like there’s any real danger. But there’s two other books in this series, so I think there is time for that element to develop. What this book does do well is deliver something which is truly feel-good and fun. There’s hints of something darker coming too, so while I’m didn’t fall in love with this book, I’ll definitely be reading the next one to see what happens next.