“The Selection” is the first book of a trilogy by the same name, followed by “The Elite” and “The One”.
In the series, the United States was nearly destroyed after World War Four until it was reformed, implementing a monarchy and strict caste system in this new dystopian country of Illea. When the prince reaches a certain age, all girls between the ages of 16-24 have the option to audition for the chance to enter The Selection, a ‘The Bachelor’-esque dating competition to marry him and become the country’s future queen. When America Singer is one of the thirty-five selected (albeit against her will), she must leave behind her boyfriend and compete for a crown she has never wanted. But her whole perspective is skewed when she realizes that Prince Maxon isn’t at all what she expected.
I went into this book skeptically. I was expecting something fluffy and packed with reality TV’s signature girl-on-girl drama, and that’s not what I got at all.
This book is hilarious and deceptively simple. You enter into it expecting ball gowns and cat fights, but find thought-provoking questions about class difference, big government, individuality, free will and conflicting definitions of love.
The world building was amazing. By the end of the second or third chapter, you have a pretty solid grasp on this strange and deeply flawed country, which makes all of the political intrigue more satisfying.
And yes, there is a lot of romance within the story. After all, it’s set against the backdrop of a royal dating competition. The romance is handled in an incredibly cute and squeal-worthy manner, America’s relationship with Prince Maxon is a satisfying slow burn rife with humor.
The main cast of characters is vivid and complex, our protagonist America obviously included. She’s outspoken, hot tempered, fiercely loyal and a musical genius. I loved her for how down-to-earth and shrewd she was.
America reads like Jim from the “The Office” at times, giving the audience an exasperated smile at the ridiculousness around her. But, oh my god, her big character flaw is annoying: America is the definition of indecisive and I just wanted to shake her at times. I absolutely hated her initial boyfriend Aspen. Not how he was written – I just wanted to put him as a person through a wall. America deserves so much better. Prince Maxon isn’t at all what I expected either. He puts up a regal, refined front but is truly adorkable and silly at heart.
I really liked that the rest of the named competitors we’re introduced as well, friends and villains alike. They’re interesting, diverse and lay a lot of groundwork for plot and character development for the rest of the series.
This novel’s characters felt somewhat like those of “The Hunger Games,” though. We have a headstrong leading lady who wants nothing to do with the fame or fortune thrust upon her and has to choose between the rugged best friend type and the kindhearted new guy. Even so, this story still felt entirely original, just vaguely familiar in terms of character types.
“The Selection” is fast-paced, compelling, and I am completely enthralled by this trilogy’s dystopia rom-com feel. The plot is unapologetically romantic and has given me one of my new favorite literary couples. The first book in the trilogy’s sequel duology “The Heir” hit the shelves last week with its final installment set for next year. I’m on the edge of my seat for where “The Selection” series takes me next.
Verdict: 5/5 stars