This, my friends, is an extremely odd book. The combination of YA, dystopia and what is basically The Bachelor creates a book that seems like it should be bizarre but is oddly readable. I got curious about it when I was working at HarperCollins and it was going to be the big hot thing. Obviously interested, I grabbed a copy when I could get a chance.
The Selection takes place in an America of at least a few hundred years in the future. In this new land, the new prince of country must take his queen-to-be from one of the common people, an idea of uniting royalty and nation. These girls are picked from random from each of the remaining states and sent to live in the palace as they slowly get whittled down, reality show style.
The other significant part of the plot is that, in this dystopian society, there is a sort of caste systems of Ones, Twos, Threes all the way down to Eights (the homeless). Each person is born into their caste and it's very hard to move in and out of them. The Threes and above pretty much have it made while the lower classes have to work very hard for food and the like.
Our heroine, America Singer (I know), is a Five, the artist class, making her a (can you believe it?) singer. She earns her money performing at events and parties but is also in a family of seven, helping to earn their keep. Secretly, she is also in love with the boy next door who happens to be a Six (oh no!), the servant class and much below her. Not that our plucky America cares.
Now, obviously or this book would be quite short, America gets picked to represent her area in the Selection and is whisked away to the palace to court Prince Maxon (along with thirty four other girls.) Of course, she doesn't really care about winning the prince's heart so much as earning money for her family (there is a generous compensation awarded to the girls' families) and just eating some good meals at the palace. But when she actually gets on quite well with the prince, will she find that she might truly want this?
What I liked about this book is that it was more than it appeared. There are hints at an underground war being fought and secrets behind the government that could bring down the nation (there are no history textbooks, the subject only being taught orally and rarely.) I'm really quite intrigued to find out more about this country that Cass has created because it actually sounds interesting.
Along with that, America is actually a quite likable character. Although I detest her name, her personality is well written and relatable. She's a good female lead, if I'm a bit annoyed with her random love affair with Aspen, the boy back home. She's plucky and high spirited but she also doesn't mind wearing a pretty dress once in a while. That's my kind of girl.
The character that I surprisingly liked the most, though, was Prince Maxon. He was adorable! Not used to women and clearly enjoying getting to spend time with a bunch of pretty girls (but in a little boy in a toy store way, not a letchy way), he just stands out as the one character that doesn't have an ulterior motive. He genuinely wants to find a wife (if not just a friend) and wants everyone to be happy. He may not be as dashing as Aspen but he was sweet and I liked him.
The Selection is not a book for those that hate the very idea of The Bachelor and such but it's definitely for someone that likes a good dystopia. It has girly elements but at its heart, it's a story of a messed up world and some young people that are just trying to find their place in it. I'm looking forward to the next one and think you should give it a try.