Book Review: The Selection Series (#1 – 4) by Kiera Cass

This is the first time I’ve ever reviewed an entire series at once, so bear with me! It is really hard to keep a review like this spoiler-free, since I feel like the titles of the books themselves completely give everything away, so if you are nervous about accidentally finding out anything that happens in later books I would suggest skipping over this review, though I will do my absolute best to be careful.

selection-series

91cUR43vA0LEver since I noticed these books around Goodreads and the book blogosphere I was totally intrigued by how beautiful the covers are. Seriously, I would really like it if my whole closet was filled with dresses like that. I don’t know how my co-workers or people that I run into in the grocery store would would feel, but it would sure make me happy.

When I read YA books in series it really makes the most sense for me to have every available book in the series accessible to me because I read very quickly and even more so when it is YA. This is how I read the entire Beautiful Creatures series too – just had all 4 and plowed through them in a row. I was lucky enough that my library finally had The Selection, The Elite, The One, and The Heir in all at once so I grabbed them all and started my journey. Here we go!

Basic Series Plot

The first three books (The Selection, The Elite, and The One) focus on America Singer, a beautiful and talented musician growing up in a somewhat dystopian, caste-based society (side note: when the castes were established America’s ancestors received word that their surname had changed to Singer. It was Cohen before that, which is my maiden name – thought that was interesting). Castes in Illea (North America) go from One to Eight with One being the highest social status that a person can attain, and Eight the absolute lowest – mostly all Eights are homeless. America and her family are Fives along with other musicians, artists and performers. They aren’t well-off by any means being in the bottom half of the caste system and sometimes they struggle. Then an opportunity for the Singer family comes in the form of the Selection which allows girls between 16-20 to apply for a “lottery” to be chosen as one of 35 girls to move into the royal palace in Angeles and compete to win the heart of Prince Maxon Schreave and therefore the crown.

America really struggles with her adjustment to becoming one of the Selected girls and having to leave Aspen, her secret Six boyfriend, behind. At the palace, the girls are in a Bachelor-type situation, minus the roses, plus rebel attacks on the palace that the Selected have to cope with. The last few girls that remain in the contest become the Elite, and the one he eventually chooses is the One. The fourth book (which will not be the last in the series – at least one more is planned), The Heir, focuses on Princess Eadlyn who is the first female heir to the throne and has a Selection of her own in order to distract the nation with happy news and shift the people’s focus away from uprising and discrimination.

Thoughts

During my reading this past weekend I posted a picture of The Selection on Instagram and explained how fast I was tearing through these books. My best friend Marissa lovingly described them as “book crack.” She couldn’t be more right. I’m pretty sure that I’ve never read as quickly as I did with these books. In spite of myself I was completely drawn into America’s story, and even though I absolutely knew pretty much exactly what would happen and how it would all play out, I had to read it anyway. If you are looking for a series that you can finish quickly with a story line that keeps the momentum going, it is here.

I thought that some of the strongest points in Cass’s writing came when she discussed families. America and Maxon both have quite different relationships with their parents, and some of these differences are influenced by caste and wealth – I thought that this was captured quite well throughout the books. America’s sibling relationships and the female friendships she developed were also very realistic to me. In terms of the actual romance factor, I’m not really into love triangles so that aspect got old for me pretty quickly.

Some characters were more unique and special to me, but some including some of the main ones were unfortunately a bit hollow and predictable. Without giving more away, I do have to say that in The Heir I absolutely loathed Eadlyn – I don’t think that this girl could have been any more of a spoiled brat if she tried, and sometimes she WAS trying to be. I’m honestly not looking forward to the last book which is going to tell more of her story but I hope that she grows up a bit.

I love a good dystopian society, and thought that the setup of the caste system here was effective and had great potential, but I thought a lot more could have been done to explain the divisions in the castes in even greater detail, and discuss the implications of these harsh divisions on society. Most of the focus is on the contest itself. There are also some really troubling, oppressive indications within the actual competition. This actually comes out even more in Eadlyn’s story.

All in all, this wasn’t the best YA series that I’ve read, but it was far from the worst. Even with a predictable plot line, the writing was very fast-paced and I honestly never wanted to stop reading until all of my predictions were confirmed. Some characters were better-developed and more relatable than others. Ultimately I’m happy I gave into my desire to read the books behind the dresses 🙂

Ratings & Publishing Information

The Selection: 3/5, HarperTeen 2012, 336 pages

The Elite: 3/5, HarperTeen 2013, 336 pages

The One: 3.5/5, HarperTeen 2014, 336 pages (I swear I didn’t make it up that all 3 of these have the same exact page count)

The Heir: 2/5, HarperTeen 2015, 368 pages

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Book Review: “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society” by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

“We clung to books and to our friends; they reminded us that we had another part to us.”

Hardcover edition; Dial Press 2008. 288 pages.

Hardcover edition; Dial Press 2008.
288 pages.

Sorry it’s been a while since my last review. Our best friends got married on Sunday so we had lots of pre-wedding events and then the big weekend itself! It was beautiful and we’re so happy for them!!!

Guernsey was my most recent commuting companion and was a fun audiobook because it’s an epistolary novel with many secondary characters, so there were multiple readers who each used different voices for each individual character’s letters. However, despite my enjoyment of the listening experience itself due to the talented readers, I really did not enjoy this book as much as I thought I would. The basic premise, involving a young (32 years old, as she reminded us often) writer in London after the war struggling to come up with the idea for her next novel, as she begins to correspond with some folks in Guernsey after one of them finds her name and address in his favorite book, was super intriguing, and I’ve wanted to read this for a while, but it fell totally flat.

In my opinion, this novel had amazing potential to address a very serious and interesting topic, the occupation of Guernsey and the other Channel Islands by the Germans during WWII, which I personally didn’t know much about in the larger scheme of WWII history. However, the wartime experience gets lost in what I found to be a very predictable story with unlikable characters. I knew just about everything that was going to happen to Juliet and the others before it did, and found the entire story and much of the characterization to be extremely trite, contrived, and rather boring. EVERYONE was quirky. Elizabeth was just TOO perfect. I especially hated Juliet pretty much from the very beginning, as she consistently complained and whined about everything that happened to her; my hatred culminated when she demonstrated jealousy of another character for always managing to look so stylish, even when she knew that this character was recently released from hospice after surviving as a prisoner in a CONCENTRATION CAMP. REALLY, JULIET?!?!?! ARE YOU KIDDING ME?????

Two stars for some absolutely delightful passages about books, bookstores, and book lovers, as well as the descriptions of my favorite character, Ariel the goat. Also, please keep in mind that I know many people (yes, including my mom) who really enjoyed this book, and it has excellent ratings on Goodreads, so I am definitely in the minority, but I can’t in good conscience recommend it.