Author: Kiera Cass
Series: The Selection, #1
Summary: For thirty-five girls, the Selection is the chance of a lifetime. The opportunity to escape the life laid out for them since birth. To be swept up in a world of glittering gowns and priceless jewels. To live in the palace and compete for the heart of the gorgeous Prince Maxon.
But for America Singer, being Selected is a nightmare. It means turning her back on her secret love with Aspen, who is a caste below her. Leaving her home to enter a fierce competition for a crown she doesn't want. Living in a palace that is constantly threatened by violent rebel attacks.
Then America meets Prince Maxon. Gradually, she starts to question all the plans she's made for herself- and realizes that the life she's always dreamed of may not compare to a future she never imagined.
It's been a while since I've read a book so thoroughly and quickly and has been so entertaining that I simply couldn't put it down, but The Selection had me on a ride from page one beginning with:
"When we got the letter in the post, my mother was ecstatic. She had already decided that all our problems were solved, gone forever. The big hitch in her brilliant plan was me. I didn't think I was a particularly disobedient daughter, but this was where I drew the line. I didn't want to be royalty. And I didn't want to be a One. I didn't even want to try."It drew me in instantly with curiosity. What was this letter and what was a One? The letter just so happened to be an application for the Selection, a randomly selected group of 35 girls would be competing for the prince's affections. The last woman standing would become the future queen alongside her future king and would instantly become a One. A One is the highest level in the caste system of the country of Ilea, in which they reside. The lowest level is an Eight. The Eights are criminals and prostitutes. Sevens.. I'm not really sure what they are, but I think they are servants along with the Sixes. Our main character and protagonist America Singer is a Five, and I bet you can guess what she does for a living.. That's right. She sings. And plays many, many instruments, including the piano and violin. The Fives are artists and musicians. The Fours work in factories. The Threes are teachers and the like. Twos are Ladies/Lords. And the Ones are royalty. Any girl in any caste who receives this application will have the chance of a lifetime. To be Selected. To potentially become the queen of Ilea, and to never have to worry about money or food ever again, which is why America's mother is so adamant about her turning in the application. It isn't necessary to do so, but who would want to turn down a chance to become a queen, right?? America would. She is content with being a Five. She loves her music and couldn't imagine doing anything else with her life. Even though she struggles frequently to have the basic necessities, she loves her family and her home and the person she is. But that isn't all that's keeping her from submitting the application. There is also the fact that she couldn't imagine loving anyone else but the handsome Aspen Leger, with whom she's had a secret relationship for the past two years. The reason they've kept it secret is because he is a Six, and any dating outside your caste system is forbidden, especially of the intimate kind. It was punishable by death. America is madly in love with Aspen and has even made up her mind to marry him if he'll ask her. Marrying outside of your caste is completely legal though. The problem with that is a woman moves up or down in the system depending on the level of the man she is marrying; therefore, America will become a Six, struggling even more than she does as a Five. Aspen doesn't want to see that happen, so he convinces her to submit her application for the Selection. Even if she doesn't get picked, at least he'll know he didn't hold her back. What they didn't know is that America would be Selected as one of the 35 girls, and that a week later she would be living at the palace with the prince and his parents, the king and queen.
America is heartbroken, but decides to stay in the competition for the money her family receives each week that she stays. She and the other Selected are automatically moved up the caste system to Threes (unless you're a three or above and then you stay where you are). She makes it very clear to Prince Maxon from the beginning that she does not love him, will never love him, and is only there for the money and the food. Surprisingly, Prince Maxon doesn't kick her out, but finds her charming and decides to keep her around. I absolutely loved reading about these two. They instantly hit it off, but not necessarily romantically. Maxon of course is in this competition to find a wife, and the girls to become that wife, but America asks him for friendship and if she could stay in the competition, she would help him find his wife. And he graciously accepts her request. And then some. He is a very generous and kind man. He's loveable and entertaining in every way. He's kind, charming, polished, handsome, and in my opinion irresistible. He's innocent in that he's never been around many girls growing up in the palace and is rather shy and a tiny bit awkward at times, but he has a good head on his shoulders and doesn't take this competition lightly. He isn't looking for someone shallow, he's looking for a real deal, and believes he has found that in America. With the exception of her not wanting him, that is. Their friendship grows quickly, but their romantic relationship grows slowly. I loved reading about each moment they had together, and that with each moment they grew closer, learning each others' habits, knowing what the other was thinking without them saying it. They were comfortable together. It was like reading about two real people truly falling in love. My heart just couldn't handle it. It's still beating rapidly in my chest just thinking about all of those moments they had together.
America is a very strong protagonist. She fights for the people she loves in every way she can. She's stubborn and hardheaded, yet kind and gentle. She's firm in her beliefs and she doesn't take any crap from anyone, but she can break just as easily as the next person. She doesn't allow herself to fall completely apart though. She's very eloquent, and she never sees someone in a lower caste as below her. Actually, she treats them as her friends and even goes out of her way to keep them safe. Her most prominent weakness is her love for Aspen, which she can't seem to get over even when faced with a gorgeous, nearly perfect prince, admitting that she is still very much in love with Aspen, yet towards the end of the book she's asked this question about Maxon: ". . .you must like him a little to be willing to stay, right?" and her response: "I do. He's more than I ever imagined he was."
Kiera Cass did an amazing job in creating very loveable, yet real characters. I enjoyed every minute of this novel. It's entertaining, charming, funny, witty, sarcastic, swoon-worthy... just amazing. She timed every moment perfectly. I really don't think she could have done any better. She created this whole country, even having a back story of how the country came to be, and it is very realistic and believable. But don't think that this book is all romance. It is also political, with some action from rebel attacks, budget updates for the country, and the like. It is an absolutely magnificent read. I don't know how I'll be able to wait for the next book.
And just for the record: TEAM MAXON. 100%. Just saying.
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