The prince of Illea needs a wife. Tradition states the king and queen must hold The Selection, a televised event in which 35 girls are whittled down to one lucky winner. She will become the future queen. America Singer is a five, in a caste system where your number dictates your career. Royalty are ones and the homeless are eights. As a five she earns her living entertaining with song and music. She is in love with a six but her mother very much wants her to apply for The Selection.
I loved the idea of a frivolous, reality TV show based novel with echoes of Next Top Model. Only the prize is a prince. It’s a bit predictable, but sometimes that’s exactly what you need in a story. Prince Maxon’s awkwardness became endearing even though I started off thinking he was incredibly stereotypical. America leaves behind her love Aspen, but if I’m being honest, he’s a bit of a nob. I don’t think she ever sees that even though he is too caught up in the social expectations of their caste system. In contrast, the prince is more than happy to choose his princess from the lower castes. There are a few times when I thought America needed a slap.
Why it had to be shoe-horned into a future American dystopia I don’t know. For some reason, I thought it was contemporary when I first picked it up. I can see it as a TV show for some forgotten about country that still has monarchs that can’t get a date. We had The Farmer Wants a Wife in the UK a few years ago, where a bunch of rather inappropriate single women went to live on a farm in the hopes of wooing a handsome farmer (with loads of land and presumable cash). It doesn’t matter that he eventually decided he liked the presenter better than the winning girl, it proves that such shows are possible in a current day setting. The fact that America had adopted a hereditary monarchy and a caste system in the distant future just seems so far-fetched. There’s nothing wrong with setting a book in a made up world either.
I think you all know my opinion on poorly constructed trilogies by now. Each book should have a conclusion of sorts. Yes, loads of things can be carried on into the next book but you need to give your readers some satisfaction. The book needs to work as a standlone read, hopefully one that leaves the readers craving more. I’m not even talking about cliffhangers here, the book just seems to end mid scene. Absolutely nothing is concluded and it left me feeling a bit cheated.
In the end it’s trying to be too many things, a dystopia with the social etiquette of Regency England and a very modern day reality show, rolled into one. Not forgetting the fairy tale romance of a normal girl meeting her prince charming… After saying all that, I did quite enjoy it for quick weekend read and I’d probably read the next one!
The Selection is published by HarperCollins and will be available in paperback and ebook formats on 7th June 2012. Thanks go to the publisher for providing me with a copy for review via NetGalley.
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