Published: 01 June 2012 by HarperCollins
Format: Paperback, 336 pages
Series: The Selection #1
Goodreads • The Book Depository
Thirty-five beautiful girls. Thirty-five beautiful rivals …
It’s the chance of a lifetime and 17-year-old America Singer should feel lucky. She has been chosen for The Selection, a reality TV lottery in which the special few compete for gorgeous Prince Maxon's love.
Swept up in a world of elaborate gowns, glittering jewels and decadent feasts, America is living a new and glamorous life. And the prince takes a special interest in her, much to the outrage of the others.
Rivalry within The Selection is fierce and not all of the girls are prepared to play by the rules. But what they don’t know is that America has a secret — one which could throw the whole competition… and change her life forever.
Pretty cover aside, I found the first half of The Selection to be average, but the book improves vastly around the half-way mark and, as I rapidly approached the end, I realised that I was hooked! Initially this story of a girl from a poor family winning the chance to compete for the crown prince’s heart is full of clichés and unegngaging. However, once the competition starts, we see a different side to America and Prince Maxon and it is very easy to get wrapped up in their adventures.
America Singer. Yes that’s her name, and I thought it was incredibly pretentious until I learnt the reason she was named so by her mother. She comes across as an average girl with a dangerous secret – she is in love with someone lower on the caste system than her. In her world this means that their relationship is subjected to more than the usual hardships, but she believes their love can overcome it. When America’s name is drawn to be part of The Selection, she just wants to get out and doesn’t entertain any ideas about winning the Prince’s heart, in fact, she believes him to be stiff and shallow. But when she gets to know him, American realises that Maxon is just an awkward and incredibly cute boy who is considerate to the plight of others. Their mutual understanding brings about another side to America, and we get to see that she is simply confused about her world and where she belongs in it.
The romance, such as it is, between America and Maxon is incredibly slow and sweet, with both of them bumbling through the experience in full view of the public. What starts as an unlikely friendship slowly blossoms into mutual regard and then to tentative love. I think it is a realistic portrayal of what would actually occur, and the immense class difference between them plays out how I would imagine. My only problem with it is that I believe, having been raised as he is, Maxon would have objected to America’s candid conversation and challenging opinions much sooner than he did. I also think that the interactions of the contestants is realistic. There’s something about girls when they’re pitted against one another that brings out the worst qualities in humanity, and I found their interactions made me smile, cringe or fume at the right moments.
Initially the world building in the book failed to impress me. I felt like I had stumbled upon the middle of some story and I was already meant to know how this new world works and how it came to be that way. The caste system is simple and yet I felt it wasn’t thought out. Wouldn’t it make more sense to assign caste based on personal ability rather than those of one’s ancestors? It seems like a very inefficient way to run a society because so many skills would be lost just because people are prohibited by their caste to practise them. There is still much to learn about the world, but I feel as though the author has left enough loose threads to keep her readers coming back for more. In retrospect I also feel perhaps the readers were kept in the dark to reflect America’s lack of knowledge since the book is written in first person.
A book that surprised me, not only because the beginning is lack-lustre but because it has some genuinely interesting characters, The Selection has definitely hooked me. It is a short read, and I urge readers to give it a chance when they are reading it. As for me, I look forward to reading the sequel and finding out how America goes in the competition.