by Kiera Cass
Take American reality T.V. show The Bachelor, combine with a Hindu-styled caste system, sprinkle with just a touch of Power Ball Lottery—and violá—a modern young-adult romance is born.America Singer is in love with Aspen, and even though his caste is below hers, she knows he is THE ONE. If only she could get Aspen to believe that he is good enough for her despite his lowly caste. So when Aspen asks her to enter her name into Illéa’s “Selection,” a contest created for the Prince of Illéa to select his bride and future queen from amongst the people, she doesn’t hesitate. America knows she won’t be chosen to compete when every girl from every caste in the nation is applying, and only thirty five girls will be selected. Then Aspen will know they were meant to be together. Not only is America not future queen material, but the chances of her falling in love with someone else even if she were chosen is non-existent. Until the unthinkable happens.
Although I am not a fan of reality TV per se, and I am particularly appalled by shows like The Bachelor, I do feel that there is a wide audience for this book. I loathe The Bachelor in particular, because I feel that it simplifies love and marriage, and it also degrades the value of women and people in general. That being said, it is a widely popular show among the American public and American teenagers. That same audience will likely be attracted to this work. Put aside the fact that thirty five girls are all vying for the hand of one privileged boy and another theme comes through. The book is about first—and second— love. Who doesn’t remember their first love and the powerful feelings that come with him? America’s feelings for Aspen are pure, untainted by hurt and regret, and her idealistic and naïve view of love is highly relatable. It is true that one never forgets their first love, and America is no exception to that rule. Hardly ever is a book written about the guy that comes after THE FIRST, and this novel does just that. In simple prose, and dialogue that borders on elementary at times, the reader sees how second love develops, perhaps more slowly and tentatively than the first, but with far more reason and consideration. In this regard Cass’s novel is unique. Add to this the dreamy nature of the castle, the elaborate dresses, the pampering and admiration America receives, and it’s not hard to see why it’s hard to put this book down despite its flaws. I’d wager not one girl amongst us doesn’t secretly want to feel extra special and princes-like. Hopefully, the second installment in the series will feature more about the reason for Illéa’s caste system and rebel attacks on the castle; it would have added to the appeal of the book to elaborate on the “dystopian” setting, which at this point seems to have been tossed in for good measure and contributes little to the Selection as a whole. Despite the fact that this book isn’t a first pick for me, I will be reading the second installment—after all—I have to find out who wins.