The Selection, The Elite, The One
by Kiera Cass
narrated by Amy Rubinate
(fantasy, YA, not-quite-dystopian futuristic)
This series is one that I’ve been eying on my Audible wish list for a while. So when I decided I wanted a light read – because face it, any book whose cover features girls in cupcake dresses is a light read – I picked it up. I love the narrator, so I knew that the listening part would be enjoyable. I wasn’t mistaken there; Amy did a great job of narrating the book. However, I had to go at her pace. Normally I don’t mind moving at the narrator’s pace when I listen to a book. With this one, however, it seemed to slow. I’m not sure if that’s because Amy was reading slower than normal (or slower than I preferred) or if it was because the content was not challenging and so it just seemed slow. In any case, I listened to the first book, then promptly got the second and third from my library e-book collection because I wanted to read the rest of the series at my pace. I finished them (plus one of the series novellas) in about a day.
So, what about the actual books? Well, as the covers imply, they are light reads. They are not deep, even though there are hints of a deeper theme to them. (You know, rebellion, tyranny, etc.) The deeper themes are more background than truly a part of the story, though. The main thrust of the story is, as marketing has said, “Hunger Games meets The Bachelor”. Unlike the Hunger Games, the Selection series doesn’t focus on the dystopian aspect of this nameless future. Unlike some other reviewers, I get the impression that the worldbuilding was done, but that it just wasn’t communicated to the readers very well. (Others didn’t think the would was well built at all.) I felt that the author knew what her world was doing, but that she focused on the game-show aspect of the plot instead of the world in which this was happening. This may have been a good choice, or it may not. I’m not entirely sure – but I do know that if she’d given the readers more of the world’s background, it wouldn’t have been able to stay as light a read as it is.
Pros: I liked the characters. Even thought bits seemed unbelievable, it was mostly the situation that was unbelievable, and not the characters. Put these characters into the situation presented, and their reactions felt real enough. (Some of the situation didn’t feel real, however. The complacency with which people accepted this new caste system is one of them. We didn’t really get to see hints of dissatisfaction among the general populace until the third book.)
I also liked the pacing, for the most part. I only got dissatisfied with the pace of the narration of book one when I neared the end of it, and the other two books – which I read at my own pace – worked well. Nice blend of slower sections and action scenes.
Cons: even as a teenager, America should have seen more of the dissatisfaction than she seemed to have. I found that part very unbelievable. The love triangle drove me nuts. I knew that Aspen was going to somehow show up and cause problems, but I didn’t expect the triangle to be as prevalent and annoying in book two as it was. Also, the names were a bit of an eye-roller, as was the fact that they truly married off their prince via game show.
Reading these books, especially the second and third ones, I was struck by how much more this series could have been. It was a really amusing fluff read, and definitely worth picking up for that purpose. But it could have had Hunger Games-level intrigue. It could have really spoken to our current society and some of the ills in the way we do things. Instead, it stayed on the fun fluff level. It just served to reinforce the cupcake dress image I had of the cover. Lots of sugar and enjoyable in the moment, but not really anything of substance.
Do I recommend these books? Certainly, as long as you know what you’re getting into. These are beach reads. These are something to do for entertainment. They are not the next Hunger Games. If you are willing to enjoy them for what they are, then by all means go for it. But if you’re looking for something deeper and won’t enjoy the lighter read, then I don’t think I can recomend these for you unless you are willing to read between the lines and pick up on the background story that exists without being told.