Someone described Kiera Cass’ novel The Selection to me as The Bachelor meets The Hunger Games, and that description is not too far off. The Selection takes place in a dystopian future where the country that used to be America, essentially, is ruled by a king. Society is organized into caste systems, numbered one through eight, with ‘ones’ being the royal family, ‘twos’ being rich families, and each caste working down the social ladder from musicians to teachers to construction workers until you get to the ‘eights’, or the lowest members of societies. As you might expect in a dystopian world, you can’t marry, or really even associate, with members of different castes and so society is left with this rigid system that leaves many people poor, hungry, and dissatisfied with their lot in life.
The monarchy is hereditary, so the king’s son Maxon will inherit the throne, but the process for finding Maxon’s wife the future princess and queen is another matter entirely. This process is called “the selection”, and girls are chosen from different castes and are sent to live at the palace. The prince spends time with each of them, and based on his own feelings plus the opinions of society, his parents, and the benefits each girl brings to the relationship, he sends girls home until only one is left and he marries her. Like on The Bachelor.
The Hunger Games part of the story comes from the dystopian setting. There are two rebel groups seeking to change society’s structure. The northern rebels want Maxon to remain prince as long as he abolishes the caste system. The southern rebels want to destroy the caste system and the monarchy and essentially bring anarchy and death to the entire country. But despite the political and social unrest that Cass sets up in her series—The Selection, The Elite, and The One—in the end it really ends up reading like The Bachelor without The Hunger Games.
The story centers heavily around a love triangle, much like other popular YA fiction such as Twilight or The Hunger Games. America, a girl from the fifth caste and a musician, is in love with Aspen, someone from a lower caste than she is. They plan to get married, but when America has the chance to join the selection, Aspen dumps her and America goes to the palace to compete for the heart of the prince. As you might expect from a typical YA heroine, America has no interest in the frivolous spectacle of the selection or in winning the prince’s heart. She really just wants to go home, but her blunt matters and honest speech catch the prince’s attention. But then Aspen is drafted into the army and becomes a guard at the palace. Let the love triangle between the prince, the guard, and the girl ensue for three more books.
Like most love triangles—cough, Twilight and The Hunger Games—it is quite obvious whom America is going to choose at the end. Like many television shows—cough, Bones—by the third book it feels like Cass is dragging out the “who will she choose” storyline when she really should have ended the love triangle by now. Three books is too long to drag out the love triangle without developing it into anything more. Though I will say, she ends it much better than other love triangles—cough, The Hunger Games.
And while she’s busy dragging out the drama of the love triangle, Cass misses the opportunity to build up the political drama of the rebellions going on. Throughout the series, rebels attack the palace, but that’s all that happens. There’s no showdown, no decisive victory one way or the other. In the end, there’s really no rising action, climax, or resolution for that side of the novel. Cass leaves it undeveloped when it had a lot of potential and would have strengthened the book immensely.
Don’t get me wrong; I enjoyed all three books in the series. Call me shallow but I do enjoy a book about relationship drama, and the characters are endearing. But the books would have been much stronger and more meaningful if Cass had spent less time on the love triangle and more time on the political drama. Still, if you enjoyed books like Twilight and The Hunger Games, or if you are an avid viewer of The Bachelor, you will enjoy this book.
For books with dramatic relationships AND political intrigue, check out: