You may have thought their princess phase was over, but the first book in Kiera Cass’s dystopian romance series may have your teen caught up in a different kind of fairy tale.
Like many mothers, I read The Selection at the urging of my teen daughter. And like many adults, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed the book, as well as the next four in the series, which I read entirely of my own volition.
In this gently dystopian novel, 35 young women compete for the hand of Maxon Schreave, heir to the throne of Illéa. The book takes its title from the competition: Not only is the competition a game, but it is also a reality TV show for the citizens’ entertainment.
Adults will recognize the parallel to The Bachelor, though teens may find it feels more like The Hunger Games. Author Kiera Cass says her real inspiration came from Queen Esther of the Bible: she married a king, but what if before she met him, she was in love with the boy next door?
The Selection Book Review
Our heroine, America, finds herself in exactly that dilemma. She’s in love with her childhood friend Aspen; she knows they’ll marry, despite their complicated situation. Each caste is assigned a number. Neither America nor Aspen belongs to a high caste, but as a Five, America enjoys a better life than her love Aspen, a Six. She only enters the Selection to make him happy: He couldn’t bear to think he would prevent her from experiencing a better life.
When America is chosen to compete in the Selection, she is only biding her time; she has no interest in Maxon. But when she meets him, he’s not what she expected. And Aspen doesn’t behave quite like she expected, either.
Now that I’ve inhaled the entire series, I understand why teenagers (and their moms) love to root for America. These stories are fun to read and provide much fodder for good conversation: female friendship, first and enduring love, wealth and poverty, rebellion and complacency.
Anne Bogel is the creator of the blog Modern Mrs. Darcy and host of the podcast What Should I Read Next? She is the author of I’d Rather Be Reading: The Delights and Dilemmas of the Reading Life.
When I picked up The Selection at the library the day before leaving for vacation, I did not have very high hopes for the book. Based on the cover and the description, this did not seem like the kind of book I’d enjoy. But most of my friends at school loved it, so I thought I’d see what the big deal was. To my surprise, I couldn’t put the book down; I finished it in a few hours. By the end of the week, I had read the whole series.
Seventeen-year-old America Singer thinks she has her life all planned out. She’s saving up to marry Aspen, her neighbor and family patron who is below her in Illéa’s caste system. When she is given the possible opportunity to compete for the hand of Prince Maxon with 34 other girls, it takes much convincing to get her to apply for the drawing. Finally, she gives in because her family needs her to. As the competition begins, America is only in it for the small payment her parents receive regularly from the royal family. But as the group of girls becomes smaller, she is torn between two options: live a life of comfort and wealth at the palace with Maxon, or live with her true love, Aspen, and go to sleep every night hungry.
A Different kind of fairy tale
This book fits quite a few genres. It is slightly dystopian with some romance and a bit of humor. There’s just enough romance in the book for those who like that. Others, like me, will enjoy following the story of a girl who stands up for the lower castes, will not let Maxon call her “my dear,” and treats her maids like sisters instead of servants. She quickly becomes a favorite across the country and almost everyone wants her to win. But does she want to?
Sarah Bogel is an eighth grader in Louisville, Kentucky. She likes field hockey and Harry Potter.