The Elite by Kiera Cass

Caution: This review contains spoilers from book one, The Selection.

One aspect of this book that I liked is that it follows the first book, The Selection, almost seamlessly. When reading a sequel, I usually find that it takes me several pages or chapters to “get back into” the story, and I appreciated that The Elite begins more or less where The Selection ends.

America Singer is left with a position as one of 6 remaining Selected girls (known as the Elite), and a choice between her dearest Aspen and the charming prince Maxon.

I found this book to be darker than The Selection, with an expansion on the situation with the rebel attacks on the castle, Illéa’s history, and the conflict created by the caste system. As tension rises within the dwindling group of Elite, as the danger of the rebels becomes far more apparent, and as America discovers more about the founding of Illéa, the Selection no longer seems like a frivolous game.

I was a bit disappointed in the shift in America and Maxon’s friendship, though it might have been expected given the need for conflict in the story. The understanding and casual words that passed between the two of them in The Selection morph into a complicated, less transparent relationship as America’s feelings for Maxon become more apparent.

Because of her growing desire for Maxon’s heart, America grows mistrustful of him and the other girls, and she begins to make decisions that seem less measured than those she made before. I liked how America was kind and helpful to the girls in the beginning of the Selection, but in this book, as her feelings for Maxon grow, she begins to see them more as opponents. Though she maintains her courageous and strong character, America allows herself to be pulled further in to the competition, meaning more uncertainty and distrust.

Additionally, I did feel like some of the conflict between Maxon and America might have been unrealistic; if they truly loved each other, wouldn’t they trust each other more and be able to express their thoughts to each other? Nevertheless, I realize that America and Maxon are both filled with doubt and worry about the decisions set before them (for instance, America debates between Maxon and Aspen: princess or Six?), and are no doubt unsure of many things–even each other.

What I admired about The Elite as well as The Selection was that Maxon did not appear like some two-dimensional character. Despite his privileged position, he is still influenced and pressured by his father, and he feels great responsibility in his choice for a princess–he feels he must not only consider his own happiness, but that of his future people and his father as well.

If you enjoyed The Selection and are eager to follow America’s story further, this is the perfect book! Additionally, it leaves off with 4 Elite … Maxon’s decision draws closer with the close of the second book.

– Mia T.

The Elite by Kiera Cass is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive

 

The Selection by Kiera Cass

When you open the pages of this book, you enter the country of Illéa, a post-World War IV America. It’s led by a king, not a president; formed of provinces, not states; and populated by eight castes, each number related to different trade and status (one being the most privileged). The story begins at a prominent time in Illéa–a Selection in which 35 girls from any caste are given the opportunity to be the princess of Illéa (which would raise them to the status of a One) and the wife of the young Prince Maxon.

Reminiscent of The Hunger Games, full of romance and humor and extravagance, and populated by a set of dynamic characters, Kiera Cass’ The Selection is an entertaining and satisfying read.

Although lacking the violence and seriousness of The Hunger Games, The Selection parallels Suzanne Collins’ book in some ways. In both novels the citizens are separated into classes, the highest class wealthy and lavish and seemingly frivolous; and there is a “lottery” to select people for a nationwide, televised event. Because of these similarities, if you enjoyed The Hunger Games this may be a book to consider; however, the books differ in significant ways as well–one way being the more romantic focus of The Selection.

I liked how the romance in this novel did not seem forced; the characters were strong and independent, which made any romance believable. The main character, America Singer, lives in a family of Fives, and she does her best to support her family. What I liked about her character was that she does not place as much importance on the caste system, and she has little desire to elevate her caste as long as she and those around her are content. She loves people for their personality and values rather than their image or caste. Her determination to remain herself no matter who is watching is also an admirable trait.

Most of the characters seemed well-rounded and believable, especially because of the rich backstories readers are either informed of or tantalized with. I did feel like some of the 35 Selected characters were not expanded upon, but in retrospect 35 characters would take a while to develop, and I understand how the introduction of the formation of all the characters could have shifted the focus of the story and its readers.

Along with romance and dynamic characters is the theme of judgment. The caste system in itself causes judgment among the characters–each caste is expected to work in a certain field, such as art, acting, or physical labor. The Selection addresses the inequality across Illéa as well as the barrier judgment causes, whether the judgment is towards a One or an Eight. It’s interesting to see the lives of those in the palace–the Ones–and though they live with abundance and frivolity, they have the onerous job of running a country. Furthermore, Prince Maxon presents himself quite differently than the stuck-up, spoiled prince America initially imagines him to be. On the other hand, Prince Maxon starts to understand the hardships of the lower classes–hardships he had previously been oblivious to.

If you haven’t read the book yet or are now planning on it, I want to mention that The Selection is the first of a series of five. While I was reading, I was expecting the answers to “who wins the Selection?” “What is the mysterious backstory of Illéa?” and “why is the palace in danger of rebel attack?” to be answered by the end of the story, but they weren’t. However, I didn’t find the ending of the story very disappointing; it set up the next book as an intriguing and exciting continuation to the story of America, the Selection, and Illéa.

– Mia T.

The Selection by Kiera Cass is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available as a free download from Overdrive