The One by Kiera Cass

Caution: May contain spoilers from The Selection and The Elite.

While I would consider The Selection series to be more lighthearted than other dystopian YA novels, the third book, The One, certainly introduces more darkness to America’s tale. Nevertheless, it still possesses Kiera Cass’s quirky and imaginative flair that pervades the first and second books.

As both the Selection within the castle walls and the rebel situation outside escalates, they seem to blend together into a far more complex issue than America had imagined possible. Rebel attacks increase as protest rages against the Selection and the continuation of the monarchy and Maxon struggles as his decision grows closer–a decision through which he may not be able to please both his father and his heart.

It seems that as the books have progressed the characters of the Selected have been able to grow more detailed. While America’s character bursts from the pages of the first book, many of the Selected were not as openly described, and understandably so–imagine describing and reading about 35 different characters who might not all play a large role in the story!

However, since only 6 of the Selected remain, we get to explore these characters in more depth, which I found interesting and enriching to the story. By explaining their motives and backgrounds, Kiera Cass allowed the other 5 girls to become more than just America’s competition. I particularly enjoyed a scene where the remaining Selected talk in America’s room without enmity.  With the escalation of the dangerous situation, they are able to look beyond their more frivolous squabbles.

One aspect I admire about America is that true to her decision in the first book, she remains true to herself. Though she wavers at times, especially as the competition becomes intense and when she is intimidated by the king, she consistently chooses what she feels is true to her values and herself, even if by doing so she could diminish her chances of being the One.

The One, full of romance and action; rebellion and choices; politics, love, friendship, fear, and humor, pulls the Selection and the first half of the series into a dazzling, glittering finale.

– Mia T.

The One (and the rest of The Selection series) by Kiera Cass is available for checkout at the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive

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

The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton

I read this book in eighth grade as a reading requirement and at first, I thought it was relatively childish and boring. Nevertheless, the more I read about it the more that I thought this is an amazing book. Through reading this book, I think the biggest thing that I learned is friendship, family and the gap between rich and poor.

Greasers and Socials are two rival groups, the former representing the poor and the latter rich. Although Greasers are poor, their friendship seems to be unwavering. Their relationship is not built upon any foundation of money, social status, or family background. But merely that we all share a similar interest and intend to achieve it. For one thing, if one Greaser is in danger, all the others would risk their lives to help. But for Socials, they would just run away afraid if their parents should find out they would stop supporting them.

The Socials seem like they are enjoying their lives and they despise the Greasers, but in my opinion, they in some uncanny way also want to be like them. They were born and raised in well-off families, the education they received requires them to be aloof towards anybody who isn’t on the same social level as them. However, I believe in some way they also want to make friends who really care about them and wouldn’t just desert them if their parents’ company went bankrupt or something like that. So deep down, I think there is a piercing desperation and loneliness both from the fake worldliness they have to confront every day and the neglection from their always busy and snobbish parents.

-Coreen C. 

The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also free to download from Overdrive

Jennie Gerhardt by Theodore Dreiser

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This is a relatively long novel written by the all-known American author Theodore Dreiser. It talks about Jennie Gerhardt, a poor but strikingly pretty girl who fell in love twice with two men and their story from thereon. At first, because Jennie and her mother were working at a luxurious hotel, she was working there as a laundry washer and there met the brilliant Senator Brander who fell in love with her gradually over a short period of time. Despite the huge age gap between the two of them, they got along fine and it was Senator Brander who assisted this starving family living in Ohio after witnessing the condition of their life and home. Although Jennie’s father, Mr. Gerhardt strongly expostulated against this man who is old enough to be his own brother, his daughter did not listen and thus she was pregnant when Senator Brander died after promising to marry her.

Thus Jennie met another man named Lester Kane who came from a very rich family of carriage business based in Cincinnati. Due to her pulchritude and intelligence, Lester Kane quickly fell in love with Jennie. They lived together for a short period of time before Kane knew Jennie’s daughter, Vesta’s existence. He really wanted to give up Jennie at this point but found her too attractive to do so. Moreover, their relationship at first was gossiped by the neighbors who discovered that they weren’t married after all. What’s worse, when Lester’s sister Louise found out about all of these, she spilled this all to Lester Kane’s father, Archibald, who forced Lester to leave Jennie, but to no avail and thus passed away with a small will left to Lester for his punishment.

Overall, I think this book stuns me as the social gap between the rich and poor widens in America over the years and still remains unchanged. It’s so miserable how the children cannot choose their own course of marriage and HAVE to marry into their own level. So slowly, the conception of social status is imbued in their minds and they themselves can’t even seem to persuade themselves that this person is whom they really love but that they don’t have enough money, therefore, should be relinquished as a potential spouse.

-Coreen C.

Divergent by Veronica Roth

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This is probably one of the most well-read books among teenagers. Personally, I’ve read the series multiple times not just because of its intriguing plot, but because of its interwoven themes that resonate with me every time I read it.

Divergent is a science-fiction novel centered around dystopian Chicago and its society, divided into five factions based on attributes of honesty, selflessness, bravery, peacefulness, and intelligence. The story takes a turn when Beatrice Prior, 16, makes a life-changing decision to live in a different faction. The catch is she must completely abandon her family and strive to fit in a world she is extremely unaccustomed to.

My favorite character is the protagonist, Tris. She is extremely intelligent, brave, and selfless, which is why she is called Divergent. In her society, being compatible for more than one faction is rare, but also dangerous. Tris proves to be exactly that because of her will to see things for what they are and make her own decisions. It was rewarding to watch her develop from a shy, quiet girl into a strong fighter that became a leader.

What made this book great was how realistic it seemed. It was eye-opening to read about a society that is so different from my own, yet not so far-fetched. It makes the reader wonder what it would be like to be a character in the book. And for me, that’s what made this book so good. I definitely recommend reading this book if you haven’t already.

-Meagan A.

The Divergent series by Veronica Roth is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive

Red Rising by Pierce Brown

Dystopian science fiction is one of the most popular and appealing genres to readers of all ages, especially teens. Novels such as The Hunger Games and Divergent just don’t disappoint. And Pierce Brown’s Red Rising certainly doesn’t either.

Red Rising introduces a society much different from other dystopian settings, containing social classes ranked by color, with Gold at the top and Red at the bottom. When main character Darrow, a Red, witnesses his wife’s unjust hanging by the oppressing dictatorship of the Golds, he decides to act and avenge his loved one’s death. To overthrow such a massive power, he plans to take on the impossible task of becoming one of its own Gold leaders and overthrow the government from the inside.

What will Darrow have to do to succeed?

  • Darrow must physically and mentally become a Gold – think, act, and perform as a superior, perfect human being.
  • Darrow must enroll in The Institute, a government school that teaches its students the nature of conquering others for power. It tests them with a life-sized game similar to capture the flag, where killing opponents is permitted and highly advised. There will be only one graduate from The Institute who will be granted an apprenticeship to eventually become one of the society’s top leaders.
  • Darrow must not show his true identity as a Red and failure to do so means death.

Red Rising is an astounding novel displaying how trust can quickly turn friends into enemies. The creativity and imagination incorporated by Pierce Brown makes it such a brilliant and fantastic work of science fiction. As the first book of a trilogy, the plot really captures my attention, and I cannot wait for what the next two books will bring to the series (Golden Son, Morning Star).

I would rate this book a 9 out of 10 and would recommend it to high school audiences and above. Its use of violence and romance makes it a more mature read than other science fiction novels.

-Riley W.

Pierce Brown’s Red Rising trilogy is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.