While its a bit juvenile now, I’ve been following this series since it began, so I couldn’t just not find out how it all ended (yep, I’m that person). So, I’ll be doing a mini-synopsis and review of each of the five books in the series (excluding Happily Ever After, the novella collection, which I never did read). And hey, Moms (and Dad’s), don’t let the face-value content of this book turn you away- unlike The Bachelor (which clearly played some inspirational roll), these books are 100% PG rating approved!
The series takes place 300 years in the future in a country called Illéa (formerly the United States) which has a strict Caste system. When the Heir comes of age, a contest, called The Selection, is held to earn the right to be the next Queen (or King).
For thirty-five girls, the Selection is the chance of a lifetime . It means the opportunity to escape the life laid out for them since birth by a rigid Caste system. But for America Singer, being Selected is a nightmare. America had no wish to be selected, having already found love with her best friend, Aspen; she didn’t even care about remaining a low Caste for the rest of her living, irking out a living on the edge of poverty. Leaving her home means entering a fierce competition for a crown she doesn’t want. However once Selected, America has no choice but to compete, to live in a palace under constant attack from rebels, and to leave behind everything she’s ever known. As the lowest Caste there, she’s shunned by most of the other girls and looked down upon by the King. Then America meets Prince Maxon. Gradually, she starts to question all the plans she’s made for herself – and realizes that the life she’s always dreamed of may not compare to a future she never imagined.
The Selection was good, albeit a bit contrived and petty. I mean, come on, a whole book about a puffed up competition (which is basically The Bachelor) to become the next Queen of a made-up country? The only things that really saved this book (for me), and had me going to pick up the next one were:
- America- her inner turmoil (Aspen or Maxon? Rags or Riches? Friends or Foes?), while somewhat forced, was actually quite interesting to read. A well-written grapple to understand one’s own values always adds more depth to a character, and makes them much more relatable, in my opinion.
- The romance- even I can’t resist a cheesy romance every once and awhile!
- The Rebellion- the whole rebellion vs. the Caste System/Monarchy (which is actually super archaic and unfair) adds a lot of intrigue to this book, and keeps you on the edge of your seat, because you never quite know when those sirens will go off.
Prince Maxon has narrowed down his selection candidates to a group of six girls: America, Kriss, Celeste, Elise, Natalie, and Marlee – The Elite. While Maxon continues his courtship of the girls, they develop relationships among themselves- and forbidden ones among other member of the Royal household. When a forbidden relationship is discovered, America turns away from Maxon, enraged that he let the girl, her friend, be treated as such. However, despite this, America remains in the competition as she wrestles with her feeling for Maxon and the Monarchy. However, as America becomes less and less interested in winning Maxon’s heart, she steadily falls in popularity. Maxon, however, seemingly does not care, revealing some of his true nature to America, convincing her to stay. In the final competition in the book, The Elite are challenged to present an idea to the nation. America, still wrestling with her feeling towards the Monarchy, presents a radical, and potentially treasonous topic- the proposed dissolution of the Caste system.
I found this book built well upon the fluff of The Selection, however it delved a bitter deeper into the societal turmoil in Illéa, giving The Elite much needed depth and drive. While the plot of The Selection was contrived and petty, the plot of The Elite was much more grounded in the societal issues of socio-economic inequalities. America’s own inner turmoil reflected this, and it went a long way towards building her into a deeper, more complex character than she had been previously. Moreover, in turning the focus from being entirely about the competition and adding other aspects, the plot of the series gained some much needed depth.
Entering the Selection changed America Singer’s life in ways she never could have imagined. Since she arrived at the palace, America has struggled with her feelings for her first love, Aspen – and her growing attraction to Prince Maxon. She’s also struggled with her feelings towards the monarchy, and has grappled with what it would mean for her (personally, morally, emotionally), to become one of them, especially when she doesn’t believe in the Caste system the King rigidly upholds. However, with the contest winding down, she’s made her choice . . . and she’s prepared to fight for the future she wants.
While this book was an emotional roller coaster from start to finish, it fell short of the mark. There was the right amount of drama (aka America, shockingly, still cannot make up her mind), the right amount of rebel action and the right amount of action. But it all just felt… forced. It didn’t mesh together.
- America, after three books of indecisiveness, just came across as being kind of petty (this coming from me, who actually really enjoyed America’s character).
- Most of the deaths, while major, felt like they were just thrown in there for shock value. Too often I feel that author’s throw around the lives of their characters without any real meaning, and it definitely felt that way for almost all of the deaths in The One.
- Overall, while I enjoyed this book, as I’ve enjoyed the series so far, it just didn’t bring the wow factor I was expecting from the conclusion of Maxon’s Selection.
With America and Maxon’s selection all wrapped up, you may be wondering… Another sequel? About what? Well you know how they just keep making season, after season, after season, of the Bachelor/Bachelorette? Well, its been awhile (20 years to be exact), and there’s a new Heir, which means a new selection. Illéa’s new royal family, with Maxon at the head, has created big changes in Illéa since the conclusion of The One. The Caste system has been abolished, and females can now be Heir’s to the throne. Which means that Eadlyn will be the next Queen. In the wake of public unrest and political struggles following the dissolution of the Caste system, Eadlyn is pressured by her family in the hosting her own Selection- with 35 boys. Eadlyn doesn’t expect anything like her parents’ fairy-tale love story. In fact, she’d rather not host a Selection at all, but Eadlyn knows her responsibilities as Heir, and she’s not willing to shrink from her duty so easily. But as the competition begins, she may discover that finding her own happily ever after isn’t as impossible as she’s always thought.
I’ll be up front here- like the public of Illéa, I’m not a huge fan of Eadlyn. She’s cold, she’s boring, and she’s far too serious and boorish. She pretty much treats everyone, even her own family, sort of horribly, then blames it on the stress of being the Heir, blah-blah-blah. However, Keira Cass seems to have a talent for making these books enjoyable to read. While the romance (what romance?) is lack lustre, the other characters more than made up for what Eadlyn lacked. Her twin brother, Ahren, brought some much needed reason and romance to the table. And the 35 selection boys? It didn’t take long to get a few favourites among them. A lot were mostly just background noise, like a bunch of the girls from The Selection, but the ones who stood out all stood out due to their personalities, which were well-written and deep, despite the sheer number of characters which had to be introduced. Plus, I’ve definitely still got a book-crush on Maxon and America’s relationship, and there was some of that in here too.
Eadlyn didn’t think she would find a real partner among the Selection’s thirty-five suitors, let alone true love. Political turmoil is still ripe, and the pressure to make the right decision – the one that makes the people of Illéa happy – has become nearly overwhelming. Following her mother’s heart attack, Maxon has chosen to allow Eadlyn, now of age, to rule in his stead until America is recovered. Eadlyn, now managing the Selection and the country, begins to crumble under the pressure, recognizing her flaws as they are ruthlessly pointed out, one after another. With the boys whittled down to the Elite, Eadlyn must make a choice that feels more difficult—and more important—than she ever expected – before time runs out.
So while I all but hated Eadlyn in The Heir, she really grew on me in The Crown. While she still wasn’t perfect, Cass made leaps and bounds in her character development. There’s also something to be said for a flawed character that doesn’t feel overly contrived. I also appreciated the somewhat expected, but plot twist Selection Eadlyn made, which was followed by a significantly more shocking revelation that will change Illéa forever. Overall, this book was a huge step up from The Heir, and as I’ve mentioned, Cass’ ability to build loveable, developed characters continues to astound.
The final verdict? This series is exactly what it set out to be- a fluffy, somewhat cliche, Bachlor-esque teen series about love, freedom and choice. While I could bash it all day long for this, that and the other, when it boils down to it, Keira Cass did an exceptional job writing what she set out to write. You care about the characters. You care about who Maxon and Eadlyn choose. You silently root for your favourites and feel crushed when things don’t go how you expected. While there are flaws, to expect anything more would be unfair.