YA Audiobook Weekend: The Selection by Kiera Cass
Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction, Dystopia, Romance
Series: The Selection #1
Publisher: HarperTeen (April 24, 2012)
Tiara’s Rating: 3 of 5 stars
Narrator: Amy Rubinate | Length: 8 hrs and 7 mins | Audiobook Publisher: HarpterAudio (April 24, 2012) | Whispersync Ready: Yes
America Singer (I know, I know… I could never get over the name either…) is one of thirty-four girls part of a group known as the Selection. When a prince comes of age in the country, one girl from each of the thirty-four territories are picked to compete for the crown. The Selection is encouraged to provide morale to the people living in the former United States of America. After losing a war to the Chinese, the states have regressed to a monarchy and caste system (1 being the highest and reserved for the monarchy and 8 being the lowest). America is part of the artist caste, which is a 5, and they live just above being destitute. She doesn’t want to join the Selection, especially since she’s already in love with a boy. However, she can’t deny the monetary benefit it would bring to her somewhat large family. After some debate with her family and her boyfriend (who is a caste below her), she puts her name in the hat and is surprised when she’s chosen to be one of the girls who will compete for Prince Maxon’s affections.
This book turned me into such a liar. Prior to reading this book, I’d pretty much written this off as something I would never read. I’m not a fan of dating reality shows, so even with the science fiction angle, I wasn’t too interested in reading a book that is basically The Bachelor. However, I have a friend who is on a YA kick right now, and when she needs someone to flail with over a book, a group of us team up and read together. This book along with Shatter Me were two of her picks. Despite the premise, this book was actually okay. I don’t know why I didn’t end up hating this. Perhaps it’s because of how vanilla and tepid this story is. The writing was engaging enough. The conflicts didn’t feel too threatening, even the more violent encounters weren’t that urgent and are taken care of rather neatly. I guess my brain just settled on this being a romance book, a fairy tale romance with some added elements to be specific, and romance books don’t usually do much to add dramatic tension to the other elements that aren’t the romance. I think I was just able to enjoy it for what it was, and since I wasn’t expecting much I couldn’t really be disappointed. America spends most of her time telling herself that she doesn’t want Maxon, that she’s only there for her family, but still this book finds itself forced into being a love triangle after America’s boyfriend is introduced into the castle while she’s competing. I usually have a hard time with girls behaving badly toward one another over boys, and I was sure that this was going to get on my nerves quickly. I was surprised when the girls weren’t written as badly as I’d expected. There was cattiness from time to time and, of course, there is one girl who is an absolute monster. This book managed to make the girls far less combative than I’ve seen in other books that have just two girls vying for a boy’s affection, though.
The world-building isn’t that great in this story. We get a weak story about two more world wars until America is finally conquered by China because it couldn’t pay its debts. That smacked a little much of yellow peril and made me side eye this book hard. There are some rebels in the story that attack the castle every now and again, but no one knows what they want. That’s kind of left hanging there (to my frustration), but I’m sure Cass addresses them in later books. This book tries a little too hard with wanting to be a story that takes social responsibility by railing on social issues (as presented by the caste system) and setting America up as the poor girl who makes the rich boy suddenly see the light. Also, I feel like I should mention here that this is nothing like The Hunger Games. I find that when books are described as being like The Hunger Games what they mean is that it features a caste system. I didn’t care much for America’s boyfriend, Aspen, or her mother. I didn’t like his reasoning that she should compete “if she really loved him,” so he wouldn’t feel like he’d made her miss an opportunity. That was manipulative and gross, not sweet as I’m sure Cass wants me to believe it be. He didn’t prove to be much better later in the story either. Also, America’s mother is equally as manipulative. While I understand the hardships the family are facing, her mother is much too obsessed with the idea of her daughters marrying up into a better caste. I wasn’t sure if I was supposed feel sorry that her mother was so desperate or dislike her for being so desperate. Most of the interaction between America and her mother felt equally as gross as Aspen’s interactions with America. Surprisingly, I did like Prince Maxon. Sure, it was expected that he’d be the rich boy with the heart of gold, but his interactions with America felt the most earnest. Early in the book, America places herself in the position of being Maxon’s friend rather than trying to be chosen by him, and they have an interesting dynamic for most of the book until she decides she has feelings for him. When she decides she had feelings is when the love triangle started, and it became a bit annoying.
Amy Rubinate does an admirable job with the narration. Some of the voices could sound a little too alike, though. Some of the emotion seemed to be missing from her narration, as well, which might be why I feel it’s such a tepid story. However, I don’t know whether to blame the writing or her narration for that. I suspect it’s the writing. Prince Maxon was my favorite voice she did. She did an excellent job with making him sound formal and a bit uncertain about this position he’s thrust into with the Selection.
This book would’ve worked so much better as a straight up romance book set in the style of The Bachelor. The dystopian angle, while interesting, wasn’t done much justice, and most people who read this book will really only be here for the romance anyway. I’m not sure if this is the type of story that couldn’t have been told in one book, but I’ll make that assessment again once I’ve read the others. I liked this, but I couldn’t tell you one thing that I just loved about this book other than I enjoy a romantic fairy tale at times. This certainly delivers on that angle and will appeal to romance lovers much more than SFF lovers. There’s nothing really new or bold here. I’m certain I’ll be continuing this because I’m a gross sap.