Fancy Ballgowns & Love Triangles: A Review of The Selection by Kiera Cass
Updated: Sep 22, 2020
On Friday, April 10, 2020 Kiera Cass blessed us with the news that The Selection was finally going to be made into a movie. This is the only news that matters in quarantine, and the only news I’ll care about for the rest of the year. I freaked out so much that I couldn’t even spell “freaking” right; as seen on Reading Has Ruined My Life’s Twitter page at @RHRMLBlog.
There isn’t much news on The Selection movie just yet. There is no cast, no production dates, no release date, but I will keep everyone updated on the movie news at @RHRMLBlog on Twitter; which if you haven’t followed the Twitter page, I highly recommend you do so.
So far the only news is that the film will be directed for Netflix by Haifaa Al-Mansour who has previously directed a handful of films such as Mary Shelley, a romantic period-drama on the life of Mary Shelly, and The Perfect Candidate, a drama piece which follows a young Saudi Arabian doctor who runs for city council to have her voice heard and better her town. Al-Mansour has also directed for TV; most notably episode five of the Netflix show The Society entitled “Putting on the Clothes.” Truthfully, I haven’t watched any of Al-Mansour’s work so I can’t speak on if I think she’s the best choice to bring The Selection to life, but this isn’t a review on the movie adaptation of The Selection. This is a review on the 2012 book The Selection. I will review the film when it premiers, but I don’t expect it to drop for at least another year; probably longer given the state of the world at the moment.
Now, I know what everyone is thinking: “Hannah reviews horror stories, not romance novels.” And you would be right in saying that, but The Selection is one of my favorite book series out there. It is totally off-brand for me to be in love with this series, but I absolutely adore it. It definitely has its faults, but I don’t care. I feel that everyone has the one book that you recognize the faults, but you chose to ignore them; this is mine.
The Selection follows 17-year-old America Singer, a young woman from the 5 caste in the dystopian world of Illéa. Illéa is made up of what was once North America, and is ruled by a monarchy. The current king and queen, King Clarkson and Queen Amberly, have one child and heir, Prince Maxon.
After turning 19, Prince Maxon is to hold what is known in Illéa as a Selection. Thirty-five young women, one from each province in Illéa, are chosen at random to travel to the royal palace to compete for Prince Maxon’s hand and heart.
Enter our leading lady America Singer. She doesn’t want to enter the Selection, she believes Prince Maxon to be a snobbish bore, but with her mother’s pushing and the insistence of Aspen Leger, her first love, she fills out the application form and applies for the Selection.
To no surprise of the reader, two weeks later America’s name is called as the Selected for her home province of Carolina. Also to no surprise of the reader, America and Maxon begin to develop feelings towards one another as time passes during the Selection.
The Selection is a tale full of heartwarming scenes, beautiful gowns, the trials and tribulations of finding love, and even more beautiful gowns.
Now let’s talk about these characters! I’ll mainly talk about our love triangle of America, Maxon, and Aspen, but I’ll also mention a few of the other Selected girls who are pertinent to the story.
I’ve already mentioned some of the basic background of America Singer. She’s from the lower class, doesn’t want to enter the Selection but ends up entering at the pushing of others, and, at first, is desperately in love with Aspen Leger who is in a lower caste than herself.
This paragraph has nothing to do with America Singer, but I just want to say if you want to know about the caste system, because I’m not going to talk about it too much in this review, you can visit The Selection’s wiki page on the caste system here. Back to America Singer now!
Her most defined physical feature is that she’s a fiery red head. It’s a family trait, as is the fiery temper to match. Personality wise, America is outspoken, family oriented, stubborn, courageous, and very insecure in some instances. It’s important to note that while she often compares herself to the other Selected girls, never once does she do or say anything to tear them down in attempts to make herself seem better than any of the others.
As for America’s lovers, the first one readers meet is Aspen Leger. He is a 6, and much like America, he is extremely loyal, hard-working, and family oriented. I’ve detailed Aspen in a post last month on the most swoon worthy book characters. You can read that post here. Also detailed in said post are Aspen’s looks. With black hair and blue/green eyes, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Aspen is by far my type. Yes, hello, Logan Lerman, would you care to play Aspen in The Selection film? It would be greatly appreciated by me.
Maxon is the last third of the love triangle. He, as I’ve already said, is the prince of Illéa on the hunt for his future wife and queen thanks to the Selection. Since The Selection is from America’s POV, not much is known on Maxon other than what would be considered common knowledge. He’s considered very intelligent, poised and proper, and well-spoken. America personally considers him to be a stuck-up, shallow, bore based on what she knows of him.
Upon meeting and getting to know him, Maxon proves himself to be very generous, grounded, and down to earth. While he may not know all the hardships his public goes through, he’s very willing to listen and learn about those problems to help improve the country’s conditions. Honestly, what a gent.
The final two characters I want to mention are Marlee and Celeste; two of the other young women who were chosen to be a part of the Selection. America first meets both women upon traveling to the palace. Marlee and America hit it off right away, thus becoming fast friends during and after their time in the Selection. She’s very much the girl-next-door type, and her bubbly personality makes her instantly likable. Celeste is a whole other story. She’s painted as the villain in the tale from the moment she first appears. America instantly pegs her as an initialed 2, and Celeste pegs America to be strong competition early on in the book. She’s vain, smug, and all around horrible; I love her so much.
At the end of The Selection, both women are still a little one-dimensional. More time is spent with America and Maxon, or with America and her maids. I can’t really fault Cass for keeping both Marlee and Celeste, for lack of a better term, somewhat mysterious. More time is spent with these women in the following two books, and much more is learned about their personalities, background, and thoughts.
I want to talk about the plot of the book, but I feel that I’ve already discussed it in my character backgrounds; specifically, America and Maxon. The majority of this book follows the relationship blooming between the pair, and America’s heart mending over the loss of her first love Aspen.
Kiera Cass does a beautiful job at creating the relationship between America and Maxon. It begins with no feelings on America’s part, and awkwardness and kindness on Maxon’s part. Maxon has no idea how to act around women in a romantic setting; spoiler alert, he’s never even kissed a girl before the Selection. I adore reading about their relationship growing from no feelings, to friends, and to finally admitting there are some romantic feelings between the pair.
If you couldn’t tell, I’m fully Team Maxon. It’s not because I never liked Aspen, I do, he’s a great character; but Maxon and America are just better together. The relationship between Aspen and America is very much that teenaged “I’ll love you forever, and never leave you” type. That romance tends not to last, and, in my mind at least, it’s just annoying because the couple tends to fight over trivial things instead of helping one another grow as a person.
For example, Aspen and America fight over archaic gender norms. America decided to spoil Aspen with a nice meal for the two of them at the beginning of the book, and then Aspen freaks out because he thinks that man should provide for a woman. While there are other issues that arise during this fight, it boils down to that notion.
Yeah, a pair aren’t that good together when they fight over a meal.
The other issue I have with this book is something similar to the gender norms that Aspen and America fight about. Cass creates an Illéa law that forces the population to wait to have sex until marriage. The reasoning is that this is to control the country’s population, but instead it basically bans safe sex. Abstinence is not a good form of birth control! The Selection takes place in a dystopian future, why do condoms and/or birth control not exist? They exist in the past, but instead of making those things accesable, there’s a law that says you’ll go to jail and be whipped if you are caught having sex. Seriously, what is going on here?
I’m sure you can create some counter argument that the reason behind this is because the story takes place in a dystopian future, but come on, this is just stupid. Why was this plot point brought up in the first place? There was no reason for it to be mentioned, and should the narrative lead towards a sexual situation, one of the characters could have just said no and we could have moved on. There is nothing to gain with this abstinence law plot point.
Eventually, I will cover The Elite and The One. Much more occurs in those following two books, but for now I must end my post. If you’re a fan of romance novels, I do recommend you giving this book a try. I find the relationships to be a high point of this series, and as a starting point for a series, it is wonderfully done. It lays the groundwork for a new take on a dystopian world, and the following two books add much more to this story making it more than just a traditional love triangle type story.