A little free advice from me to you: never work a job with crazy hours. You’ll forever mess up your sleep cycles and end up battling insomnia for years. On the upside, that allows you to blow through three books over the course of two very bad nights at your parents house!
The Selection is a series set sometime after World War 4 in a nation that’s the combination of Canada, the United States, and Latin America. They banded together to fight off China and Russia and have become a kingdom, Illéa, currently ruled by King Clarkson and Queen Amberly. The population has been divided into classes, each given a number. Ones are the highest and Eights the lowest. Your number determines what kind of job you have, among other things.
America Singer, our heroine, is a Five. My least favorite thing about this book was her name. It’s just so hit-you-over-the-head-with-symbolism that I wanted to throw the book every time I read it. She is, surprise, a musician. Her family makes their meager living in the arts; painting, sculpting, singing, playing piano and violin, etc. They perform for the higher classes at parties and events, which is where the bulk of their money comes from. She’s in love with a Four, Aspen, and they’re trying to figure out how to make enough money to get married and deal with the fact that she’ll move down to a more laboring class, something that is generally frowned upon.
So, that’s the background. The books center around an event known as The Selection. When Prince Maxon comes of age, one girl from each of the 35 providences of Illéa are sent to live in the castle. It’s all very Bachelor-esque. The girls are culled from questionnaires and pictures and our America is selected. She entered mostly because her family gets money for every week she stays in the castle. She and Maxon have a meet-cute early on and she confesses she has a love waiting at home and that she wants to stay for her family. Oh, and there are also two warring factions, the Northern Rebels and the Southern Rebels, who are both trying to gain control of the castle and country.
The books have a lot going on. Love triangles (Aspen becomes a soldier stationed at the castle), love, uh, pentagons, war, history lessons, heroes who turn out to out to be horrible people, family drama…it’s a lot to pack into three books. It’s done with moderate success, too. Cass overstuffs the books (a small plot involving America’s brother, for instance, could have been left out completely), but it’s not George R.R. Martin levels of information. Keeping the characters and the plots straight even at 3 in the morning isn’t difficult.
We follow the story from the beginning of the selection to Maxon’s final choice. Of all the narratives going on, the one that grabbed me the most was the one involving the Northern and Southern rebels. I thought it was an interesting way to look at how we revise history to meet our own needs and the people who fight to set things right. It all comes to a head in the final book in a way that surprised me, which was nice! These kinds of books can seem very formulaic and I really enjoyed getting a few end-of-story twists in there. There was, in my opinion, a very unnecessary character death that left me with a bad taste, but otherwise I thought the ending was very fitting for the novels.
Apparently a pilot was filmed for the CW and I wish it had been picked up. I think these books scream for a television adaptation, if only to see the gorgeous clothes. Maybe in the future they’ll revisit that, but until then I’m looking forward to Cass’s next book, which will be set in the world but with new characters.