CBR8 Reviews 2-4
Let’s just get this out of the way up front: these books are dumb. I tried, I really did, but man are they painful. So be warned, there shall be ranting and SPOILERS ahead (I’ll mark where the spoilers start later in the post.)
America Singer (yes, that’s a name) is a seventeen-year-old girl, the middle of five children of a family of artists. In their society, the family is considered a Five. Ones are the most privileged – the Royal Family, for instance, are all Ones. The castes range from Ones to Eights, Eights being homeless people on the fringe of society. There’s a little bit of explanation (or “explanation,” if you will) about the downfall of the society we know and how this one (now called Illea) was rebuilt into a caste system. But it doesn’t matter you guys, because there’s a prince to be fought over. Whenever a prince comes of marrying age in this new society, a process called The Selection is held (not when princesses come of age, mind you. They just get sold off to the highest bidder or most advantageous political match. No joke.) So anyway, the prince is about to go up on the auction block. America wants no part of The Selection initially (it is at least, thankfully, voluntary) because she’s super in love with her secret boyfriend, Aspen Leger (yep, also a name) who is just the most perfect, handsome, generous, lovi…zzzzzz. Sorry, nodded off there. Aspen is perfect. Moving on. America ends up submitting her name into The Selection because reasons (mostly that her family receives money for the duration of her participation.)
Of course America is selected for The Selection. So she immediately meets Marlee and Ashley, two pretty blondes who are interchangeable for the most part, and then Celeste, the dark-haired model bombshell who’s just out for herself and will do anything to win, especially using her feminine wiles. I seriously think Cass kept an index of common character cliches next to her while writing and just selected descriptions at random. So there’s 35 girls who are mostly all the same except for random naming like Tuesday, Tiny, Kriss (actually that one isn’t really weird, it’s more that I really, really hope it’s a nod to the vapid media whores the Kardashians).
Be Warned, SPOILERS START HERE
America and Aspen break up before The Selection, again because of reasons. America thinks Prince Maxon is spoiled at first but they have a meet-cute in the palace gardens in which she yells at him and he is immediately smitten with her, because of course she is. So starteth the love triangle. Predictably, Aspen gets assigned to the palace as a guard and tension ensues (but not til book 2, until then it’s just America pining.) The whole first book is pretty much as follows: love triangle, pretty dresses, paltry attempt at explaining caste tensions, more pretty dresses, and a few cat fights. There’s also some not very subtle rip-off Hunger Games characters present. Every Friday there’s a report on the nation that is required viewing, hosted by Gavril Something-or-Other, who is really just Caesar Flickman. Then there is the girls’ etiquette coach, Silvia, who is a much more boring Effie Trinket.
So. America is your typical Bella Swan here – beautiful and smart and everyone loves her but she feels so insecure guys, and she just couldn’t possibly be all the nice things people tell her she is. As I mentioned before, Maxon is immediately smitten with her because what guy doesn’t love a girl who spends their first meeting yelling at him? America goes back and forth between her feelings for Maxon and Aspen and whether she wants to stay in The Bachelor, I mean The Selection. There are also Northern and Southern Rebels attacking the castle because they’re unhappy with the castes. Maxon has to send girls home and eventually will be down to The Elite, the remaining 5 girls. So conveniently. when there’s 20-something girls left, a rebel attack causes The Selection to move to The Elite quickly so that rather than develop any characters, we can just cut out 20 unnecessary side plots and now we’re down to 6 girls, because Maxon doesn’t need your rules about how many girls can be in The Elite.
The Elite picks up where the first left off and now Maxon and America are just all giggly in love and Maxon is all ready to pick America as his princess if she’s ready to let go of Aspen. She’s game because now she super luuuurves him and is ready to make the announcement the next day when – oh noes! Her BFF Marlee is caught having an affair with a guard – an offense punishable by public whipping and a demotion to level Eight. America tries to stop the whipping, drawing the ire of the King for making a spectacle and now she just can’t even look at Maxon, the dude she loved so much five minutes before. And here the angst gets dialed to 11.
So now, America just can’t even with Maxon, but then gets pissed when he moves on to try to connect with the other girls. She spends her time moping, and meeting secretly with Aspen, despite the fact that her FUCKING BEST FRIEND JUST GOT PUBLICLY CANED FOR THE SAME THING. The King now hates her and goes from background barely-mentioned character to full on mustache-twirling cartoon villain. He goes out of his way to try to get America sent home and despite the fact that she does some dumb shit that really should get her sent home, Maxon just still luuuurves her so much he can’t let go. To demonstrate this, after one particularly stupid display from her, we find out he takes a beating from his father for her actions. Because his father beats him, but no one else knows. Because cartoon villain.
If it seems like I’m kind of aimlessly meandering through plots here, it’s because the whole fucking book is a meandering plot! It’s an overly angsty story filled with false conflicts that could be solved in 30 seconds by two characters talking to each other but that’s just silly nonsense I’m talking now. I want to tell you how book 2 ends – I just read it two days ago but I already forget. So there’s that.
We go into book 3, The One. and there’s a whole bunch more will-they-won’t-they and I’m just so tired of this crap I can’t even anymore. I’ll just tell you: he picks America. I know, shocking. I gotta tell you though, if she went through all of this and ended up with Maxon picking another girl, I would have been DELIGHTED. Not only for the schadenfreude, but because they’re really kind of terrible together. With America and Aspen, Cass at least does a decent job of establishing a relationship of love and respect. They get each other and they care for each other. But Aspen ain’t the prince, so rather than have that totally logical storyline play out, Aspen and America magically decide they’ve grown out of their love because that’s how the book needs to end so therefore it is truth. Maxon and America, however? Spend most their time fighting. The majority of the false conflicts are between these two and the big one in this book is that neither of them wants to be the first to say I love you and OHMYGOD PLEASE SOMEONE JUST KILL ME. If you don’t have the maturity to say something like that, you probably shouldn’t be contemplating marrying that person. So basically, a conveniently timed rebel attack hits, the king and queen are killed, so America and Maxon are free to get married and rule Illea now. They all live happily ever after. Yeah right. You just know two weeks in, they’re both like
There were a few enjoyable moments (mostly anything with America and her dad- they were very sweet) but nothing that could come close enough to make this series worth reading. On the plus side, I did finish all three books in two days. Because it’s 90% filler. Do yourself a favor, read anything, ANYTHING, else.