|Source: Author Website|
Decades in the future, the United States is no longer a democracy. The government is ruled by a monarchy, social castes are the norm, and teen girls everywhere are obsessed with a government-sponsored competition known as the Selection. This months-long televised event documents the struggle of 35 young women to win the hand of the next prince.
Against this backdrop, America “Mer” Singer, the daughter of poor musicians, reluctantly submits an application for the competition after Aspen, the love of her teenaged life, breaks up with her. She knows that her chances of getting chosen are infinitesimally small, but the promise of a generous stipend, but the opportunity to vault their family into prestige and power, is too much for her ambitious mother to let her pass up.
Against all odds, America’s application gets pulled for the running. She’s not really interested in Prince Maxon, of course. She’s still in mourning for Aspen. So when she sits in for her requisite interview with the prince, she confesses that she’s really only in the competition “by accident,” and really isn’t ready for romance again so soon. To her surprise, Maxon is impressed by her honesty. Instead of sending her home, he makes her a proposal: he will agree to a platonic relationship if she will act as his eyes and ears among the girls. He is, he admits, a bit bewildered by the female sex (especially when they cry!), so any help navigating the waters of this unusual dating environment would be most welcome. Intrigued by his offer, she agrees, and looks forward to helping select the next princess. This arrangement works splendidly for the next few weeks—until her ex, Aspen, gets a job at the palace, and begs her to take him back. This is a major problem, since the Selection rules dictate that any contestant found guilty of “illicit” romantic interloping will be charged with treason and sentenced to death. And then, of course, there’s the unexpected matter of America’s newly developed feelings for Maxon...
I have to admit, for someone who hates love triangles I was surprised by how much I liked this novel. Cass makes a wise decision by keeping America and Maxon’s relationship (mostly) platonic, at least for this first volume of the series. The fact that they get to know each other as friends first, and love interest second, puts their relationship on an interesting level, and allowed me, as a reader, to take their budding romance seriously. In addition, the author manages to bypass most of the requisite melodrama that accompanies love triangles by keeping Maxon and Aspen separated for most of the story—until nearly the end, that is. On the downside, the supporting cast was pretty undeveloped, but I’m hoping that will be amended in the next book. (A final note to potential readers: a lot is set up during this founding installment, but the ending leaves a lot unresolved. If you pick this up at your local library, make sure you have the sequel, The Elite, close at hand.) Recommended for female teens of any age.