The Elite by Kiera Cass (The Selection #2)

cass_eliteCover Design:

I absolutely adore the crown emblem used in both books’ titles.  It conveys ‘beauty pageant’ and ‘contest’ without saying anything else.  Book covers should tell the story for you before you crack the cover open.  This one tells me that this fiery-haired beauty (who we learn is America Singer) is in a competition where she stands out from the rest. That makes me interested.

The dress is fabulous too, oh my gosh yes!  The competition is heating up and with it, the girls get some trial by fire as the rebel groups approach.

America Singer is the new girl on fire!

Hunger Games fans will understand the comparison, but for those who don’t, here’s it in a nutshell.

Both series’ are set in a post-America dystopian society.  Of course, the quashed rebellion in Panem was punished with ‘the hunger games’.  By contrast, in Illea, every generation of Crown Prince is married to one of the people (like the old idea of the Crown marrying the Land) in a Bachelor-like contest called ‘the selection’.  Kiera Cass’ “make love, not war” approach is a fresh alternative to Suzanne Collins’ runaway hit.

Plot:

Prince Maxon’s decision becomes more difficult as his choices narrow and America sits on the fence between her feelings for him, and for the boy-she-left-behind-but-is-actually-there, Aspen.  Shame on you!  That secret’s the smoking gun of the series, America.  It’s gonna come back to bite you.  Watch out.

It’s fun watching how the girls are eliminated (and how!) and you will be surprised by some of the developments that arise. Here’s hoping that the rebels have more of a role in the third book.  I want to learn more about what they want and where they see the country heading.

A plot point that is very much overlooked in both The Selection and The Elite is the presence of America’s parents in the story.  Usually, parents are absent, dead, or have no role in fantasy novels.  One thing Cass gets right is giving America roots.  Her mother pushes her towards entering the contest in the first place.  America’s father takes a supportive role of whatever her decision will be – to marry Prince Maxon or to leave the competition and have a better life as a Two.

Unless I’m completely mistaken (and we’ll find out next year), America’s father has a greater role in the story than at first appearance.  I’ve got to apologize here because for the life of me, I can’t find out what his name is on any of the wikis. Let’s call him AF.

AF displays an unusual amount of interest in America’s stories about palace life and his knowledge of Illea and its politics, despite being a humble artisan caste, makes me think he is a rebel sympathizer.  I would love to see this overlooked factor brought to the fore in The One.

Example ~

America has discovered where her heart belongs, but when Prince Maxon learns who Aspen is, he changes his mind about her.  As the rebels storm the palace, America finds her heart torn between family loyalties and the future planned for her.

Something like that.

That’s the story I want to read.

Romance:

Some people are going to argue with me on this. The romance heats up with the love triangle between American, Aspen, and Prince Maxon.  I’d be shocked (SHOCKED) if this has not inspired some GLBT fan fiction by now. Anyway… .  I like that for a YA novel, Cass keeps it clean. This love triangle appeals to two very different types of females.

You’ve got your good ol’ boy next-door, Aspen, and the exotic, mysterious bad boy who pulls you from your whole world, Prince Maxon.  For the purposes of plot, these are essentially their roles but they are a bit muddied.  Prince Maxon rebels against his father (spoilers!) and he doesn’t play fair between America and some of the other contestants.

Aspen comes off as a bit of a limp noodle as he doesn’t get a lot of time on the page. Cass gives more attention to Prince Maxon and getting to know the other girls better.  Still, the moments we see Aspen, we can tell that he genuinely cares about America.  He’s too passive of a character though. I think he should be more actively pursuing America if he really wants to win her.

I know it sounds like I’m advocating for #teammaxon here but he’s no great prize either.  Both males need to man up.  Someone take the lead, please, and show a girl you care.  Thoughts on this?  Am I completely off here?

Here’s your call to action, ladies: are you #teamaspen or #teammaxon? Grab a cuppa and let’s chat!

For more on the world of The Selection and The Elite, check out Kiera Cass’ website or this great, comprehensive wiki created by fans. The final book of the series, The One, will be published on May 6th, 2014.

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