I had enjoyed The Selection enough that when I returned it to the library, I picked up the sequel, The Elite. And just: urg. I will try to get through this review without swearing at the main character.
So this actually made me kind of mad. While I was expecting light and fluffy again like the first book, I would have been fine if this book had decided to just be darker and more complex than the last one. However, the way in which it did so pisses me off: it’s written the same way but our main character is revealed to be an unreliable narrator due to her immense stupidity. She just doesn’t see what’s happening around her unless she has her nose rubbed in it, and thus, as the reader I have my nose rubbed in it.
Admittedly she’s a 16-year-old with little to no education outside of the performing arts, but as a member of a highly caste-structured society, she should have a basic understanding of how power inequalities work in practice. At the very least, she should be capable of noticing oddities that she thinks nothing of but that allow the reader to get a deeper understanding of the world.
Instead, she complains about how awful the caste structure is but she acts like a teenager from modern U.S. society who has simply been transplanted to this new society rather than growing up in it and yet, at the same time, taking it all for granted and not questioning it. And she takes the reader along with her, seeing and thus showing only the most obvious events.
It’s not a poorly written book, per se, it’s just super frustrating and all the things that I’m supposed to like about the main character mostly make me dislike and disrespect her. She is amazingly naive and completely incapable of subtlety. There are uneducated 16-year-olds and then there is America Singer who has managed to avoid both book learning and street smarts or even the ability to observe without leaping to conclusions.
At the end of this book, I mostly just wanted to re-read Poison Study, which follows a young woman in a similarly rigid society who finds herself physically near the center of power and realizes that there are things happening here that aren’t always obvious.
I do not expect to read the third book in this series whenever it eventually emerges.