The Elite by Kiera Cass

the-eliteThe Elite
by Kiera Cass
2013

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.

The Selection by Kiera Cass

The SelectionThe Selection
by Kiera Cass
2012

I stumbled across this book on Pinterest. As you may have noticed, I enjoy fanfiction, but I also enjoy fanpics, ie, fan-created artwork and illustrations. It’s for this that I started following Book Nerd’s Pinterest boards. But s/he also has a Books too read : D board, and in that board was The Selection.

You know how you’re told not to judge a book by it’s cover? I’ve never been particularly good at following that advice–I regularly judge books by their covers. And this one is pretty much exactly what it’s cover lead me to expect. Which is good, because I really needed a bit of frivolous fun with societal angst and fancy settings. The last few weeks have been intense, and a dystopian Cinderella story for young adults was just what I needed, with the right mixture of fluff and emo, and pretty much no tension at all.

The premise reminded me of Sherwood Smith’s A Posse of Princesses, while the over-all feel of the book and the dystopian setting reminded me of Maria V. Snyder’s Poison Study. Those were also some fun relaxing reads, although quite different from each other. Alternately, it’s bit like if The Hunger Games universe featured a show like The Bachelor rather than, well, the hunger games.

The thing is, that I don’t actually have much to say about The Selection. It was enjoyable. I read it in an evening. It’s a nice balance of fairy-tale and individual empowerment, touches on a great many issues of social injustice and inequalities, but doesn’t particularly linger.

I liked it, and I’ll probably check out the second book (The Elite) and possibly even the third book (The One) when it is released. There’s not actually a whole lot of tension, though: the first chapter of the first book explains what the Selection is, at which point the titles of the other two books become spoilers. However, like any fairytale, it’s nice to just relax into a well-recognized story.