Monday, 20 February 2017

A Review of The Selection series

The Selection series is a trilogy by Keira Cass, which attempts to combine the dystopia genre with romance and royalty. It is a weird mash-up, and it doesn’t quite work. I’ll admit, I only bought it because I liked the pretty dress on the cover. The three books in the series are The Selection, The Elite and The One. There’s also a follow up series, and many companion books. It is set in a dystopian future North American country, Illea, where its citizens live within a rigid cast system. The royalty of the country hold a reality TV show to decide who should marry the Prince. The Prince gets the final say, but the viewers have their own opinions and of course his father, the King, is around to give his ‘advice.’

The Selection has to set the scene and introduce us to the characters. The Elite takes it on a much darker turn from the start, and The One ties everything up nicely. Quite frankly, these three are such easy reads that I feel like they could easily have been one book, and splitting them into three just feels like an attempt to get people to buy three books instead of one.

The main character, America, is as feisty and reckless as these sorts of heroines often are. She does things that you’d think would land her in prison, or stripped of her status. Naturally, she finds herself caught up in a love triangle between the handsome prince and her boyfriend from home. I found myself rather impressed by the character of the prince. As far as love interests go, he is done well. Out of the other girls in the Selection, Marlee makes the biggest impression. Not many of the others are given fleshed-out personalities, but with 35 characters, it’s understandable.

The caste system is one aspect I feel these books fall very short on. The caste system defines what job you can do. There is no chance to upward mobility, if you are more suited to another profession or do really well at your job. America and her family are Fives, who are normally artists or singers. This means they are often poor, despite the very best of them often being employed in the houses of higher castes. The justification for this is that they get the bulk of their work at a few times of the year, during holiday times. Eights, at the lowest end of the scale, are criminals. Of course, being an Eight means their descendants will be Eights. Sixes and Sevens have a hard time of it, too. I’d like to see more evidence of them struggling – it affects their job prospects, sure, but what about other aspects of that? Lower castes likely confined to houses in certain neighbourhoods, so that even if they try and save up to move out, they can’t. Difficulty in finding doctors to treat lower castes, pretending to be higher caste to get better medical care. This is things that aren’t touched on, and would have made it relevant to today’s society.

Something that is done well is the attitude to sex outside of marriage. It’s illegal, and of course birth control is hard to come by for the lower castes. This means they often experience more of the consequences, with the weight of that falling upon the shoulders of the women. However, once they are married, most families will have quite a few children, because of the lack of birth control. This makes it harder for them to save money. This plays in well to certain attitudes about this today.

I will give this series credit for one thing. While the girls are competitive at times for obvious reasons, they rarely turn bitchy. Celeste could be the sole exception, but she is given more of an explanation within The One. They all admire and respect one another, while still attempting to compete for the Prince’s hand. I was also impressed that it doesn’t just ignore everywhere outside of North America. Italy and Germany visit, New Asia comes up often in passing, and the border of Illea stretches down into Central/South America somewhat.

On the whole, this is not the sort of series that stays with you for a long time after reading, but it is a fun, quick read. I recommend it to people looking for something easy for a light bit of escapism.

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