Twice this week I’ve read about the Bamboo forest in Japan. Come on lucky number three and that will be a sign from the universe telling me to go. That’s the rule. Until then, reading a not-quite-dystopian twist on the enthralling reality show The Bachelor will suffice for random amusement.
The Selection by Kiera Cass is exactly the book I expected it to be, which isn’t a bad thing. There are no surprises, but it’s a fun, quick read with a main character who prefers jeans to gowns and her hometown sweetheart over the fairy tale prospect of winning the prince’s heart and a life removed from destitution.
America Singer puts her name in the draw for The Selection because her boyfriend Aspen all but forces her to do it. Merely participating in the televised extravaganza could change her family’s financial future, and make it feasible for her to marry the man she loves. She’s a Five, artists caste, and he’s a Six, servant caste.
Soon the big day arrives and 35 16-20 year old women are “randomly” selected, one from each district. The winner will marry Prince Maxon. Unlike those gentle ladies in our dear show The Bachelor, who lose their chance at love forever once denied a rose, all of The Selection’s participants move up in the caste system and their families are generously compensated during their time on the show. It’s an opportunity America can’t turn down.
Leaving her family to live at the palace for an indefinite period is tough, but Aspen makes leaving easier when he beats Maxon to the first rejection. Not unlike Katniss’s arrival at the Capitol in The Hunger Games, participants are swept into a world of rich, endless food and glamorous gowns all while sizing each other up and sharpening their claws. America stands out for her ease since she’s the only one of the thorny bunch who doesn’t want to be chosen. Guess who catches Maxon’s eye.
Now you’re ready for a myriad of train wreck group dates with a handful of deliberate crazies you love to hate. There’s some of that, but this story is more of a straight-forward love triangle. ‘Mer’s heart is still with Aspen, but it opens to Maxon, too. Many of the minor complications do mirror bits from The Bachelor – the for-some-reason-unexpected jealousy inherent in dating someone who’s also dating 35 other women, for instance.
Cass checks off two of YA’s usual suspects early on: love triangle and reluctant hero who doesn’t know how beautiful she is. But unlike many books on this well trodden path, this one’s not annoying. When you pick up a book that takes you right back to shameless nights eating s’mores and drinking red wine during The Bachelor (just for background ambiance, of course), you’re looking for mindless fun and this story is it.
However, don’t expect a dystopian novel. The rules of the world are conveniently vague. In certain scenes you’re basically told danger lurks, but it’s not earned. I didn’t worry for the characters, or maybe I didn’t care enough to worry. Plus, the rebels here have the effect of mosquitoes in Disney World, you swat them away and forget all about them.
Much of the world building and back story are worked into dialogue, making this a fast, effortless read. Though slightly boring and cliched in her plucky ways, America is likable enough. Overall, The Selection is an easy choice for escapism of the frilly dresses and swoony, but-boys-don’t-really-act-like-that variety.