The One

Stop right now if you haven’t already read The Selection, The Elite, The Prince, and The Guard by Kiera Cass. I finished The One, the final book in this series, last night, and I’d hate to give anything away if you haven’t read any of the previous books yet! (FYI: The Prince and The Guard are Selection short stories. It’s not totally necessary to read them before reading The One, but it does help to put certain elements of the series in perspective.)

What can I say about The One without giving too much away? I honestly don’t know. I’m kind of flying by the seat of my pants here. I started reading this highly-anticipated book two nights ago, and I proceeded to devour it. I finished it last night, so I’ve had just a little while to process things. (I did dream about it last night. That was kind of weird.) Anyhoo, I’m not entirely sure how I feel about what transpired in this book. Did it end the way I expected it to? Partially. Were some curveballs thrown my way? Um, yeah.

In The One, readers are once again swept away into the world of America Singer. America is now in the top four of the Selection, and, though she knows the king despises her and would be glad to see her leave, Maxon, the prince and heir to the throne, wants to keep her around. Does he love her? Well, he’s never said so…but, then again, neither has America. America is never quite sure where she stands with Maxon, and she’s hesitant to give her heart to him if he’s considering choosing someone else to be his future queen.

America is also holding on to her past. Her former boyfriend, Aspen, is still in her thoughts. With Aspen being a guard at the palace, it’s hard to separate from her past and look toward a possible future with Maxon. And what if Maxon doesn’t choose her? Should she throw Aspen aside when he could be the one she needs when the Selection is over? Is that thought even fair to Aspen, Maxon, or herself?

Added to the pressures of the Selection and her own confusing feelings, America and Maxon have also become embroiled in a quest to change things in the kingdom of Illéa. The Northern rebels seek to form an alliance with Maxon and America, but that could mean thwarting the king…and possibly ensuring that America win this competition for the crown. America is also about to realize just how deep the rebellion against the tyrannical King Clarkson goes…

Turmoil reigns in Illéa, and soon everyone has to decide what side they’re on. Secrets are revealed, lives are lost, and everything is about to change. Will the rebels succeed in their mission? Will the caste system in Illéa finally see its end? What could that mean for Maxon and the girl chosen to be his future queen? Will that queen be America, or will circumstances–both in the rebellion and of America’s own making–endanger her chances of becoming the Selection winner…and claiming Maxon’s heart forever? Does America really have a chance to be the One?

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Before I get to any issues I had with this series finale, let me say that I did enjoy this book. Most of it was fairly satisfying. (It must have been, or I wouldn’t have zoomed my way through it in less than 24 hours.) I found myself anxious, mad at times, and hopeful for a happy ending. And while all of the ending wasn’t exactly happy, I think the series ended the way it was supposed to.

All that being said, I did feel like things were a little rushed at the end of The One. I had about 30 pages to go, and I thought there was no way things could be resolved before the book’s conclusion. I was wrong, but it seemed like there could have been a little more explanation of what happened during the events in those last pages. (I won’t tell you what happened in those pages, but I will say that Kiera Cass packed A LOT of action into a small fraction of the book.)

Also, if you found America to be kind of wishy-washy in The Elite, you’re in for more of that in The One. I wanted to scream at her to get over herself sometimes, but I also kind of got why she was so back and forth. She was under immense amounts of pressure, and things definitely didn’t get easier for her in this book. If anything, her life was much more complicated, and that included her love life. I think a certain amount of confusion is understandable.

All things considered, I found The One to be a fitting conclusion to this wonderful series. (And I’m not even talking about the addition to the series’ stellar covers.) It was an emotional read, and I think fans of the series will be happy with the way things ultimately ended…if not the path taken to get there.

For more information on The One, the entire Selection series, or author Kiera Cass, visit the author’s website, Twitter, or Facebook. Also, if you missed the book trailer for The One, you can check that out below. I hope you’ve enjoyed America Singer’s journey as much as I have!

The Elite

I’ll make this warning short and sweet. Read Kiera Cass’ The Selection before proceeding. That is all.

Well, I finally finished reading The Elite, the sequel to The Selection by Kiera Cass, last night. It took me a while to get into this book. The first part of the book didn’t have a ton of action, especially if you don’t really care about the lovey-dovey stuff…or the main character’s indecisiveness over what she really wants. I wanted action and political intrigue, and I finally got a fair share of it about halfway through the book. Things really picked up then, and, love story aside, I’m now eager to read the third book in the series. Given the way things unfolded in The Elite, I have super-high hopes that the final installment in this series will have action and conflict galore…not to mention another stunningly gorgeous cover.

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America Singer is now one of the Elite, one of the final six Selection candidates who have the chance to win Prince Maxon’s heart and the coveted title of Princess of Illea. But America’s not really concerned about the princess part of this competition. She finds that she’s more interested in Maxon. She’s growing to love him, and, despite the differences in their backgrounds, she thinks he loves her as well. But how can she ever be sure? After all, he may be whispering the same sweet-nothings to the other girls as he’s uttering in America’s ears. And when one of the girls does something scandalous, America grows even more unsure of Maxon’s true nature…and her own feelings for him.

Who can America turn to in the midst of her emotional turmoil? In steps Aspen, a palace guard and America’s former boyfriend. Their relationship poses its own dangers, both to America’s heart and her place in this anxiety-inducing quest for the crown. Which guy should she be with? The one who has known her forever or the one who can give her the world? Is the decision even in her hands anymore?

In the middle of the Selection, things are also changing in the kingdom of Illea. War is brewing, rebels from both the north and south are attacking the palace, and America herself is coming to grips with the fact that things are seriously wrong in her country. Just how much is Maxon aware of? And is there anything she can do to change the system of inequality that oppresses so many…including her own family and friends? Can America shed light on what’s really going on in Illea without endangering herself, those she loves, or even her place in the Selection, something that has quickly become much more than a competition for a prince? Does she even want to be one of the Elite anymore? There’s only one way to find out…

First, let me say that, once I got into this book, I enjoyed it. Like The Selection, I particularly enjoyed the historical and political aspects of The Elite. Reading how the country of Illea was born was fascinating and all-too-easy to believe. That being said, there was one big thing about this book that annoyed me. America herself. I know she had her reasons, but she’s just so wishy-washy. I love Maxon. I love Aspen. I love Maxon. I love Aspen. MAKE A DECISION, and quit dragging these guys along! Granted, America is a seventeen-year-old girl in a very stressful situation, and that combo doesn’t make for mature decision-making, but come on! The back and forth got a little old, and I’m still not sure which guy she’ll end up with at the series’ conclusion. It’s a little infuriating.

The final book in this series, The One, will be released on May 6, 2014. I’m hopeful we can expect an eBook short story or two to make the wait less painful. Kiera Cass has already given us one of these: The Prince, a short story about Prince Maxon’s feelings regarding the Selection. It was pretty good and provided some insights into Maxon’s character.

For more information on The Elite, the entire Selection series, and author Kiera Cass, visit http://www.kieracass.com.

The Selection

Before I started reading The Selection by Kiera Cass, a friend of mine related it to watching The Bachelor.  Now, I have never (and will never) watch this horrible excuse for entertainment, but I must admit that I kind of liked the premise as it applied in this book.  Maybe adding a dose of political intrigue would make “reality television” more palatable…or maybe it would make it even worse than it already is.  Who knows?  But the combination of a competition to win the heart of a prince and a “dystopian-lite” society at war was definitely enough to pique and keep my interest when it came to The Selection.  The gorgeous cover didn’t hurt, either.  (I am a sucker for pretty book cover.)

America Singer lives in the young nation of Illéa (made up of what used to be the countries of North America).  The world she lives in is based on castes, and America’s status as a musician places her closer to the bottom than the top.  Life is not always easy, but her love for Aspen, a young man in a caste lower than hers, gets her through the hard times and gives her some measure of hope for the future.  That hope, however, is about to be tested by circumstances well beyond America’s control…

In Illéa, a monarchy reigns supreme, and it is time for the young Prince Maxon to choose a bride.  But he does not choose from other royal families.  No, Prince Maxon must choose a true daughter of Illéa, a “commoner” with ties to this young country…and he must make his choice a public spectacle.  Thirty-five girls from around the country are selected to compete for the heart of the Prince—and a chance to one day be Queen.  They will live in the palace for the duration of the Selection, their castes will be elevated, and their families will be well paid.  For most girls, this would be the chance of a lifetime.  But America Singer is not most girls…

America does not want to be a part of the Selection, but her family and even Aspen convince her to at least submit an application.  After all, what are the odds that she’ll even be chosen?  Well, as it turns out, pretty good.  When America’s name is called for the Selection, her entire world changes.  She becomes an instant celebrity (something she’s not exactly comfortable with), and she’s forced to leave her family and the only boy she’s ever loved…all to compete for the hand of a man she knows will never hold her heart.

But life in the palace isn’t exactly what America expected.  Sure, it’s more glamorous and extravagant than anything she’s ever experienced—and the food is truly spectacular—but America is surprised by how quickly she adapts, makes friends, and even grows closer to Prince Maxon.  She realizes that his life isn’t quite as easy as it is portrayed on television—what with invading rebels from the north and south, trying to keep a young country intact, war as a constant threat, and choosing a future wife in front of a national audience.  No pressure there at all.  Maybe America was too quick to judge Maxon as a poor-little-rich-boy who never had to work to survive.  Maybe she could grow to love this young man who is becoming such a dear friend to her.  And maybe events will unfold that throw Illéa, America, Maxon, the Selection, and everything else into even more of a tailspin.

The Selection is an excellent book for readers who like their dystopian literature with a heavy dose of romance, especially a juicy love triangle (or, in this case, whatever type of polygon has 30+ sides).  Give this book to fans of Ally Condie’s Matched trilogy, Lauren Oliver’s Delirium trilogy, and, yes, even Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games trilogy.

I, for one, was more intrigued by the historical and political aspects of this book than I was the romance.  (We can probably blame that political science degree that I’ve never really used.)  I loved the lessons on the history of Illéa, and I hope to learn much more about how this young monarchy came about in the next book.  Based on what little we learned about what led to the breakup of the United States in The Selection, I would say the events are entirely plausible, so I’m eager to see what the author does with the mysterious history of the U.S. and how it relates to Illéa’s current circumstances.

The next book in this series, The Elite, will be published sometime in 2013, and there’s not a lot of information available yet on the plot of this book, but I have no doubt that it will be just as gripping as The Selection.

In the meantime, you can find out more about this series and author Kiera Cass at http://www.kieracass.com/, or you can follow the author on Twitter @kieracass.  FYI, according to the author’s webpage, The Selection is being turned into a TV show by the CW network.  It won’t be out this fall, but it could be out as early as this coming spring.  I don’t quite know how I feel about that, but I’ve got plenty of time to think about it.

If you’re still not convinced to give The Selection a try, check out this book trailer from HarperTeen, and enjoy!