I just finished a really cute young adult novel that’s been called a cross between Hunger Games and The Bachelor. I’d call it more of a Miss America pageant with intrigue. It is a romance, and you all know by now that I don’t go there often, but since I’m including a bit of romance in my current Ella Wood manuscript, I figured it wouldn’t hurt to dip into some in my free time. Call it research.
Actually, I was feeling the need for a break from middle grade, so I hopped on Goodreads and tracked down a “best of…” list, and this series happened to be on it. The blurb caught my eye.
For thirty-five girls, the Selection is the chance of a lifetime. The opportunity to escape the life laid out for them since birth. To be swept up in a world of glittering gowns and priceless jewels. To live in the palace and compete for the heart of the gorgeous Prince Maxon.
But for America Singer, being Selected is a nightmare. It means turning her back on her secret love with Aspen, who is a caste below her. Leaving her home to enter a fierce competition for a crown she doesn’t want. Living in a palace that is constantly threatened by violent rebel attacks.
Then America meets Prince Maxon. Gradually, she starts to question all the plans she’s made for herself- and realizes that the life she’s always dreamed of may not compare to a future she never imagined.
Believe me, it wasn’t the “glittering gowns and priceless jewels” that got me. It was America’s reluctance. And (shhhh) the hint of a love triangle. I like romance to take a back seat to the action, but if it’s going to be predominant, the tension of a love triangle sometimes works better for me than simply meeting Prince Charming in the first chapter so that I predict the rest of the book. At least keep me guessing!
Ms. Cass pulls this story off pretty well. I was a little critical at first. We’re introduced to America’s world, with its restrictive caste system, as well as to her hopes, her dreams, and her boyfriend. The flow wasn’t quite as smooth as others I’ve read. And when she enters the royal competition, the reasons felt like a stretch. But I accepted them and moved on…and then I got sucked in.
I loved the interaction at the castle, and especially how America insists upon being herself. She won’t change, even for royalty. And she’s wonderfully forthright with Maxon. She’s not there to marry him. She’s there for the food! It sets the stage for a unique friendship and fabulous, witty dialogue in the midst of an elimination round. I love them together, even though the prince is a bit of a schmuck. He’s not as stuffy as America thinks he’ll be, but for me as a reader, he is a bit too perfect. Still, I had to find out who she’d choose, Prince Maxon or her old flame, Aspen. I didn’t find out by the end, so I already ordered book 2 from the library.
Despite this book looking like one I’d never pick up, I actually enjoyed it. Maybe I’m more of a sap than I like to think. Anyway, moms, physical relationships are kept within safe boundaries, though there are a few minor profanities sprinkled throughout the text. I’d give this one an 8th grade or 13+ age recommendation. It’s a fun, light-hearted read.
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