'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.'
- author Jackie French

Thursday 4 July 2013

Review: The Elite (Selection #2)

A group of young women plucked from obscurity, now competing to become a princess, the bride of Prince Maxon, heir to the Illean throne. A troubled kingdom, threatened by rebel forces on two fronts and struggling to preserve the safety of the royal family. A society that predetermines careers and marriages based on a social grading that is difficult to overcome.

It’s fairytale meets dystopian future meets reality TV. A young woman torn between two loves and a prince determined to save his country. Is it possible to choose true love when your whole life has taught you that such a decision will never be yours to make?

I was very eager to read The Elite after reading The Selection last year (KBR review here). I thought that The Selection was an entertaining novel, exploring the dystopian future theme with a lighter perspective than series such as Susanne Collins’ The Hunger Games and Marie Lu’s Legend trilogy. The overt romantic themes and reality TV approach to the story is the primary focus for the reader, with the political issues and turmoil taking a secondary role, unlike the two series mentioned (Read the KBR review of The Hunger Games here and Legend here).

While The Selection focused primarily on central character America Singer, The Elite further developed the character of Prince Maxon, who had been a rather two-dimensional character in the first novel. I really enjoyed the greater focus on Maxon, and through him the political situation in Illea. It was also entertaining to observe the manipulations and game playing of the members of the Elite, as they compete for Prince Maxon’s attention more intensely in this second novel.

The central female character of America Singer did become a little annoying in her ongoing inability to commit herself to either Prince Maxon or her previous love Aspen (now a guard in the palace and therefore a constant temptation). Her indecision was quite understandable given the social and political context of the story, but the romantic and political themes seemed to not quite connect and, as such, some of America’s understandable mental and emotional conflict comes across to readers as simple indecision.

I think The Selection suffered unfairly with comparisons to The Hunger Games when it was first released. While both books deal with dystopian themes, they offer a completely different perspective and reading experience, and enjoyment of one trilogy will not necessarily indicate that a reader will enjoy the other. I would classify The Selection books as teen romance with a dystopian twist, rather than dystopian fiction.

I had originally thought that The Elite was the second and final book in the series and, despite quite enjoying the book, I wonder whether the story might have been better served if it had been limited to two, rather than three, books. Nevertheless, I am looking forward to reading the final instalment, The One, currently scheduled for release in May 2014.

I am interested to see how Cass brings the political situation to a head and how she deals with both the rebel and internal royal family conflicts to resolve the social tensions evident in the first two books. I am, of course, also interested to discover whether America is able to finally commit her heart to Maxon or whether she is drawn back to her previous life. 

Title: The Elite (Selection #2)
Author: Kiera Cass
Publisher: HarperCollins, $14.99 RRP
Publication Date: 1 May 2014
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 9780007466702
For ages: 14+
Type: Young adult fiction