Saturday, 1 August 2015

Book Review: The Elite (The Selection, #2) by Keira Cass

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Synopsis (by the author): The Selection began with thirty-five girls.
Now with the group narrowed down to the six Elite, the competition to win Prince Maxon's heart is fiercer than ever—and America is still struggling to decide where her heart truly lies. Is it with Maxon, who could make her life a fairy tale? Or with her first love, Aspen?

America is desperate for more time. But the rest of the Elite know exactly what they want—and America's chance to choose is about to slip away.

Review: I'm not often swayed by a cover. It's usually more about the story. The Selection was one of several books I picked up at the same time. I was in a heavy YA reading phase, and wanted more dystopian, more zombie related stuff.

Of the latter, The Selection has none. The former - well the jury was completely out on The Selection. I didn't feel like it was a dystopian world. There were the odd mentions about how the world of Ilea was ruled, but the clear definition was lacking for me.

The Selection is more a romance than a dystopian book. I have the feeling that HarperTeen knew how to market the book, so with the success of The Hunger Games, mentioning a dystopian world, however lightly, ticked a box. There's a strong possibility the author Keira Cass fully meant to explore this darker side of Ilea in later books, and while I will admit that The Elite begins to develop that side, it is still not developed enough in my view. But this is my own personal wish for the story. If the author wished to go another direction with this, that is her right.

Let's start with what I liked. With fewer girls left in the Selection, we get to know them in more depth. Whilst Celeste is perhaps the best known of the girls after Mer, I was pleased to read more about Kriss and Marlee because I liked them from the first book. 

Maxon did a 180 for me near the end of The Selection. I could not help but call him a paper hat (tw*t) for acting the way he did. This time, he seems to understand the weight of responsibility that being King might actually mean and I liked this development for the character. He needs to be more than eye candy for the girls in my view, and again, the author succeeds.

The story overall is better, and though it ends abruptly, just like book one, the announcement that The One was already slated for release, just made sense. It doesn't get away from my belief that the story is a little too stretched out. But as a second book, it works.

Here's what was less certain. Aspen as a guard, in the palace, no less. He dumps Mer in book one, and it's never clear to me why he did that. I know why I have ended relationships with girls in the past. Aspen's actions are at odds with his behaviour. There is something of the night about him. He is too creepy for me, and as a plot device. seems to have been inserted to make the choice for Maxon and America not so plain sailing.

It's not a love triangle. Maxon also does dark things - going into the different girls rooms and one would have to be dense to know that he was playing them, and Mer, for that matter. I was pretty uncomfortable with that. 

Of course, if we are to take the dystopian world at face value, then this behaviour by the prince should not surprise or shock us. Despots do this. Can Maxon rule absolutely in the future? The rebels, such as they are, seem pretty useless, so I believe Maxon and the monarchy are safe to treat Ilea as their personal plaything.

As the book draws to its close, we are no clearer to understanding Mer. For a main character, I think she is poorly conceived. Celeste and Marlee are far better drawn, and the book is better for it.

Ultimately, The Elite works well as a second book of three. I know The Heir is upon us, but I believed that Keira Cass intended only three books for this story. It looks like it could run and run. Would I be persuaded to read The One? Yes, even though The Elite doesn't offer any real surprises. It's good, solid YA fun. I think unlike The Selection, it doesn't pretend to be anything else.