The Heir: One-Trick Pony

The Heir is written by Kiera Cass. It was published in 2015 by HarperTeen. It is the sequel to The One.

Princess Eadlyn has grown up hearing endless stories about how her mother and father met. Twenty years ago, America Singer entered the Selection and won the heart of Prince Maxon—and they lived happily ever after. Eadlyn has always found their fairy-tale story romantic, but she has no interest in trying to repeat it. If it were up to her, she’d put off marriage for as long as possible. But a princess’s life is never entirely her own, and Eadlyn can’t escape her very own Selection—no matter how fervently she protests. Eadlyn doesn’t expect her story to end in romance. But as the competition begins, one entry may just capture Eadlyn’s heart, showing her all the possibilities that lie in front of her…and proving that finding her own happily ever after isn’t as impossible as she’s always thought.

Cass is starting to feel like a one-trick pony. At least, that’s how I felt when I found out she was writing a fourth Selection book. At least she sort of changed things around and made her protagonist completely different from America.

I do think Cass’s writing has improved marginally from the first three books; she still can’t worldbuild and there’s this odd moment where a character talks about rebellion and uprising as if they’re completely different things, but I never had the problem I had in the first three books where I felt like I couldn’t continue reading because of the bad quality.

But the book is still not great, and there’s a whole list of reasons why, but I’ll just mention three:

  • By trying to make Eadlyn a “strong” female protagonist, Cass makes her selfish, shallow, and cruel. Eadlyn is not just an unreliable narrator. She’s an unreliable narrator who you will want to strangle by the end of the book because of her actions and thoughts. Towards the end, she does start to at least realize how people perceive her, but it’s difficult to get through. She manipulates and pits the boys against each other and tries to make her brother choose between her and his girlfriend. That’s not a strong protagonist, Cass. That’s an unlikeable one.

  • The beginning and end of the book completely contradict each other. At the beginning, Eadlyn says firmly that she doesn’t need a man in order for her to be a good ruler (or something along those lines). Yet the end of the book has people constantly telling her (and Eadlyn realizing herself) that she needs romantic love in order to be The Best Ruler She Can Be and that she should go through with the Selection. Because romantic love makes you a complete person and you’re incomplete and not at your best if you’re single. Or something. Yeah, sure. Ever hear of Queen Elizabeth I?

  • Besides the obvious love interest (whose relationship with Eadlyn is centered on lust), there’s the obvious rapist and the obvious violent fighter. Because of course if you stick 35 men together, at least one of them will try and assault the girl, right? And at least one will try and slap her around, right? Because men are despicable, terrible beings, right? Please. The only author I’ve read so far who has handled the issue of rape/attempted rape in a way that doesn’t seem contrived or as a way to “get rid” of that character is Melina Marchetta. Cass throws it in as an excuse to get rid of a character, which is not the way that particular issue should be treated at all.

Rating: 1/5

Recommended Age Range: 12+

Warnings: Some sensual scenes, attempted rape (not graphic), violence.

Genre: Dystopian, Young Adult

“Your Highness,” he said with a comical bow. “I’ve come to sweep you off your feet.”

“Hardy har. Get in here.”

Kile walked in and surveyed my shelves. “Last time I was in your room, you had a collection of wooden ponies.”

“Outgrew that.”

“But not being a bossy tyrant?”

“Nope. Just like you didn’t outgrow being an insufferable bookworm.”

“Is this how you win over all your dates?”

Overall Review:

The Heir was a tad more enjoyable, I thought, then the first three books, if only because Cass almost completely abandons worldbuilding in favor of what made her “famous” in the first place, the Selection, so I didn’t notice the terrible worldbuilding as much. There are still way too many problems with the book for it to even be considered decent, though.

You can buy this here: The Heir (The Selection)

The One: What Did I Just Read And Why Did I Read It?

The One is written by Kiera Cass. It was published in 2014 by HarperTeen. It is the third and final book in the Selection trilogy. My reviews of the first two books can be found here and here. Cass’s website can be found here.

Summary/Blurb:

“The time has come for one winner to be crowned.

When she was chosen to compete in the Selection, America never dreamed she would find herself anywhere close to the crown—or to Prince Maxon’s heart. But as the end of the competition approaches, and the threats outside the palace walls grow more vicious, America realizes jut how much she stands to lose—and how hard she’ll have to fight for the future she wants.”

What I Liked:

As in the The Elite, I liked America’s determination to prove that she could come up with bright ideas, and she does do some pretty cool things throughout the book, like when she goes home and has a Queen Voice Moment. I also liked how her relationship with Celeste changed, and the moments with the other girls were very sweet.

As contrived and sappy as I thought the entire romance was, I must admit that I did feel a slight pang when Maxon said the whole “Break my heart” bit.

Oh! And the part where Georgia tells America that she’s the best person to have the crown because America doesn’t want it is great, too.

What I Didn’t Like:

Again, the world. I had a hard time immersing myself simply because everything seemed so flat and poorly-developed. The world just does not seem realistic to me and the castes and the rebels seem contrived to create tension. I just never got the world, and world is a big deal for me when reading fantasy/sci-fi/dystopian books like this one.

Oh, my goodness, “Honduragua.” Just…no.

It’s also horrendously convenient that all of America’s and Maxon’s problems are solved in one fell swoop at the end. Oh, the king is a tyrant and doesn’t want Maxon and America to get married? Bam! He’s gone. Oh, that issue with the castes? Bam! Solved. Oh, America feels guilty about telling Aspen that they’re through? Bam! He was in love with someone else the entire time!

I seriously don’t understand the attraction of these books; the romance isn’t great and neither is anything else…

Rating: 2/5

Recommended Age Range: 14+

Warnings: Violence.

Genre: Dystopian, Young Adult

Passages/Quotes:

“As it’s gotten smaller, it’s gotten worse. I mean, I knew it would, but…it feels like it’s moving away from trying to be the girl that Maxon would pick to making sure the other girls won’t be the one he picks. I don’t know if that makes sense.”

She nodded. “It does. But, hey, this is what you signed up for.”

I chuckled. “Actually, I didn’t. I was sort of…encouraged to put my name in. I didn’t want to be a princess.”

“Really?”

“Really.”

She smiled. “Not wanting the crown means you’re probably the best person to have it.”

~Cass 46-47

I took off one of the beautiful earrings that Maxon had given me, then the other. I placed both in Adam’s hands; and he stood there, dumbstruck, as my beautiful bracelet followed. And then—because, if I was truly going to do this, I wanted to give everything—I reached behind my neck and unclasped my songbird necklace, the one my dad had given me. I hoped he was watching and not hating me for giving his gift away. Once I dropped it into Adam’s hand, I curled his fingers around the treasures, then stepped to the side so that he was standing directly in front of King Clarkson.

I pointed toward the thrones. “Go, faithful subject, and pay your debt to the king.”

~Cass 178

Overall Review:

Thank goodness that trilogy is over. America had a few good moments, but the rest of The One was contrived, too convenient, and wrapped up too nicely in a neat little bow (I know, usually I complain if an ending is too open-ended!). From the very first book, the world failed to pull me in and failed to feel realistic, and that, I think, is the major drawback of the series.

You can buy this book here: The One (The Selection)

The Elite: Trying To Make Sense, But Failing

The Elite is written by Kiera Cass. It was published in 2013 by HarperTeen. It is the second book in the Selection trilogy, the first of which I reviewed here. Cass’s website can be found here.

Summary:

“The Selection began with 35 girls. Now, with the group narrowed down to the Elite, the competition to win Prince Maxon’s love is fiercer than ever. The closer America gets to the crown, the more she struggles to figure out where her heart truly lies. Each moment she spends with Maxon is like a fairy tale, filled with breathless, glittering romance. But whenever she sees her first love, Aspen, standing guard, she’s swept up in longing for the life they’d planned to share.

America is desperate for more time. But while she’s torn between her two futures, the rest of the Elite know exactly what they want—and America’s chance to choose is about to slip away.”

What I Liked:

Like the first book, the middle of this one had the same sort of strange attraction—it was hard for me to put it down once I hit Chapter 10 or so. Maybe it was because America kept flip-flopping between Maxon and Aspen and so was in tears nearly all the time because of it. I sort of liked America’s inability to stay dry-eyed for more than a chapter at a time. More seriously, I did like her determination at the end to prove people wrong and to show that she could be a good princess if she tried.

I was legitimately sad when Gregory’s diary turned out to reveal that he was an Evil Dude. The diary was the most interesting part of the whole book. I thought he actually made some good and interesting points, especially in the beginning before you find out that he really just wanted power.

Forget Maxon as my favorite character (although I am solidly “Team Maxon,” mainly because Aspen is way too boring and bland). Queen Amberly rocks.

 What I Didn’t Like:

The beginning of this book is rough. I found myself wondering why in the world I was bothering to read this series, it was that bad.

Sigh. Why is the king always the main villain? It would have been much more interesting if the king was not a power-hungry tyrant as they always are. Now this series just got more boring.

Aspen still is way too boring of a character. And the love triangle and America’s flip-flopping just make her seem flighty/fickle.

The world that Cass is attempting to build still makes no sense, and the reveals are still too exposition-y and thus clunky. The diary was the best mechanic she’s used, proving that she can actually worldbuild half-way decently. So…why doesn’t she do that for the rest of the time?

Rating: 2/5

Recommended Age Range: 14+

Warnings: Violence, one extreme (for the series) sensual scene, domestic violence.

Genre: Dystopian, Young Adult

Passages/Quotes:

“He let me borrow one once, just to see.”

“Oh, that’s very interesting! What did you read? Can you tell me?”

I bit my lip. “It was one of Gregory Illéa’s personal diaries.”

Dad’s mouth dropped open before he composed himself. “America, that’s incredible. What did it say?”

“Oh, I haven’t finished. Mostly, it was to figure out what Halloween was.”

~Cass 59

“We watch, of course. We see what happens here. The riots, the rebels. It seems people are not happy?”

I wasn’t sure what to say. “Your Majesty, I don’t know if I’m the best person to talk to about this. I don’t really control anything.”

Nicoletta took my hands. “But you could.”

A shiver ran through me. Was she saying what I thought?

“We saw what happened to the girl. The blonde?” she whispered.

“Marlee.” I nodded. “She was my best friend.”

She smiled. “And we saw you. There’s not much footage, but we saw you run. We saw you fight.”

The look in her eyes mirrored the way Queen Amberly had looked at me this morning. There was unmistakable pride there.

“We are very much interested in forming a bond with a powerful nation, if that nation can change. Unofficially, if there is anything we can do to help you acquire the crown, let us know. You have our full support.”

~Cass 185

 Overall Review:

Mediocre writing, bad worldbuilding, clunky exposition and dialogue…but for some reason I still couldn’t put The Elite down once I hit the middle. Was it America’s constant crying and flip-flopping between Maxon and Aspen? Was it Gregory’s diary, which was probably the best part of the book? Who knows? All I know is that I’m looking forward to reading The One, although whether it’s to finally end this trudge or to see if Cass can pull something original and half-way decent into the last book remains to be seen.

You can buy this here: The Elite (The Selection)

The Selection: The Hunger Games Meets The Bachelor

The Selection is written by Kiera Cass. It was published in 2012 by HarperCollins. It is the first in a trilogy. Cass’s website can be found here.

Summary/Blurb:

“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 a palace and compete for the heart of 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 place that is constantly threatened by violence 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.”

What I Liked:

So, this is basically The Hunger Games meets The Bachelor, without the profundity of the former and the drama of the latter. I can see glimmers of an interesting world peeking through, though, and the love triangle is sort of interesting, in a “I hope this isn’t as obvious as it appears” way.

I have to say, once America got to the palace it was very tough for me to put the book down. There’s something in those middle pages that kept wanting me to read more. Perhaps it was Maxon, who had some interesting and often amusing scenes with America. He’s probably my favorite character.

What I Didn’t Like:

This is an unabashed Hunger Games rip-off, plain and simple. You don’t even have to squint to see the similarities. And unfortunately, it doesn’t have the strength of The Hunger Games to carry it through the rough patches. The worldbuilding is incredibly expositional and info-dumpy, instead of woven in and developed more tightly. We’re just given a bunch of information about how the world got this way; basically, we’re told about it rather than shown it, if that makes sense.

I know we’re supposed to feel something for Aspen, since he’s America’s love or whatever, but he’s really just a flat character. Maxon is way more interesting than he is. I hope we learn more about Aspen, because I want him to actually be a dynamic character. Love triangles are bad enough, but to have a static character in there just makes the whole thing lopsided.

I was hoping that America would actually have to work to gain Maxon’s affections, but all she really has to do is yell at him and do things that people normally wouldn’t do around him and bam, he’s done. It’s the typical way this sort of romance is portrayed, but I wish people were a bit more inventive.

Rating: 2/5

Recommended Age Range: 14+

Warnings: Violence.

Genre: Dystopian, Young Adult

Passages/Quotes:

I wondered if any of the other girls were sad today. I imagined that everyone except for me was celebrating. And I at least needed to look like I was too, because everyone would be watching.

I braced myself for all that was coming, and I made myself be brave. As for everything I was leaving behind, I decided I’d do just that: leave him behind. The palace would be my sanctuary. I‘d never think or say his name again. He wasn’t allowed to come with me there—my own rule for this little adventure.

No more.

Good-bye, Aspen.

~Cass 79

“Could you please stop poking around and complete an entire thought?”

Maxon sighed. “Fine. What I was thinking was that you and I could have a sign or something, some way of communicating that we need to speak to each other that no one else would catch onto. Perhaps rubbing our noses?” Maxon ran a finger back and forth just above his lips.

~Cass 173

Overall Review:

The overall presentation was below average; there was so much mediocrity, clichés, and unoriginal thinking in the characters and the world. But something had me hooked in the middle section of the book, and because of that I’m curious to finish the series and see what happens.

You can buy this here: The Selection