Title: The Elite
Author: Kiera Cass
Publisher: Harper Teen
Publication Date: April 23, 2013
Thirty-five girls came to the palace to compete in the Selection. All but six have been sent home. And only one will get to marry Prince Maxon and be crowned princess of Illea.
America still isn’t sure where her heart lies. When she’s with Maxon, she’s swept up in their new and breathless romance, and can’t dream of being with anyone else. But whenever she sees Aspen standing guard around the palace, and is overcome with memories of the life they planned to share. With the group narrowed down to the Elite, the other girls are even more determined to win Maxon over—and time is running out for America to decide.
Just when America is sure she’s made her choice, a devastating loss makes her question everything again. And while she’s struggling to imagine her future, the violent rebels that are determined to overthrow the monarchy are growing stronger and their plans could destroy her chance at any kind of happy ending.
Oh Kiera Cass, let me count the ways that I love you. Well okay, maybe it’s Maxon I love. Or maybe not, because he was kind of a dickbag at points in this book. But then again, it’s not really his fault, and America kind of was one too, but…
Oh my god. This book just gave me so many feels. SO MANY. When I started reading it, I was positive I wanted America to choose Maxon, but then he did some things in the book that made me want to do this:
and even more things that made me think this:
which also made America do REALLY STUPID THINGS. She is not so good with jealousy, although there were definitely certain things Maxon did with certain people I really dislike that made it more understandable. But because she now has influence due to her position at the palace and access to media, she can do even more stupid things than if she was just back in Carolina. But GRRRRR AMERICA, WHY?! Sometimes she’s so childish it makes me want to throw things. This doesn’t keep me from liking the book though, and it actually helps make her more of a complex character. To me, the things she does in response to Maxon make sense and make her seem more like a teenager, which is important since she’s in a situation that’s foreign to many teens.
I’m glad that in The Elite, Cass complexified (yes, I know that’s not technically a word, but whatever) both America and Maxon. In the first book, Maxon was portrayed as basically perfection, but in this book he had flaws that made me doubt him. I’m glad Cass played up the creepiness of the Selection by having America feel upset about the time he was spending with other girls. I’m also glad America has competition now, because that raises the stakes in the story, which makes it even more suspenseful than it already is.
In terms of America and Maxon’s relationship, I think Cass did a great job making it seem more real in this book. They have actual problems (other than Aspen, which Maxon still doesn’t know about) that happen in relationships. They both lose trust in one another and will have to fight to regain it. Their relationship isn’t perfect like Maxon’s with Kriss seem to be, and I think that if they can work past what they’ve both done, they could come out of it with an even stronger relationship.
Another thing I’ve really liked about The Selection series is the juxtaposition of the dystopian society with the more “old-fashioned” things, such as the palace and the castes. It’s a really interesting combination that I haven’t seen in other books, although it kind of reminds me of Melissa Marr’s Cinder for some reason. It’s also interesting to view what’s happening in the world from inside the palace in the lap of luxury with America, rather than directly in the messed up society like all the other dystopian books out there.
The Selection is also unique in that America is not directly involved in the resistance. After The Hunger Games, the majority of YA dystopians followed the rebel-revolution-resolution plotline, but these books don’t. Sure, the palace is invaded by rebels a couple times, but America isn’t part of it. I’m still having minor suspicions that one of the girls in the Selection is a spy or something, or maybe that’s just wishful thinking. I really want America to have an interaction with a rebel that’s more than just being curtsied to by one (oops, spoiler). I hope that America learns to use her position for good, and doesn’t only express her true views when provoked by Maxon or the king.
On that note, I was also glad Cass had America put more consideration into the fact that if she chooses Maxon, she will also be a princess. I felt that that part of the story wasn’t as focused on in the first book, which made sense because it was more about getting to know Maxon and palace life. I’m happy America is thinking seriously about her ability to be a leader, though in my opinion it’s obvious she would be great. The other girls don’t seem to have doubts about the princess part of the Selection, so I liked that America is being realistic and practical in the midst of the romance.
Both of America’s romances kept me guessing. At the end of The Elite, I’m still not sure who she’s going to choose, and I’m not certain anymore if I want her to choose Aspen or Maxon. I liked Aspen a lot better in this book, and wasn’t a fan of Maxon at times. I like when a YA book genuinely keeps me in suspense, because a lot of times I feel like I can guess the twists and endings. The unpredictability makes this series quite the delight to read, and I will be very sad when it’s over
In The Elite, America really comes into her own, and I can’t wait to see her blossom even more in the trilogy’s final book, The One!