The latest, and last, of this super-successful series is topping the hot charts at the moment. Past time for me to read the first, ‘The Selection’ by Kiera Cass, and try to deduce the pattern that made the drop-dead-gorgeous gown what it is.
One look at the sumptuous cover and you know what to expect. Romance. And there’s a lot of that sort of thing in YA. Why is this series so deliciously popular? My guess?
- Fairy-tale meets reality tv – two very successful enterprises
- Two Love Interests up the stakes
- Enough sub-plot so you can kid yourself you’re not just reading a romance.
Fairy-tale meets reality tv
Stories with escapist elements are wonderful. Sometimes, that’s what you need. Sometimes, you don’t want to read something filled with the tough things you’re dealing with already. Enter ‘The Selection’. Enter protagonist America and her rags-to-riches, handsome-Prince-falls-for-beautiful-commoner fairy-tale.
Many successful YA novels give the lead at least one opportunity to dress up in something they wouldn’t normally dare wear so they can wow everyone. Think Katniss in her interview dress. Think Clary donning Isabelle’s funky fighting gear. Think Tris getting all black, tight and tattooed.
And think America getting multiple awesome gowns each day, as well as managing to get approval to wear jeans on Saturdays – “the best-fitting pair of pants I’d ever owned.” Escapism is fun, and I guess it sells.
People watch The Bachelor. People read books like ‘The Selection.’ Cass just needed to make it different enough to stick out. Like Prince Maxon never having been kissed. You don’t see that too often. Hats off.
Two boys fighting over the protagonist
If this wasn’t there, the plot would be so much less than it is. Two boys up the angst, the pressure, the stakes. And what girl wouldn’t want to dream of having two hot guys after her? This isn’t new.
Cassandra Clare loves to do it, generally making the reader cheer for the bad guy rather than the (rather more boring) nice option. Think Jace vs Simon, Will vs Jem. The Hunger Games did it, annoying me no end because Collins made me love Gale from the start, so I was never wanting Peeta to win Katniss’ heart. I felt betrayed by Gale’s descent.
Kindly, Cass doesn’t do that to me. America narrates the story herself, and the first time we meet (not-the-Prince) Aspen she refers to him as an “intruder” with a “sly grin” before falling all over him with joy. So I was already prepared to have Aspen lose the game.
What I wasn’t prepared for was him turning up at the palace as a swish new guard in a sexy uniform. Sweet twist. Is he telling the truth? I don’t care, I still want Maxon to win. Bite some more nails.
Sub-plot – just enough to make you not feel bad about spending hours reading a romance novel
There were enough little tidbits here to keep me thinking. What are the rebels searching for? What is Marlee hiding? Why no history books? Maybe I’m wrong, maybe Cass never answers these questions, but I’m still intrigued. I want to read on.
I normally talk about world-building. Not so much here. This book isn’t about the world. What it gives is enough. It’s not rock-solid, let’s be honest. But it doesn’t need to be. It doesn’t even want to be. It’s inventive, it’s a clever wrapping for a sugary treat.
Is this an all-time favourite book of mine? No.
Did I read it ravenously? Yes. It’s an easy read that keeps pulling you along.
Do I want to read Book 2? Oh, yes. I do.