Thursday, April 5, 2012
Funny and Touching Romance
If you are anything like me, you have been looking at this cover for a while but were unsure of the description- a dystopia with glitter and jewels? Isn't that like shimmery vampires? But I urge you to ignore the description of this book and give it a chance because Kiera Cass has started a new trilogy that will keep you coming back for more... even if the description doesn't do it justice!
America Singer is a five. In Illea, the caste system has royalty as ones and the lowest level, eights, are essentially non-humans who barely survive in society. As a five, America's family struggles to make ends meet, but at least they aren't as bad off as the sixes. People in Illea don't date out of your caste because no one wants to move down... upward caste mobility is always in the back of people's minds, but America doesn't care about that when it comes to Aspen, the boy she loves who just happens to be a six. But when Prince Maxon comes of age, the Selection is held to find his wife. All girls in Illea are possible candidates and one girl from each province is chosen at random (although the number of girls below a four is low enough to suggest otherwise) to be one of the 35 girls who is moved to the palace to compete for Maxon's hand and the crown. America only agrees to enter in the selection to pacify her mother, but when she is chosen, Aspen can't bear to see her give up the opportunity to move up in caste just to move down for him.
With a broken heart, America begrudgingly heads to the palace, but she refuses to play the game all the other girls are so intent on playing. In fact, when she accidentally happens upon Maxon before they are supposed to officially meet, she doesn't hesitate to tell him just what she thinks of him and this bizarre mating ritual that is the Selection. Surprisingly, Maxon isn't offended, but rather intrigued by America's spunk and sass. She tells him she wants nothing to do with being a princess, but they agree to be friends and he convinces her to stay if for no other reason than to keep him company and to enjoy the delicious delicacies she could only dream of back home as a five. The agreement makes sense for a girl with no chance of falling for the man in question, but when that man is Maxon, there is a chance America's feelings might not be as cut off as she originally thought...
I really loved this story! BUT I must caution that the dystopia part of this story is so minute you could almost miss it if you weren't looking hard enough. In fact, I think the description and billing of this story as a dystopia is going to hurt its reputation because people who like serious dystopias are going to be disappointed by the lack of world building and people who would love the romance might be turned off by the dystopia angle. I think the rest of the forthcoming trilogy may delve into the dystopia more heartily, but for this book's purposes, the dystopia label is a little misleading.
But let's talk about the characters! Oh America. I love this girl. She is sassy and determined and fantastic. When she mistakenly thought Maxon was out for "one thing" she actually kneed him in the "royal jewels"! And she isn't cowed by his royal status, even before their friendship blossoms. She has no problem telling him exactly how she feels, and when she shares with him the true state of life int he lower castes, Maxon actually does something about it. He is a man any one of us could fall madly in love with! He is the epitome of lovable male lead who is kind, generous, funny, and takes his responsibility as future leader very, very seriously. Even his shyness with the girls in the Selection is endearing (he is terrified of crying girls, but really, what man isn't?!) I loved Maxon! I think Aspen was a bit of a dud for me, but you don't see much of him except the very beginning and the very end of the book. I think more of him would have made this a true "love triangle" for me, but as it stands now, I am team Maxon all the way!
I loved this story. I think the billing should be altered to not mislead dystopia fans, but if you like a great romance with spunky characters, you will enjoy this story. I know the story ended on a little bit of a cliff-hanger, but it wasn't so bad it made me livid, it just made me impatient to read the next book! I can't wait to see where Cass goes with this story! Your eye might be caught by this beautiful cover, but the book will hold you to the last page!