When The Selection by Kiera Cass came in the mail on Saturday I decided to set aside book five of George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series to read it. (Don't get me wrong, I LOVE everything about Mr. Martin's books, but I was happy to take a break from the heaviness of A Dance with Dragons.)
I was struck by how apropos the political caste system in The Selection was to what is going on in America today and was very intrigued by the back story of how the country of Illéa came to be.
The caste system in Illéa goes from ones to eights, with ones being the wealthiest and eights being homeless. Our protagonist, America Singer, and her family are fives within the system. There are very strict laws in Illéa regarding relationships outside of your caste system and America is in love with Aspen Leger who is a six, so they have to hide their relationship from everyone.
Applications for The Selection have gone out to all eligible young women in Illéa. The Selection is a contest of sorts wherein 35 young women are randomly chosen to move to the palace and possibly be chosen by the Royal Prince Maxon to be his bride. Anyone chosen automatically becomes a three within the caste system, and their families are compensated each week that they are gone. The girl chosen by Prince Maxon will automatically become a one, as will her family.
America wants nothing to do with The Selection because she loves Aspen and refuses to leave him. After careful thought, Aspen makes her promise that she will apply telling her he couldn't live with the "what ifs" that might be between them if she doesn't even try. Her mother also bribes her to apply, telling her that she can keep half of any money she makes if she just fills out the application.
America applies, believing that the chances of her being selected out of the thousands of applicants are very slim and with the extra money she now has, she plans a surprise dinner for Aspen. Needless to say, Aspen's male ego takes over with the whole "I am supposed to provide for you, not the other way around" macho thing, and he breaks up with her. America is heartbroken, and when her name is called out on the weekly Capital Report as one of the 35, she is happy to leave Carolina.
America's life changes dramatically once she begins participating in The Selection and I found myself rooting for her the whole time. I have to admit, I couldn't put this book down -- staying up until 2:30 a.m. to finish it the same day it came in the mail! I was dying to see what was going to happen to this strong-willed young lady and wanted to scream NOOOOO when I realized that this was the first book in a series and that I am going to have to wait to find out what happens next!
I truly enjoyed the refreshing and unique premise of the story as well as the characters and their interactions with America. I give the book 4½ out of 5 and recommend you pre-order it now. I can't wait for Book Number 2!