Thursday, 25 July 2013

The Elite by Kiera Cass

The Elite (2013) (HarperCollins Children's Books)
Kiera Cass
Grade: B-
Genre: YA dystopian
Source: NetGalley / own
The Selection: (1) The Selection, (2) The Elite 

In a future where WWIV rocked the world and the new country of Illéa lives under a brutal and unfair caste system, life is changing rapidly for 17-year-old America Singer. She was one of thirty-five girls picked for The Selection, an outdated process that was originally aimed at bringing the country together and garnering public support for the monarchy. Thirty-five girls have been whittled down to six, and America, a Five and the lowest caste left in the competition, has got all to play for …

America is by no means the public favourite to win, but her compassion and understanding of the lives of those around her, from her vantage-point as a Five, means that the Royal Household are all hoping that Maxon Schreave, Prince of Illéa, will choose her. Maxon, too, has very strong feelings for America, and if it wasn’t for her reluctance, he would announce their betrothal straight away. His parents are living proof that The Selection works and can produce happy marriages; with only six girls are left to try and win Maxon’s heart …

As much as America likes Maxon, there’s still a part of her that’s in love with Aspen Leger, a Six from her village. Aspen has been lucky enough to be chosen to be part of the Royal Guard, automatically upgrading his class status to a Two. While America loves being with Maxon, seeing Aspen around the Palace is a constant reminder of her upbringing and how she doesn’t have what it takes to be a Queen. Aspen is still in love with America and she must make a decision about which guy she will choose, before rebel plans to sabotage The Selection succeed …

The Elite was one of my most anticipated books of 2013. The Selection made it into my top books of 2012 and it was the best YA I had read in a while. While The Elite didn’t quite match my (admittedly high) expectations, it was still enjoyable and you should carry on with the series if you liked The Selection. Make sure you’ve read book one first.

America pisses me off, very much. I know that a dystopian YA novel wouldn’t be such without a gripping love triangle, but as much as I loved it in The Selection, it didn’t have quite the same appeal here. Both Maxon and Aspen are utterly devoted to America, yet she flits between them faster than Katie Price goes through husbands, with seemingly little regard for anyone’s feelings but her own. Most of the time, she doesn’t even know what she feels; her emotions change with every encounter and I can’t deal with the emotional rollercoaster of future-husband ping-pong that America is inflicting on herself – just stop being selfish and choose already!

I definitely liked Maxon more in The Elite – he’s the one I’m rooting for and if America doesn’t realise this soon, then she doesn’t deserve him. He’s grown a backbone and when America takes her time trying to decide whether she can adapt to this life to be with him, he takes matters into his own hands and rightly so, starts looking more carefully at the other girls. It serves her right and while I want them to end up together eventually, America will definitely have to start making more of an effort.

As I’ve said before, I love how anachronistic and oxymoronic the whole concept is. It’s set on Earth as we know it, but far in the future so that the idea of a monarchy replacing a warring Republic doesn’t seem too far-fetched. The settings, outfits and manners are straight out of a historical novel and that makes me ecstatic.

I had always assumed that this was a two-book series, but the course of the book showed clearly that this wasn’t to be the case. If the series doesn’t end with book three, then it will definitely start getting a little tedious. The Selection process can’t be dragged out into more than three books, what with how few girls there are left, and I don’t really want to be seeing a life-after-the-selection book, either. That’s not to say that I don’t want more books – I do – but too much and I for one will start to lose interest. One of the things that I loved about The Selection was the unique-ness of the concept and how fast-paced the first book was. Book two definitely slowed action right down, understandably so, but I can’t deal with much more of the same drama.

A slightly disappointing second book, but here's to hoping that book three will be the last book and put the series out with a bang. The One (that sounds like a finale title, right?) brings a lot more antagonism between America and some of the other characters, and Maxon has given her an ultimatum that she can't ignore. Illéa has been a great world to explore, but please, please Ms Cass, close the door on it with book three.

Image courtesy of Fantastic Fiction

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