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Hilary T. Smith
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Bryan Peterson

The Selection

The Selection - **Note: Contains some spoilers**I read this entire Bachelor-themed dystomance and there wasn’t even a lousy rose-ceremony. Ripped off. [Insert cranky face here.]It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a princedom, must be in want of a nationally televised reality program in which he dates multiple women in a quest to select a suitable wife and future queen. (It is also true that that is one of the most abused sentences in English literature, but whatever whatever I do what I want.) I’m going to start this review with a history lesson and pay attention please because there’s a quiz* at the end: The History of Illea (paraphrased from a spectacular piece of info-dumping disguised as a classroom lecture, or: Exposition - You’re Doing It Wrong!)The US owes China a lot of money and can’t repay their debts. China launches on assault on the US and World War Three ensues. The Chinese don’t recover any money, so they decide to take over and rename the country ‘The American State of China’. Behind a façade of normalcy, China is “pulling the strings”, “influencing major political happenings” and “steering legislation in their favor”. The Chinese invasion prompts a bunch of European countries to ally, but The American State of China has no friends. Then Russia decides to get in on the action and attempts an invasion too. The ASC decides to fight back against Russia, and lucky them, China is also fighting Russia for trying to snatch their territory – so basically the ASC gets the upper hand while China’s back is turned. Some guy called Gregory Illea heads up the assault against Russia and this leads to the founding of the new country. But the United States’ reputation was so tarnished (??) they didn’t want that name anymore so they just call it Illea. Anyway, this Illea guy marries into a royal family and then apparently thinks “How about those monarchies, eh? Let’s have one here!” Makes sense, no? This illustrates my major issue with The Selection. If I had to boil down my various thoughts about this book, reduce them to one statement, it would be this: It’s silly. Not good silly, either. Ridiculous-silly. I’m more than okay with suspending belief for the sake of a good story, but this is not a good story. Why? Let me break this down: Weak Characterisation: It’s made very clear that America is down to earth and genuine through her tendency to eschew makeup and manicures, and a desire to wear jeans like an all-American (sorry, all-Illean) girl! How refreshing! Not like those vapid bitches in their frou-frou growns and blow-outs. (Note the use of my sarcasm font). To be fair, not all of the girls are presented as superficial twits, but the subtext of the writing is that America is the special snowflake of the bunch, an unwilling participant in the shallow pageantry and jealous vying for Prince Maxon’s attention. Anyway, it’s not Maybelline, America apparently is born with it, as she likes to point out:”Brenna was a Six and about my age. Pretty enough, I supposed, though she didn’t look a bit like me.” - Nice that America has a healthy self-image and all, but why is this statement even relevant? Oh, it’s not. ”They tried to be sexy, bending forward a lot to get clear shots down their dresses. It looked fake. I watched their faces in the monitors as they kept glancing at Maxon and winking. Every once in a while, like when Bariel tried to smoothly lick her lips, Marlee and I made brief eye contact and then had to look away so we wouldn’t laugh.” - Side note: America’s nemesis, Bariel, can be identified by her “huge” breasts and tendency to be an evil skank /sarcasm. Shoddy Worldbuilding: See above history lesson. Sure, be creative with your worldbuilding. But don’t patronise me because I’m not an idiot: I can see a flimsy premise when I see one. Insta!Monarchy aside, Cass herds her fictional population into a caste-system, which dictates the type of employment they can perform and what social circles they can move in. America moans about how she’s a Five and there’s never enough to go around, but it was never really shown. Pasta, chicken and apples for dinner? Earning a living as a musician? Cry me a river, America. Some people have real problems. Something else that’s never really shown is how the strict Illean laws are enforced. Despite the fact that they are apparently firmly under the thumb - pre-marital sex is illegal – I would have expected a law enforcing presence to be much more evident. I guess that was more to build sexual tension between she and Aspen, then? (More on that jerk later).Then there are the Rebels, “Northerners” and “Southerners”, who make it their business to regularly attack the palace to terrorise the occupants. Cass brushes off the explanation for these attacks with a throwaway line about their dissatisfaction with the government, then makes an allusion to the Notherners “looking for something” in the place. (OMG, FORESHADOWING!) Anyway, it sounds about as easy for the “rebels” to launch a raid on the palace as it would be for me to start egging my neighbour’s house. (I wouldn’t, I’m a nice neighbour). What are they guarding the palace with, toothpicks?Which brings me to…Love Interests: Let’s not kid ourselves, that’s the main point of this novel. America being caught between her two uninspiring love interests. America and Aspen’s (alliterative couples are the best!) thwarted love affair left me absolutely cold. When we meet Aspen, he’s a Six (the servant class) and is essentially a moody douchebag. But HOT, natch. Yet somehow, within a month, Aspen turns up again as a palace guard. Well, that seems safe. Maybe that’s why the palace gets attacked so often, they’re putting barely trained new recruits in charge of defending the royal family. So Aspen is back on the scene and there’s lot of smouldering going on.. but what about Prince Maxon, the slightly socially awkward heir to the throne who seems actually pretty decent most of the time? (At one point: ”Maxon wore a handsome, awestruck expression, which slowly turned into a smile, a smile for no one but me.” WTF is a handsome expression?)Prince Maxon and America are “just friends”, (she’s going to help him winnow the sweet, wife-material wheat from the gold-digging chaff, apparently) although it should be as plain as the nose on her face to America that he’s into her. Then oh noes! There’s a kiss! What’s a girl to do? END OF BOOK ONE!Writing:Ridiculousness aside, the writing is pedestrian and bland, the dialogue stilted. It’s not offensive, it’s just unremarkable. A weak plot and a tendency to signpost every “important” detail doesn’t help either. I’m sure we’ve all read a book where we recognise the writing is not brilliant, but the story is compelling enough to cover the technical failings. That’s not the case here. Okay, I’m actually starting to hate myself a bit for how much time I’ve wasted on this, so I’ll leave it here. Unfortunately, this was all hype and no substance for me. *I’m lying, there’s no quiz. I wouldn’t do that to you. _______How can I not add this after reading that synopsis! O_oEdit: Okay, so the synopsis was changed and my above comment makes a lot less sense.