Thursday, June 20, 2013

Review: The Elite - Kiera Cass

The Elite by Kiera Cass
Series: The Selection #2
Genre: YA, futuristic, romance
Published on April 23, 2013
Published by HarperTeen
Pages: 336
Read From: 6.14.13 - 6.16.13

The Selection began with 35 girls. Now, with the group narrowed down to the Elite, the competition to win Prince Maxon's love is fiercer than ever. The closer America gets to the crown, the more she struggles to figure out where her heart truly lies. Each moment she spends with Maxon is like a fairy tale, filled with breathless glittering romance. But whenever she sees her first love, Aspen, standing guard, she's swept up in longing for the life they'd planned to share. 

America is desperate for more time. But while she's torn between her two futures, the rest of the Elite know exactly what they want - and America's chance to choose is about to slip away.


Cover Blurb: Yes or No? Though I am a sucker for pretty dresses, the cover for The Elite doesn't do it for me. Quite frankly, I am not a fan of the red dress, and the character impersonator is much too evident.

Characters: I dearly wish I could say that America Singer has gone from an airheaded, whiny protagonist to a strong and practical young woman. That's what I wish I could say, but the sad fact is that America is worse in this installment than she was in The Selection. She cannot for the life of her sort out her feelings, and her constant flipflop between which guy in her life she cares about more is just aggravating. She turns into a virtual puddle every time something doesn't go her way, or if Maxon doesn't spend enough time with her, and her low self-esteem feels much more like she's fishing for compliments than actual humility. There's nothing sincere about her. And her ineptitude - or, rather, unwillingness to do her best - doesn't make her a charming, lovable common girl who just doesn't fit in. I wanted to scream at America, "Just do it right for once! Practice poise and dancing and everything else that is required of a princess! Just do it!" It's honestly a wonder why she's still in the competition at all - or even why Maxon likes her. Celeste continues to be a real brat - the snotty girl every Reader out there hates, but she's also failing to serve a purpose to the story, other than as a character simply there for the Reader to hate. And then there's Kriss, who I quite honestly wish was the story's protagonist. She serves as an added complication to the love triangle, and I was totally on her side. Kriss was poised and intelligent and quiet; in short, the logical choice. Why couldn't she be our narrator? The other girls, except Marlee, were a blur of names and no personality. The only positive thing I can say about the returning characters is at least Maxon doesn't come across as to completely dense as he did in The Selection.

The Romance: Yes, this book is mostly focused on America's struggle between choosing Prince Maxon - a kind, unendingly patient, and relatively handsome young man who would do anything for America - and Aspen; another relatively attractive, unendingly patient, and kind young man who would do anything for her. And she doesn't deserve either of them. I never got emotionally attached to either Maxon or Aspen, and I never will. They are just not my kind of guys. But I disliked America so much that I wanted to tell both guys, "Walk away right now and don't look back." Maxon couldn't be away for two minutes without America breaking down in tears and growing jealous and suspicious of what he was doing. And Aspen couldn't turn his attention to any other girl without America bearing down on him. Now, America has been stringing these two guys along for two full books, and it looks like she'll continue to do so for the third. They both keep professing their feelings for her in every way they can, and America accepts their kisses and caresses and tells them that no, there is no one else in her life, but she just needs some more time to think about it. And still more time. And even more. While Maxon doesn't know that America is double dealing, Aspen does, and I personally would just tell America to forget it and move on. It's so obvious that she's clinging to Aspen simply so she can have a second choice if Maxon doesn't work out. One minute, America is all hot for Maxon, and then next she's cold to him and all warm toward Aspen. And then it's visa-versa. Make up your mind, girl!

Plot: With only a few girls left out of the original thirty-five, the Selection is drawing to a head, as Prince Maxon of Illea decides which one will be his bride, and the next princess of Illea. Every girl is eager for the chance, and the competition is fierce. But America is undecided. Her first impressions of Maxon have proven to be wrong and her feelings for him are slowly deepening. However, the presence of her first love, Aspen, cause a conflict in her heart that will end in a tough decision. Should she accept Prince Maxon's love and the duties of being the princess of Illea along with it? Or should she return to the outside world as Aspen's bride and leave behind the luxury she has known since the Selection? Added to the stresses of a torn heart, rebels have been making more and more frequent raids on the palace, leaving warnings on the walls in their wake. What are they after? And when Maxon is forced to make a difficult decision as prince of Illea, will America have to seriously reconsider what she knows of the handsome young man? Now that I have properly misled you about how exciting the story is, let me debunk it. The rebels play an extremely small part in the story. They do two or three raids, leave the message "WE'RE COMING" on the walls (helpfully informing the palace security that yes, they will be back. And yet the palace security is always taken by surprise), and then disappear. Oh, and they kill a couple of unnamed, expendable guards. This might all be a bit exciting if America was somehow unable to make it to the panic rooms in time, but unfortunately she always does make it and we Readers never get to see much of the rebels. And as for Maxon's "true nature revealed," it's not character development, but an incident that is merely there to create even more tension and complications between him and America. While the scene offers up some gore (finally!) and a tiny glimpse at the supposed totalitarian regime Illea has become, it mostly extends the book's length and causes America to melt into a puddle yet again. The discovery of the journal of the first Illean king offered the potential of a developing plotline that would get away from the Selection and actually into political struggles. Nope! America takes her dear sweet time reading the journal, and what she discovers in it just makes her doubt Maxon even more, and doesn't lead to a brilliant plot packed with rebellions and political struggles. Instead, we Readers suffer through still more dress fittings, sitting in the Women's Room drinking tea and listening to Celeste be a brat, America's makeover (and makeout) sessions, her continued self-doubt, everyone's illogical adoration of her "obvious" wit, and still more makeout sessions.

Believability: The kingdom of Illea is still quite unbelievable. The fact that people in lower castes are given an opportunity to climb out of their caste totally destroys what plausibility the caste system has. We're given one brief glimpse of totalitarian cruelty, but not much else. America comes from a low caste, and yet she has never heard of anyone being caned as a punishment; I find this hard to believe. And the rough explanation of how the United States went from presidential leadership to a monarchy didn't make much sense at all.

Writing Style: First person, past tense. Probably the only blessing in this book is that I didn't have to put up with present tense, which seems to be a prevailing fashion in dystopian novels (though I would not call this a dystopian; not even remotely). There is nothing special about the style, nor anything particularly bad about it. It just was.

Content: None.

Conclusion: When given the chance to do a political-orientated speech on live television, America decides to be completely reckless - and all because she's mad at Maxon for something she won't even let him explain. Which, of course, once he does explain, America is all forgiving, but by that time she's made a permanent enemy of King Clarkson. For a moment, the book looked like it was going to set Book Three up for an actual interesting plot. But at the last minute, it destroyed my hopes and I am prepared for yet another boring set of afternoons in the Women's Room, more of Celeste being a brat, and so on and so forth. I wasn't expecting to like The Elite. I didn't like The Selection, and only read this one as a obligatory read - it's a popular series, so I had to read it. I can't imagine what Book Three will be like.

Recommended Audience: Girl-read, fifteen-and-up, good for fans of the Eve Trilogy by Anna Carey, The Bachelor, and who read The Hunger Games for the romance, and not the actual games.

Others in This Trilogy:
1)The Selection
2)The Elite

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