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Sunday, July 20, 2014

Thoughts on Pages #02: The One (and the Selection Trilogy)



Well, folks, I finally finished a series I'd started back in college. There's something so fulfilling about finishing a trilogy, after getting to know a certain set of characters, and after watching those characters finally resolve a conflict (or set of conflicts) they've been dealing with for several hundred pages.

This series has an effervescent quality to it that pulled me right in, and the premise is a joy, but alas...this series isn't truly perfect.

Storyline (and a Quick Summary)

The One is the final book in the Selection trilogy by Kiera Cass. I absolutely love the premise: thirty-five girls are selected from the eight castes of a dystopian United States - called Illea - to become candidates to be the future queen of the kingdom - and the bride of the handsome prince. It has a "Bachelor" meets Hunger Games vibe that's unique and totally amazing.

The first book - The Selection - was easily my favorite, just because it established the universe and allowed me to get to know the characters a lot better (and decide whether I was Team Maxon or Team Aspen - more on that later). The second book - The Elite - takes place after several of the candidates are eliminated reality-show style, and involves even more drama (again, more on that later). The third and final book - The One - has the selection nearing to its end...and possibly ushering in the beginning of a new era for the kingdom of Illea.

I will try to be as spoiler-free as possible, as I would love it if you read this trilogy for yourself. It's one of my favorites mainly for its premise. I will be discussing elements and events that have taken place across the series, but I will also be glossing over quite a bit as not to spoil the major plot arcs of the trilogy. So, with that in mind, let's get deeper with this review.

Characters

America Singer fills the role of protagonist/heroine nicely enough. She is bold and has her own opinions, from her preference of jeans over ballgowns to the way she wishes that Illea should be run. I loved her moments of clarity and audaciousness, but the poor girl was just so indecisive and insecure that I felt sorry for her. This holds true for this book - as she is trying to decide who she wants, she has a knack for not using her words to effectively communicate what she's feeling and what's really going on. The things that happen to her and the misunderstandings that consequently happen don't help either, but she does achieve her dream in the end (...you'll have to read to find out what it is and who it involves ;).

Aspen Leger is the ex-boyfriend-turned-bodyguard of the palace who happens to be stationed near America's chambers during the Selection. He's a nice guy, and serves as a good best guy friend, but I didn't like the way he and America continued to sneak around for a good portion of the trilogy, this book included. However, I enjoyed the way his arc ended.

Maxon Shreave - my favorite - is the prince who's charged with the task of picking his bride. His and America's relationship had the best development, and it didn't feel rushed. However, due to his tendency to jump to conclusions - a lot - he and America so much conflict that I wound up glossing over their fights just because I was just sick of their frequency. I know this is a Young Adult series, and that the reality show-style premise lends itself to a ton of drama,  but good gravy, the drama wore me out. That being said, though, Maxon's more romantic scenes with America were brilliantly written, and I enjoyed those more than the romantic scenes between America and Aspen (I am slightly biased, though, because Team Maxon...wow, do I sound like a Twilight fan or what?).

The rest of the supporting cast - America's maids, America's family, the royal family, and the fellow candidates in the Selection - are well-written. In fact, without being spoiler-y, I actually think the character development in the fellow Selection girls was a lot better across the board than some of the protagonists' (and that's saying something). My favorite Selection candidates throughout the entire series are Marlee and Celeste for that reason.

The antagonists - the rebels, and Maxon's father the King to an extent - are confusing. The way their arcs were wrapped up felt incredibly rushed (you'll see why when you read The One). However, extra antagonizing forces besides the whole reality competition aspect of the series - popularity amongst the people, keeping up appearances, saying the right thing at the right time - did give the story extra depth.

The Setting

I like the idea of Illea a lot. The majority of the story takes place in Angeles, which is a futuristic/dystopian Los Angeles area, which is cool. There's also a Carolina, New Asia, and other locations that are based on real-life global regions. America's name - a nod to the nation of Illea's complicated and war-torn past - was a nice touch, too.

I was so immersed in the palace life that I also kind of wanted to be in the selection myself. And that's a good thing. However, there were times when the palace felt stifling and the royal court of Illea unfair, depending on what was going on the story.

My Thoughts

Really, my only gripe I had with this trilogy was that the boy drama cup overfloweth. Seriously, how many fights between significant others can you have across at least two books (mainly the second and third)? That drama kind of took away from what was going on peripherally - mainly, Illea's political unrest - and added unnecessary stress to an already tense situation: a reality show beauty pageant...thing happening amidst an unstable kingdom.

In spite of all that, though, the setting and romance did pull me in. Once I put the drama aside, I was invested in the characters and how things were going to turn out. The third book does conclude the series in a nice way (albeit slightly rushed), and the epilogue is brilliant.

All this being said, I give The One (and the Selection trilogy as a whole) four sparkling royal jewels out of five. If you're into the glitz and glamour of princess life with a side of reality show drama and only just a pinch of dystopia, you would love the series.

On a side note, I would love for this book to be a TV series. The way it's written totally makes sense for dramatic episodes and cliffhangers. :)

For example: this trailer.



Welp, that's The One! Have you read this trilogy? What do you think of it? Do you have any favorite series - or any recommendations for me to read? (A list of my favorite books - and what I'm reading now - is on my Goodreads.)

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