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Review: The One by Kiera Cass

Title: The One
Author: Kiera Cass
Genre: YA Fiction
ISBN: 0-06-205999-8
Published: May 2014, HarperTeen
Purchase: Amazon

the one
Main Characters: America, Maxon, Aspen

Synopsis: There are only four girls left, and Maxon has to pick soon. But the rebels are looming on the horizon, attacking from both the north and the south, and the entire Selection hangs in the balance. Can Maxon save the country? Can he save his future wife? Can he even save himself?

Memorable Quotes:

  • “Would you regret it?” he asked. “For the rest of your life, it would be like this. Beautiful walls, but walls all the same. My mother scarcely leaves the palace more than once or twice a year.” … “And if you think the public is intrusive now, it would be much worse when you’re the only girl they’re watching. I know your feelings for me run deep. I feel it every day. But what about the life that comes along with me? Do you want that?”
  • I thought of the mouselike boy in the corner of the room that night. He willingly ran out into the fray for me, for all of us. Bravery hides in amazing places.
  • I can imagine you sitting here, smiling at my idea, maybe shaking your head at me as if to say I’m being silly. You do that sometimes, did you know? I like that expression on you. You’re the only person who wears it in a way that doesn’t come across like you think I’m completely hopeless. You smile at my idiosyncrasies, accept that they exist, and continue to be my friend. And, in seven short hours, I’ve started to miss that.”

Review: You know that thing that happens when you’re reading a book, and you start to run out of pages, and you’re like, “Oh god, all the plot points can’t possibly be wrapped up in this many pages, there’s going to be another novel”? Well, that definitely happened with this book. So look forward to the fourth book in The Selection Series by Kiera Cass!

Er… wait. No, I’ve got that all wrong. There isn’t going to be a fourth book.

So where the hell is my wrap-up?

Don’t get me wrong, I’d been completely enjoying the book up until the very end. It was a helluva lot better than the second book, that’s for sure. It didn’t seem haphazardly thrown out of Kiera’s fingers to appease her editors. But when the book ended, I was completely floored by the complete waste of potential.

I still have so many questions. The story ends (SPOILERS!!!!) with Maxon promising to undo the caste system, which is apparently something he’d been planning even before America opened her big mouth on national TV. (Sure, buddy. Sure.) And then he and America get married. Fantastic! Lovely! I mean, we all knew it was coming!

But… what about the rebels? In this third novel, we learn that the northern rebels are on Maxon’s side. They want to protect the monarchy, and like Maxon, they want to dissolve the caste system. It’s the southern rebels that are the dangerous ones. They’re the ones that resorted to killing people in the castes of the Elite because they refused to quit the Selection. They’re the ones that lead armed raids on the castle. We don’t want the southerners in power, because they’ll overthrow the monarchy and put a crueler one in its place.

So… what happened with them? Was every single southern rebel killed in the last assault on the palace? Speaking of which, how on earth do rebels manage to get in and out of the palace so easily? (Even the “good” ones?) Let’s not even mention how so many rebels (disguised as guards) slipped past the regular guards. Did no one ever say, “Hey, I don’t know this group of guards. Where did they come from?” Check their papers. There’s gotta be some record of their arrival if they’re legit, right? Better safe than sorry, right?!

We also learn at some point that the leader of the northern rebels is a descendant of Gregory Illéa himself. But… why bother? That revelation has literally no bearing on any other part of the story. He goes to a couple meetings with Maxon and that’s it. He doesn’t want the crown. Maxon doesn’t even seem particularly impressed by it; it’s not like knowing the boy is an Illéa grants instant trust with the monarchy.

There was so much set-up with the outside world that never amounted to anything at all. America kindles a friendship with the Italians, right? That’s all well and good, and it turns out to be a reason why King Clarkson even considers not kicking America out of the Selection outright. But what does it ever do? America convinces the Italian princess to give some money to the northern rebels for weapons. But did she? Do they ever use them? It’s hinted that the northerners use some artillery against the southerners in the final battle, but who knows where that came from. Elise is kept around because her family is from New Asia, and an alliance could be useful there, too. But an alliance for what…?

Something that is also revealed late in the book is that America’s own father was part of the northern rebels. (Apparently, northern sympathizers have a thing for North Star symbols. Necklaces, tattoos, tittles*. But that’s literally all we ever learn about that in regards to her father. How did he come to be a northern rebel? What did he do in service of the cause? Was their mother in on it, too? Did he have plans to induct America into the society before she was Selected? Yet another lovely plot point setup that went absolutely nowhere.

Let me bring your attention back to the ending of the second book. Do you remember that revelation? That Maxon is being abused by his father, King Clarkson? Well, here’s another spoiler for you: the King is killed in the final battle of the third novel. Surprised? I can’t say that I am. I was pretty sure he was going to die, but I didn’t know at whose hands. He’s simply killed by a southern rebel, if you must know. His wife, the loving, wondrous, oblivious Queen Amberly, is also killed. She was trying to save her husband.

But what is Maxon’s reaction?

Literally nothing. Nothing. There is nothing.

One could argue that in the hours after it occurs, he’s simply in shock. All right, I’ll give you that. People all grieve in different ways. He says something along the lines of, “I can’t believe it’s real.”

But… to not give us any sort of reaction after the fact? This man is the King of Illéa and he’s been mentally and physically tormenting Maxon for at least the last year, if not for his entire fucking life. Maxon, your tormentor is dead. Does that not elicit ANY SORT OF REACTION? Happiness? Relief? Bitterness? Sadness, in spite of himself?

What about his mother? The woman who was benign, benevolent, and loving, but ultimately completely blind to the abuse that was inflicted on her son by her husband? That’s gotta arouse some feelings too. Resentment?

I think the lack of reaction to his parents’ death is what pissed me off the most.

I am glad, though, that the silly love-triangle shenanigans was mostly absent in this book. Aspen finally falls in love with someone else (I won’t tell you who, but it’s pretty obvious it’s happening), and early on, America finally realizes she’s completely head-over-heels for Maxon. Of course, though, the love triangle ends up blowing up in her face even after all this is revealed, but you’ll have to read the book to find out how it happens and if it manages to be resolved.

Another thing that was missing from this book was the bland, vapid version of America we met in Book 2. You remember her. Constantly weeping because of the choice she had to make in her heart. Skulking around the castle hiding from both of them. Honestly? The way this third book is written pretty much pretends that the second book doesn’t exist. America makes a few references to sleeping next to Maxon in the safe room, but that’s about it.

If I’d reviewed this book in the middle of it, it’d probably be getting four stars. But the completely awful ending wrecked it all. If you manage to make it through the travesty of a second book and start reading this one, do yourself a favor: pretend it ends right after Maxon and America profess their love for each other. That way NOTHING is wrapped up and you can mentally write your own ending, instead of getting like pieces of one wrap-up and none of any others.

Rating★★½

* Before you giggle, a tittle is the term for the dot in a lowercase I or J.

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Review: The Elite by Kiera Cass

Title: The Elite
Author: Kiera Cass
Genre: YA Fiction
ISBN: 0-06-205996-3
Published: April 2013, HarperTeen

the elite

Main Characters: America, Maxon, Aspen

Synopsis: America has earned Maxon’s affections, and he’s kept her around. Thirty-five girls have dwindled to six, and when this happens, the group becomes known as the Elite. Now, things are really starting to get difficult. The girls are being taught etiquette and history, and they’re given projects to entertain visiting dignitaries (and not offend them), which are duties the current Queen is entrusted with and which the future Queen will one day do as well. Each task is a competition, of course, and if they mess up, they could be sent home. They’re all so close. Who is Maxon going to marry? America looks around the circle of faces and realizes she has no idea…

Memorable Quotes:

  • Lucy’s smile was sad. “It’s the most wonderful and terrible thing that can ever happen to you,” she said simply. “You know that you’ve found something amazing, and you want to hold on to it forever; and every second after you have it, you fear the moment you might lose it.” I sighed softly. She was absolutely right. Love is beautiful fear.

Review: SPOILERS AHOY!

Right from the get-go, this sequel did not hold my attention like its predecessor. Actually, sometimes it was downright off-putting. I was cheesed off really early on when Maxon takes America upstairs to the secret library. (Beauty and the Beast, anyone?) It’s full of forbidden literature and history, of course. No one in the country has history books. It’s all oral. (How else can you keep people from rebelling? If they knew the truth…)

America spends the entire book flip-flopping between Maxon and Aspen. Maxon will piss her off and she’ll run straight into Aspen’s arms (but secretly, of course. If anyone knew she was kissing another man, she’d be worse than kicked out of the Selection– she’d be made an Eight). Then she’ll realize that Maxon really isn’t that bad of a guy and Aspen will get put on the backburner again. Who can compare to the shining light of a Prince? Certainly not a lowly guard, even if he is a Two now instead of a Six.

America’s entire personality has changed from the first book. Where she was fierce and unapologetic, she’s now weepy and unsure. She’s constantly dismissing herself and her abilities. Oh, I don’t know if I’d make a good queen. All of these other girls would be better. (Girl has got to realize that the best place to enact change is from the Queen’s throne, right?)

All in all, this book reminded me entirely too much of the Twilight/50 Shades books, as in: unworthy girl holds attention of two wonderful, handsome men. Doesn’t know what to do. Cries a lot. Oh, you poor, poor girl. What a terrible dilemma. La tee da.

It did have its moments, though. Their Halloween celebration was a fun read, even though in the back of my head I was like, “They told the whole country to celebrate this simultaneously, right? Yes, because Halloween is what they should be spending their money and time on right now.” It just seemed a bit extravagant, you know? (And by “a bit” I really mean “a lot.”) The book went from “dystopian love story” to “fluff and oops yeah there are rebels.”

Maxon’s big reveal at the end didn’t add anything to the story, either. Granted, abuse is a terrible thing and I wouldn’t wish it upon anyone, and he should get himself out of that situation as quickly as possible, but as a plot device, I think it’s contrived at best. How about, instead of a scary, abusive, tyrant king, we have a tyrant king that is a tyrant in secret? You can still do terrible things to a country without being terrible to your family. I suppose if you’re a villain, you have to be a bad person all the way through. I feel like there was a lot of potential for layering here that went completely unused.

The middle sections of trilogies always tend to be bad, and it’s a trend I don’t understand. These books were released within a month of each other, though; perhaps that had something to do with it? Maybe Ms. Cass was rushed by her agent/publisher to throw out another book as soon as possible to hold interest. At any rate, I’m a bit peeved at myself for blasting through these two books in one day without realizing the third one won’t be out until May. Drat! I look forward to finishing the tale, at any rate.

Mod Note: I did also read the “in-between” accompanying novella that Ms. Cass wrote from Maxon’s perspective, entitled The Prince. It was short and sweet; worth reading, but not worth doing a review on.

Rating: ★★

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