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4.0 von 5 Sternen A casting show that TRULY changes lives!, 24. Mai 2013
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Rezension bezieht sich auf: The Selection (The Selection, Book 1) (The Selection Series) (English Edition) (Kindle Edition)
If you mix dystopian YA fantasy with casting shows like The Bachelor, what do you get? A surprisingly entertaining read, apparently! No, it doesn't have half the depth of The Hunger Games, so don't get into it expecting much more than a pleasant evening or two of reading... But if you're ok with that, this book is a good choice, in my opinion.

It is set in a far away future, in a country that's risen from the ashes of today's United States of America. Society is organized in a strict caste system; the caste you're born into determines not only your social status, but also the professions you're allowed to pursue. For example, if you're a "Six", you're bound to be a servant. A "Five" has to become something creative - a singer, a dancer, an artist... If you don't have a talent for what you're supposed to do, you're simply out of luck.

Every caste below Four is looked down upon by those who are more fortunate. At the very top of the social pecking order is the royal family - yes, the USA have ressurected as a monarchy, of all things! There is a curious tradition in place that allows the ruling caste to show some sense of kin and fellowship with the lower castes: the Selection the book is named after. Each time a crown prince reaches adulthood, he has to choose a bride - but not just any bride. Women who are of a suitable age to marry, no matter what caste they are from, can send in applications, and a lucky 35 of them will be chosen to participate in... well, it can't be called anything else but a casting show, really. For the duration of it, they live at the palace and vie for the prince's attention, going on dates, learning about etiquette and trying to outshine each other.

The main character of this book is America Singer. As the name suggests, she's a Five, making a living for herself and her family by playing the violin and singing at the parties of the higher castes. She has no interest in the Selection - for one thing, she already has a (secret) boyfriend, for another she feels that the whole process is demeaning. But joining the Selection isn't only about trying to win the crown: the lucky ladies who are chosen for it are elevated to a much higher caste, and their families are generously provided for. And hunger is a frequent visitor in America's family...

Pros:
I'll be quite honest here: I like dystopian novels. I like casting shows (it's a secret weakness, like my weakness for cotton candy), as shallow and stupid as they often are. If you also do, chances are high that you'll like this novel!

I like America as a character, even if she sometimes stretches my suspension of disbelief to almost the breaking point - she wavers between staying true to herself and not submitting fully to the game (by refusing pretty dresses and jewelry, for example) and trying to play the game well so she'll be a credit to her caste and family. Sometimes she goes a bit too far either way to be truly believable - Kicking the Prince in the groin? Really? - but on the whole, I liked her attitude and how she handled herself. She's not the prettiest of the girls, nor the nicest, the smartest or the most graceful - and I like that. Come on, could you identify with a saintly princess?

I like the Prince even more: he's not what I expected at all. He's neither a villain who's out to surpress the lower castes, nor is a saint who's trying to save the world. He's a product of his education, but there's a decent man with an honest heart behind it. More than a couple of times, I wished America would stop waffling and fall in love with him already!

Of the supporting characters, there were only a few who stood out to me - like the sweet, friendly (but a bit mousey) girl, Marlee, and the two-faced, mean social climber, Celeste, who isn't above ripping dresses and threatening the competition. The latter is a character I absolutely loved to hate! (And I'd be willing to bet that this one is going to stay until the very end. The mean girl always does in casting shows!)

My favourites are probably America's servants, though - they are so endearing in their desire to help America to the best of their abilities, and I suspect that they'll play an integral part in the next novel.(Or maybe that's wishful thinking!) Maybe they even have some connection to the rebels? Who knows!

There wasn't ever a point in the story where I felt bored, even during the slower bits. In fact, I read until the early morning hours even though it was a work day...

Cons:

As much as I tried, I simply couldn't warm up to Aspen. I'm not sure why; he's certainly portrayed as a loving boyfriend - loving to the point of complete selflessness. But I was more of less indifferent to him, which lessened the impact of the love triangle between him, America and the Prince. Which brings me to another con: the love triangle. Why does every other YA romance apparently need one? Isn't it enough that America has to struggle with her feelings for Maxon and her ferocious dislike of the way the country is run?

I wish there was more emphasis on the dystopian part of the story - but maybe that's coming in the next book? We're told bits and pieces, and the rebels make a few attacks on the palace during the Selection, but we aren't really told what they stand for, nor what they demand.

We don't get to see much of the other girls who compete in the Selection; we see them coming back from dates, whispering in the Woman's Room, giggle and swoon when the Prince is near... I would've liked to get to know at least some of them better. What are their lives like, in their respective castes? Are most of them social climbers, or do a few actually have real feelings for Maxon?

The author doesn't really bring anything completely new to the table. There's very little in here where you cannot say: "Oh, that reminds me of..." But hey, it's like eating a huge tub of all your favorite ice creams - nothing new, but yummy all the same.

Summary:

The story focuses more on the love triangle and the romance than on the dystopian bits. That might or might not change in future novels, so you should be aware of that before you start reading. The characters are (mostly) interesting and likable. The story doesn't bring anything really new to the table, but it's written well and is entertaining. I would recommend it to girl and women who'd like to read a modern Cinderella story with a bit of humor and a touch of suspense.
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