Monday, March 31, 2014

Review: The Elite by Kiera Cass

The Elite by Kiera Cass
Rating: 3 stars
Source: Library
Buy the Book: Amazon
Summary: "Thirty-five girls came to the palace to compete in the Selection. All but six have been sent home. And only one will get to marry Prince Maxon and be crowned princess of Illea.

America still isn’t sure where her heart lies. When she’s with Maxon, she’s swept up in their new and breathless romance, and can’t dream of being with anyone else. But whenever she sees Aspen standing guard around the palace, and is overcome with memories of the life they planned to share. With the group narrowed down to the Elite, the other girls are even more determined to win Maxon over—and time is running out for America to decide.

Just when America is sure she’s made her choice, a devastating loss makes her question everything again. And while she’s struggling to imagine her future, the violent rebels that are determined to overthrow the monarchy are growing stronger and their plans could destroy her chance at any kind of happy ending."

Review: The Selection was a cupcake of a book.  This, its sequel, also tasted like a cupcake, but it was a sort of stale cupcake.

The Selection could have been really annoying.  On the surface, reading about 35 girls all fighting for one guy sounds awful.  I probably wouldn't have read it if it wasn't recommended so highly to me.  No one was as surprised as I was at how much I liked The Selection.  Maybe my estimation is overly high, considering how low my expectations were.  But the truth remains, I really enjoyed it.  

So I was excited to start reading The Elite.  And The Elite was... okay.  America, Aspen, Maxon, Marlee, and the whole gang are back and they are all... exactly the same as they were in the previous book.  The plot continues, though I wouldn't say it advanced.  It more proceeded in a straight line, relying on the momentum of the first book, rather than giving its readers a new ride.  The story was solid enough to keep me engaged, but didn't feel all that new.  

Looking back, not a whole lot progressed between the first page and the last.  (For comparison's sake, 29 girls are eliminated in The Selection.  In The Elite, only 2 are eliminated  in the whole book.  Clearly, things have slowed down tremendously.)  America herself went through a lovely transformation in The Selection, learning about herself and becoming strong and independent.  In The Elite, she mostly just wavers between her two lovers, paralyzed by her inability to pick one.  Her feisty nature still appears here and there, but her character development isn't much increased.  The rebels appear here and there, but we don't learn much more about who they are or what they want.  At the end of The Elite we are essentially still in the same place as we were at the end of The Selection.

Thus the stale taste.

There were some really nice moments, however.  America's ferocity as she tried to help Marlee was really moving.  I liked reading about their friendship a lot.  There was one moment where calm and quiet Elise, another girl in the Selection, point blank tells America that she wouldn't stop Maxon from sending America home, even if she knew he was doing so unfairly.  She is not being harsh or trying to hurt America, just reminding her that it's a competition and that she's in it to win it, as they say.  I liked how Cass illustrated how two people can be in the exact same situation and have such totally different outlooks.  I liked how King Clarkson became more menacing in this book, though I fear that he's turning into a stereotypical one-note villain.  The scene with the Italian delegation was fun to read about, especially for me since I've lived in Italy and speak Italian and love that warm and open and sometimes really loud culture.  So there were definitely moments I enjoyed, but the whole didn't quite measure up to its predecessor.  

Here are my hopes for the final book in the trilogy: I hope to learn more about Queen Amberly, and about her and King Clarkson's relationship; I hope the Italians make another appearance; I hope the conflict with the rebels becomes more defined; I hope the caste system is overthrown; I hope the country gets a look at Celeste's true colors; I hope America figures out who she is and what she really wants.

And I hope America picks Maxon.  They're both flawed, but I think they complement each other nicely.  My prediction is that Lucy and Aspen end up together.  Thoughts?

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