I've talked a lot about how I'd been sort of reluctantly looking forward to this book. Reluctantly, because when I stop and analyze The Selection, it was a very flawed book. Unfortunately all of the flaws from the first book were only magnified in this book, and while it was still oddly readable, it left me with such a feeling of hollowness and frustration. I have long since accepted the fact that the premise of this series is gimmicky at best and downright stupid at worst, but that's kind of part of the charm for me. So why do I keep expecting something more from it?
The Selection has now been narrowed down to six girls, The Elite, who are now supposed to be really working and learning what it will mean to be a princess and eventually a queen. One of the points in favor of this series is that it acknowledges that, on some level, there is more to the job than wearing a nice dress and living happily ever after. This book delves a bit into political power and duty--I'll talk more about that later. To get back to my point, the premise has now shifted focus so that America should be competing in earnest, and not just going along for the ride while getting over a bad break-up. She should be putting her head on straight and making sure her heart is in the right place before committing to marriage to a major world leader. But that's not what America does, because America is a little girl who doesn't understand anything.
I'm not even going to touch on the fact that I have a problem with the love triangle and America's inability to decide between two boys, because that subplot is stupid and overdone and pointless as hell, so it goes without saying that I hate it. What I really want to get at is the ultimate question of: Do you want the throne or not? Because regardless of your feelings about the prince, whether you love him or just like him as a friend, what's really at stake here is enough power to slowly but steadily change your country. America does not understand this concept. She grew up in one of the lower classes, but she's only just now (now, at the worst possible moment) realizing that the caste system is brutal and unfair. What? I'm sorry, how did that basic fact escape your notice when you were freezing and eating lousy food?
But, alright, she has this epiphany that her country might have an unfair caste system. Guess what, sweetie? You're in a competition that would put you in an excellent position to help people. Yeah. You could become a princess and feed the poor and shelter the homeless and sow the seeds of change to make your country better. But this fact totally escapes America because she's all caught up in the romantic drama of whether or not she likes Maxon or just likes him. Or hates him. Whatever. Then, when Maxon appears to have betrayed her, she figures she wants to leave anyway, and tries to make a totally pointless grand gesture on live television. Maxon calls her out on this, too. He tells her, and I paraphrase a bit, yes we can and should change things, but for anything to work you have to be subtle, quiet, and not dumb as a bag of hair. And she is. Dumb, that is. Or at the very least, she's so naïve and so unworldly that she has no idea what to do with herself. It's sad.
The romance? I think it may have died for me, and I have no idea whether the third book will revive it or not. I didn't get the sense that any of these characters know who they are, let alone what they want, and I was deeply discomfited by the idea that all of this is going to culminate in a marriage. None of them are marriage ready.
So, to wrap this up, this book is a mess of characters that are becoming steadily less likable. At times it felt like it was trying to say something deep or important, but it chokes because it still just wants to be a soap opera teen drama. I'll read the final installment, but without much excitement. 3 stars.