The Selection by Kiera Cass is a dystopian novel that takes the same reality TV concept The Hunger Games used, only instead of making a survivor like game, this book takes a page from The Bachelor The prince of dystopia is of marrying age, so a group of age-appropriate young women are brought to the palace. Throughout the choosing, girls will be eliminated until one very special girl is chosen to become queen.
The protagonist, America Singer, is one of the girls selected, but unlike every one else who is all ready to fall for the prince, she’s uninterested because America is in love with a boy from a lower caste than her, and he broke things off before he could ruin her life by dragging her down to his level. Her disinterest is a refreshing change for the prince and the two become fast friends. In a refreshing change of pace for the genre, America also makes friends with most the girls from the competition. In an even more refreshing change for the genre, instead of the girls being cut-throat competitors, most of them affirm each other’s strengths and talk about the regal potential they see in one another. I also enjoyed the fact America is girly. She wears makeup, she likes dresses and pants. I think it’s great that there are so many examples of dystopian female heroes right now with such diverse skills and personalities, whether it be this series, the Matched series, Divergent, or The Hunger Games, each of these female protagonists are strong in different ways. What I especially like about this book is that there’s none of this “she’s not like other girls” stuff you see in a lot of YA fiction right now. That trend is damaging to young women because it sends the message that women need to distance themselves from their gender to be perceived as interesting.
The story isn’t all a Miss Congeniality reboot. There is a strong dystopian element there. The kingdom is under threat, the class differences are drastic and disturbing, and there’s a sense that things are much darker below the surface. The Selection was a good book, but I was left with the sense that the novel barely scratched the surface of a world that’s going to get infinitely more disturbing. In terms of teaching, I think this book would just be present on my classroom library for book clubs during a dystopian unit. It was a fast and very engaging read, and the rest of the series is consistently good.