Sunday, February 22, 2015

The Selection, Book 2 - The Elite

Also known as "My First Three-Star Review."

For my review of Kiera Cass's first book, The Selection, click here.

I'm taking one and a half stars off for plot, and one-half star off for character. Kiera Cass's writing style hasn't suffered at all; the book was easy to read but still interesting, fast-paced without being confusing, and well fleshed-out. So, kudos for that. Now for the stars I took off.

Plot: It follows a general romance outline I have seen too many times. At the end of the last book, America and Maxon's relationship had just budded and looked rather hopeful, but immediately in this book, they begin fighting with each other and it looks like their relationship is going to implode. I mean, my goodness, what romance hasn't followed that trend? Divergent had it, where int he second book, Tris and Four start arguing over stupid things; Iron Fey, when in that second book, Ash leaves Meghan for ... well, no real reason; the Percy Jackson books, where, in the book immediately following Percy rescuing Annabeth from Atlas, they start arguing about Luke; New Moon, when Edward leaves Bella, and that was honestly the most creative spin on this trend! Even Lord of the Rings had it, at least in the movies (it's been too long since I read the books) when Arwen had to decide whether she would go to the undying lands or stay with Aragorn.

Once, just once, I'd like to see the romantic protagonists face a few external challenges before they start facing internal challenges. I found this repetition in the main characters especially frustrating in this book because the side-romance-plot (a forbidden romance, very interesting, by the way) seemed to follow the other kind of story line - the characters involved in that romance were facing external challenges, and weren't bickering over trivial things. It was a much more satisfying story - why can't they have been the main characters? Also, Ms. Cass wrote a novella about Maxon's parents, and how their Selection worked, and in that story the two protagonists immediately began working as a team. It was refreshing! It was inspiring! Why can't America and Maxon do that? Can you think of any other romances that follow a similar, cooperative plot line?

Lest any of you think the rest of the plot was bad, it wasn't; it was coherent, made perfect sense, and followed itself to a logical conclusion. The specifics of the plot were good, no doubt about it. I am just personally tired of this general plot. If you are not tired of this plot, well, then I doubt you'd have any problems with the book. For me, it felt like watching all the Avengers fighting each other instead of fighting Loki and the Chitauri.

Character: At one point, America asks Aspen if he thinks she could be a good princess, and Aspen says no. I think he's right. America knows there's chaos and turmoil going on her country, but she's willing to throw even more chaos into it just because she saw Maxon kissing another girl. You could justify what she does, I suppose, by saying she does it for the right reasons, but no, she definitely did not do it for the right reasons. She did it to get payback at Maxon. In other words, she's petty and selfish. To be honest, I think she should have just walked away when she caught Maxon with another girl. That would have been both the dignified and the right thing to do. Instead, she decides to get payback that involves betraying state secrets. I mean, you have got to be kidding me!

This was really upsetting for me, because America was such a great character in the first book. I was hoping she would have grown, and maybe been the voice of reason among the other girls in the Selection. Maybe she would have been creative, maybe she would have done something heroic, but she didn't. She was just supercharged on emotion the entire book.

And as for Maxon - well, he was kissing another girl. Enough said. But just for the sake of argument, I'll mention another problem I have with him: he could have probably avoided most, if not all, of his arguments with America by just saying, "Look, this girl is here for a political reason, so I have to come up with a political reason to get rid of her." Instead, he just tells America that the girl is staying, period, and gives her no reason why for an annoyingly long time. (And if America couldn't help him come up with a solution or, barring that, just be patient until he figured out a solution, maybe she shouldn't be a princess. I'm just saying.)

The thing about my princess, Zuryzel, is that she loves her kingdom, and would always put her kingdom before her own needs. To me, that's what a princess, or any kind of leader, is. She is a servant. America really isn't. She doesn't really care about her kingdom. Actually, really none of the characters do. Except maybe King Clarkson, and he's kind of portrayed as the antagonist.

So, to wrap up, my deductions are all about personal taste. If I hadn't read some of the books I listed up above, I would probably have had a far better opinion of this book. I can't imagine a scenario in which I would have liked America, but even with that, it would still have been a decent story. (I mean, I don't particularly like Frodo, either.) I just really wish someone would have said to the author, "You know, protagonists are much more fun to read about when they work together than when they're fighting."

But, if you like tensions between the protagonists in a romance ... this book is for you. I don't, so if you're like me, this book is still worth reading, but not for the main plot.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Another Teen Worth Remembering

In the past, I've written about teens who made extraordinary accomplishments, such as publishing a book, sounding amazing on American Idol, and winning an election. All of these are teenagers who I wrote about for never giving up, but I'm writing about today's teen of the hour, Demetrius de Moors, for a slightly different reason. Demetrius is a wrestler whose father died in the Middle East. During a wrestling match, Demetrius did something incredibly kind for another wrestler. Watch the video here:

As important as it is to never let anything hold you back from pursuing your dream, it's equally important to remember to have a servant's heart along the way. Way to go, Demetrius!

Friday, February 13, 2015

Worthy of Respect

Over here in Europe, it's been a little difficult for me to stay on top of American events and/or national gossip, but I do my best. I have heard a lot recently about the question of modest leggings. If you haven't heard, one (married) woman wrote on her own personal blog that she chose not to wear leggings as pants anymore because she thought it was immodest. For whatever reason, this sparked national headlines. As annoyed as I was by all this, I was planning not to say anything until I heard about a Christian comedian making fun of that woman for trying to be more Christlike. That was the last straw.

I have two points to make about all this. The first is to my fellow Christians, especially the ones making fun of that woman for her decision, and the second, but probably more important, is to all middle school and high school girls of any faith all throughout America.

Christians: To mock, deride, or degrade this lady's decision to be more modest is unacceptable. Biblically unacceptable. There have already been plenty of discussions about the modesty verses in the Bible, but those aren't the most applicable verses. I urge you all to read 1 Corinthians 8, but if you don't have time to read the entire chapter, then I'll just leave here the most important verse in that chapter. 1 Corinthians 8:13: "Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother or sister to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause them to fall." Fill in the words eat with wear and the word meat with anything you like - the point is the same. We are to be considerate of other Christians who may not be comfortable with everything we are, and not be indifferent to them. Christianity is not peer pressure - which brings me to the second point...

Girls in America: I think you might be the hardest hit by this controversy. As if we don't get enough peer pressure from all our classmates. It's not just about what we wear, but how we act, how we speak, and anything else we can possibly be judged on. Unfortunately, as this controversy shows, peer pressure doesn't end in middle school and high school.

I'm certainly not trying to shame girls who wear leggings as pants, especially in middle school. What I am saying is that if you don't want to, that's okay. It's perfectly okay to not be comfortable wearing leggings as pants, or skinny jeans, or skin-tight shirts. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise! Other girls love to pile on the pressure - the endless, "It's really okays," the skeptical looks and eye-rolling, the quiet giggles behind hands, all meant to make it clear that their way is the correct way and yours is a silly deviation. It isn't. 

Sweet girls, here is the truth: you are not the only ones. I can assure you that at least one or two of those girls wearing whatever you're not comfortable wearing are also uncomfortable with it. No matter how much other girls want to make it seem like you're the only one, you are not. I promise. Stand up for what you believe; don't just be yourself, be the best version of yourself.

I cannot believe that adults, particularly women, can have so little regard for how embarrassing it is to be singled out and mocked for something you value. They are setting a terrible example to you, sweet girls. All I can say is, stand strong; you are not alone, and no, not everyone else is doing it, no matter how many times you hear other girls or adults telling you otherwise. Follow your conscience, and stay in your comfort level of clothing, acting, and speech; contrary to what the world says, you are not worthy of mockery for doing so. You are worthy of respect.

To all who want to laugh at me for being old-fashioned or a "nun," let me say this: you can say whatever you want to. I don't care. I've heard it all before in middle and high school. I was one of those girls that wasn't always comfortable with what everyone else was doing, and I received earfuls about it on a regular basis. Say whatever you want - it's never stopped me before, and it won't stop me now.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Super Bowl XLIX!

So... they show the Super Bowl in Ireland!

There's three of us watching the game from the basement of our resident. We have to be quiet, because one of the spectators is being paid to tweet about the game, so he has to concentrate. That's okay, we still get to watch the game. 

And for whatever reason, the commentators are all in the UK, and so are the ads... That's kinda different. But it's still the game!

Go Seahawks!

Hey, 12 Man, show them what you're made of! Make so much noise that I can hear you in Ireland!