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.