by Cass, Kiera

America Singer is chosen to compete in the Selection-a contest to see which girl can win the heart of Illea's prince-but all she really wants is a chance for a future with her secret love, Aspen, who is a caste below her.

In a dystopian future in which the U.S. is a monarchy, 35 young women are randomly selected to be on a reality-TV competition to win the heart of Prince Maxon, heir to the throne. It's a caste-driven society, where people are ranked from One (royalty) to Eight (untouchables), and poverty, famine, and ignorance are the fate of those ranked Six and below. America Singer, a Five with tremendous musical gifts, ends up as one of the contestants but has no desire to become queen, as she's in love with Aspen, the Five next door. Cass' immensely readable debut novel is a less drastic Hunger Games (2008), with elaborate fashions and trappings. America is torn between Aspen and Maxon, who she discovers really is a nice guy. The book is clearly pitched for romance readers, and the fast-paced action and comforting predictability of the love story will have readers gasping for the upcoming sequel, in which our heroine will continue to grapple with her intense feelings for her two suitors and her growing awareness of the messy political happenings in her country. Copyright 2012 Booklist Reviews.

It's a bad sign when you can figure out the elevator pitch for a novel from the get-go. In this case, if it wasn't "The Bachelor meets The Hunger Games," it was pretty darn close. In a rigid, caste-based dystopian future, Illéa's Prince Maxon has come of age and needs to marry. One girl will be chosen by lottery from each province to travel to the Capital and live in the palace so the prince can make his choice. The winning girl will become queen, and her family will all be elevated to Ones. America, a Five, doesn't want to join the Selection because she is in love with Aspen, a Six. But pressure from both her family and Aspen causes her to relent, and the rest is entirely predictable. She's chosen, she goes to the palace, she draws the ire of the other girls with her beauty and the interest of the prince with her spunky independence. Prince Maxon is much nicer than she expected, but she will remain loyal to Aspen. Maybe. Shabby worldbuilding complements the formulaic plot. Scant explanation is made for the ructions that have created the current political reality, and the palace is laughably vulnerable to rebels from both the North and the South, neither of whom are given any credible motives. But there's lots of descriptions of dresses. A probably harmless, entirely forgettable series opener. (Dystopian romance. 13 & up) Copyright Kirkus 2012 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

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