Saturday, April 21, 2012

"The Selection"—read it before you see it.

Before it gets sucked into the land of CW and it’s array of paranormal dramas and general teen fodder, I wanted to mention The Selection, the first book in what looks to be a promising new series by relative newcomer Kiera Cass. Set in a distant future where many Wars have eliminated the United States as a high powered democracy turning it into a new country, broken into eight very specific casts and ruled by a monarchy, The Selection follows seventeen-year-old America Singer as she is thrown into an situation that will propel her from life as a lower middle class artist, to the tops of the aristocracy.

The Selection, for which the book is named, is essentially a “Bachelor-esque” contest in which 35 girls, one from each district (slightly reminiscent in concept to The Hunger Games) are brought to their ruler’s palace to compete for the hand of their Prince, Maxon. Selected, America must leave her family and love interest behind as she is thrown into a world of wealth, war, and cutthroat feminine sabotage—all for the sake of a royal marriage and cast climbing. Did I mention that this is all done as a mandatory-to-watch, nationally televised show?

While I have never watched that ratings grabbing, mind numbing, piece of tripe, called The Bachelor (pardon my disdain), this book seemed to have all the same trappings. At first glance The Selection really just seems like the authors attempt to cash in on the popular dystopic trend, while adding a touch of reality television, another, albeit more obnoxious trend, but in actuality Kiera Cass manages to elevate the text above that nonsense, creating an interesting group of characters with much more at stake than receiving that (in Bachelor terms) final rose. America, Maxon, and the other teens thrown into this situation have depths and motivations beyond their 15 minutes of fame—they seek food and pay for their families who live paycheck to paycheck, they seek companionship, and in the case of Maxon—they seek someone to share the burdens of a country, and care about what happens beneath those glitzy false public images. Now, don’t get me wrong, this book is not a work of art, but there is more to it than meets the eye, and it’s entertaining without being mind numbing.

In the fall, we could very well be seeing a pilot episode of this new book on the CW, a station that has taken teen books such as Gossip Girl and The Vampire Diaries, and turned them into popular television shows with rabid followings. While, the studio has brought up book sales, and actually, in the case of The Vampire Diaries, turned a mediocre and unintelligent book into an entertaining show, it is always possible that what is great about The Selection could be destroyed in it’s translation to television. So, my suggestion is to read the book now, enjoy it for what it is, prepare for the next in the trilogy, and in the fall, take a peak at the pilot. If it’s good, great—if not, well at least you have a fun book under your belt with just the right amount of romance and intrigue.

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