Wednesday, 22 July 2015

#45 - "The Selection" by Kiera Cass



by Admiral Fartmore

(book submitted by Peartree)

Editor's Note: I first met Ms Cass while nude sunbathing in French Polynesia. She suggested I submit her book to the club after two very tall glasses of Pernod. She seemed intimidating so I said ok.

"The Selection" by Kiera Cass is a young-adult series commonly described as The Bachelor meets The Hunger Games: it takes place in post-WWIV North America, which is now a dystopian, caste-based monarchy called Illea, and the plot pivots around the selection of the crown prince’s bride through a very Bacheloresque competition between young women drawn from across the land. The story follows a beautiful yet truculent young girl named America (fuck, yeah!) as she navigates her way through the selection process. Both fair in complexion and fiery in disposition, from humble background but with great potential, our heroine must attempt to balance love, independence, political intrigue, and more. Does she succeed? Does this heavy-handed personification of American exceptionalism manage to ‘have it all?”

America, who has red hair, is caught in a love triangle between a hot rich guy and a cute boy-next-door. Sound familiar?

I don’t know how what happens, because I only read the first book, which ends completely out of no where. America gets out of bed one morning, and then the book just ends. While most of the competitors are eliminated, there are still 6 girls left vying for the Prince's heart. It doesn't even fucking say "The End." Seriously, I haven't seen something finish this prematurely since something-something penis joke. I think the series resolves itself after three books, but I'll never read it, because I already feel cheated. I'm not going to be suckered into making three orders of book just to get a single helping of story. It's like the middle piece of bread in a Big Mac - absolute bullshit.

The Selection has the literary equivalent of this ending.

I am most interested in discussing the world. It's drawn a lot of comparisons to The Hunger Games, but I don’t really think the comparison is all that warranted. Following World War IV (which apparently wasn't fought with sticks and stones, Einstein, you idiot), the world’s nations have formed into several supranational states covering areas like North America, East Asia, Europe, etc. These states are in perpetual war, and there’s also a lot of revolutionary activity within their borders. You might be tempted to say this sounds 1984-inspired, but I really don’t think you need to read Orwell in order to dream this kind of simple future up. Did I just casually reference 1984 to sound smart? Yup. You bet your sweet ass I have my grade 9 education.

What were the Third and Fourth World Wars about, by the way? Well it all started with a Chinese invasion of the United States. I’ll allow Cass to describe in her own words how this came about:

Reading that, you can’t help but picture China as some kind of Scorsese-style bookie, baseball bat in hand, knocking on an apartment door. But whatever, this is young adult fiction. We aren’t looking for in-depth discussion of sovereign debt. But I really think Cass could have done better when it comes to what the Chinese renamed the US:


It’s 2015, so of course big-bad China is the rising threat to the United States. If this had been written in the 70’s, it would have been the USSR. In the 80’s? Maybe Japan. In the 90’s? Gangster rap. And so on. While none of this is particularly imaginative or original, it’s also not exceptionally bad compared to anything else in the future-sucks genre. 

There is, however, one major issue I have with Cass’ vision of the future: Italy is still a country. Every single country referenced in The Selection has been renamed and reshaped by war and economic collapse. Except, apparently, Italy, which is still just Italy. That’s right, Italy - the country with enough debt to make Wesley Snipes blush; you know - the country where the Prime Minister can get away with banging underage prostitutes; you know, the country where football fans chant racist obscenities against their own players. The whole world goes to shit but ITALY survives? Yeah right. Forgive me if I find Italy-tle-bit unbelievable.

While we are on the subject, we need to stop saying that Italy is shaped like a boot. Italy does not look like a boot. It looks like a horrifying pile of crudely-drawn penises.
I defy anyone to look at this map of Italy without seeing a quivering rat-king of cartoon dicks.

One way The Selection differs from most popular young adult fiction is in ‘Merica’s healthy relationship with her parents. Despite this book being an amalgamation of pretty much every trope from the genre (‘Merica is caught in a love triangle, she’s poor, she’s absolutely selfless, everyone loves her except for this one rich bitch, she’s always awkwardly flirting, etc.), Cass spares us the dead/missing parents angle. That part is at least modestly refreshing, like a warm glass of water. But my god there’s a lot of flirting. I did a word search to see just how many times she mentions hot breath or eyes, and in the process I realized that you could actually recreate a condensed version of the whole story with just a few simple words:

Still missing one thing.

However, I am adult, and this book wasn’t meant for adults. I no longer experience the social awkwardness, drama, or awkward dry-humping that characterize teenage years. So unless you stopped growing emotionally at 14 or just really, really need to escape for a while, this book is no good. It's boring, sentimentalist fluff. But as much as I don’t like it, I will give her this: Cass absolutely nails the teenage demographic. Silvio Berlusconi would be proud.

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