This one is sort of a beauty queen pagent seen from the inside. 35 girls from across Iléa
America Singer, our heroine, is a rather well-rounded character for a teen-angst book. She has likes, dislikes, a little brother and sister, a big brother and sister, an attitude towards her mother, love for her father, and all kinds of internal thought processes that felt (to my non-teenage brain) like legitimate conversations. America is also secretly dating a boy a caste level below her, and is completely uninterested in entering this competition in the first place.
Of course, she enters and is chosen. Hence the story.
Unfortunately for people who like real action and plot, this is basically a combination beauty pagent and teen dating book. So while the characters make this a fast and enjoyable read, I finished it wondering why I had just spent that many pages to confirm that everyone and everything was exactly as initially presented (except, perhaps, Prince Maxon). From a review on Amazon: America is incredibly judgmental of the other Selected, often based on a single visual impression or line of dialogue, yet these judgements are never false. The sexy brunette is seductive and conniving, the bubbly blonde is sweet as pie. Everything plays out as exactly as you might guess, in the most clichéd manner possible. The palace is repeatedly attacked by mysterious rebels with no definite purpose in scenes that fail to thrill.
Fortunately, America is a very likable and understandable character, in my mind. She appears to be a cohesive character to my girl brain, as removed from teenagerhood as I am. This author and editor team is very good, and I salute Ms. Cass for her debut novel being exactly as advertised. It's a first-person narration of being in a bachelor contest when she has motivations other than the crown for being there.
I recommend this book to girls who like competition among friends, who actually have good friendships with boys, and need something that doesn't particularly have any action or hard thought topics. (Note: one character in the book is suffering from PTSD from previous abuse.)
Books Read in 2014