Review: The Elite by Kiera Cass
Rating: I don't even know who I am anymore.
The hotly-anticipated sequel to the New York Times bestseller The Selection.
Thirty-five girls came to the palace to compete in the Selection. All but six have been sent home. And only one will get to marry Prince Maxon and be crowned princess of Illea.
America still isn’t sure where her heart lies. When she’s with Maxon, she’s swept up in their new and breathless romance, and can’t dream of being with anyone else. But whenever she sees Aspen standing guard around the palace, and is overcome with memories of the life they planned to share. With the group narrowed down to the Elite, the other girls are even more determined to win Maxon over—and time is running out for America to decide.
Just when America is sure she’s made her choice, a devastating loss makes her question everything again. And while she’s struggling to imagine her future, the violent rebels that are determined to overthrow the monarchy are growing stronger and their plans could destroy her chance at any kind of happy ending.
My review of The Selection
My review of The Prince
The cover: That is one mega gorgeous cover. Not as captivating or enchanting as the first one, but this one has more atmosphere and a darker edge. I love the red and the strips on her dress and the pretty, pretty crown design. Also the mysterious look on her face, like shenanigans are afoot. I always approve of shenanigans.
As always with sequels, there be spoilers for Book One in these waters. Ye be warned.
The story: So, I can't begin this review without at least somewhat addressing the bad experiences I've had with reviewing this series. There. That's me addressing them. ONWARD.
If you read my previous reviews of Cass' books, you'll know I had heaps of problems with them, from characters to world-building to plot, but that there was something about them that kept me reading. They're like deep-fried oreos, or Easy Mac, or all sorts of things I don't actually like but that I love to consume. I don't know why. I don't feel like psychoanalyzing myself today. All I knew was that I HAD HAD HAD to get myself an ARC of The Elite, that I'd read it feverishly, and that I'd end up hating it. Well, alert the media, because I... DID NOT HATE IT.
|You can put down your pitchforks now, trolls.|
It wasn't perfect by any means, but still. I was looking forward to this book because I was hoping the metaphorical crap would finally hit the fan, and I'm happy to say it did, making The Elite a much more exciting reading experience than The Selection. How much better, of course, is tricky to say. I had such low expectations for this book that me saying, "Well, reading The Elite was better than scraping out your eyeballs with a rusty spork!" is practically a rave review. Despite its obvious flaws, The Elite is not gouge-yourself-blind painful. I even seriously got into it at times. Grading on a The Selection curve, The Elite is crazy awesome. Pulling back and looking at it objectively--pitting it against the other YA books I've enjoyed reading--it's still not exactly a masterpiece. I rolled my eyes a whole lot, particularly in the beginning, and I groaned, and I fantasized about shearing Aspen's head from his body, but I kept reading.
And I must be honest: I kept reading for MAXON, the only character in The Selection I liked and the true star of The Elite. I even ended up liking America a lot more here than before, thank the Lord. Even though I wanted to shake her in the first portion of the book almost all the time. But MAXON. I don't know how this complicated, unusual, layered, wonderful and not-so-wonderful guy ended up in this cheesy book, but he reveals different parts of himself you wouldn't expect in The Elite. Some of them weren't so pretty, but that made him feel more real to me. At first I was like, "Kiera Cass, if you ruin my baby like Suzanne Collins ruined Gale there will be HELL TO PAY" but then I was like, "Okay... I see what you did there. I got it." Clearly, my Team Maxon badge is FIRMLY IN PLACE.
So let's talk about the love triangle, shall we?
My issue was that she did choose in the first half of the book... about eight times. Literally, every time she was all, Yes! Him! It'll stick this time!, I just rolled my eyes and thought, Yeah, we're 20% of the way through, and you only were just claiming you chose the other guy. And lo and behold, fifteen pages later, she flipped again. She committed way too hard too many times, to the point where I stopped believing her. I liked her best when she was genuinely confused (and when she was genuinely aching for Maxon, because MAXON). In this book, her flaws are relatable, and what's awesome is the other characters see that she's flawed. Everyone in The Selection was all "AMERICA YOU'RE PERFECT" and I was like, "No. She's not. I HATE HER." Now that the characters are saying, "America, you done screwed up," I'm like, "I know. I LIKE HER NOW." Even if she was more rash and gave the appearance of being more fickle and did some things that were so embarrassing and foolish that I wanted to hide.
Also: Aspen. NO. No, no, and thrice no. If you're Team Aspen, well, I am sure you are a very reasonable and astute and worthy person, but
If I the relationships were the strength of this book, then I feel the world-building and the godforsaken NAMES were the weaknesses. Can we all agree that Officer Woodwork is the world's dumbest name? Except for possibly Amberly Station Schreave. Or Maxon Calix Shreave. Or Abby Tamblin Illea.
A lot of the world-building holes I found in The Selection, like the complete economic fallacy of the caste system dictating what jobs you can get, are addressed in The Elite, albeit in a pretty convenient way. I like that things got more political. But I'm not sure that stuff is really Cass' strength. She's better at the romance (except for Aspen, because NOTHING HE SAYS is swoony. This isn't just my prejudice talking. I honestly find a lot of fundamental and even misogynistic problems in their relationship). Also, America and her maids should probably warm my heart a bit more, but she's still pretty patronizing of them, and though they're sweet, they're also way too slavishly adoring.
There are still some oddly amateurish moments, mostly in the beginning. There's some clumsy writing (is it actually possible to "purse your forehead"?), telling-not-showing, unbelievable dialogue, and supremely cheesy conversations. But hey, I expect the cheese here, so bring it on. On the other hand, I think Cass has become a much better plotter. Nothing happened in The Selection, but there's actual action in The Elite. And relationships grow appropriately complicated and messy. Ulterior motives develop. There are ACTUAL DYSTOPIAN ELEMENTS. And there's daaaaaaaaaanger. I love me some dramatic stakes, and Cass was finally considerate enough to put them in for me.
Could I predict a lot of the things that happened? Sure. Marlee's secret, for instance, I had pegged about midway through The Selection. I totally knew what SPOILER the rebels were after SPOILER. And I knew that not only would
So if I get any more nasty emails, I will come at YOU with a pitchfork. Capisce? Great.