Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Review: The Elite by Kiera Cass


Review: The Elite by Kiera Cass
Goodreads
Rating: I don't even know who I am anymore.

The Elite (The Selection, #2)

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.

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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.

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So let's talk about the love triangle, shall we? America, you fool. My issue is not that she can't choose. I'm actually okay with that, as I am not fundamentally averse to the concept of triangular love, and given all the WEIRDNESS of the relationships in this book. I mean, one of the guys she loves is a prince, and he's dating like five other girls, and he may or may not like them and they may or may not like him and wait, her ex-boyfriend is here, and woah, America, I totally get why you're confused. Take your time, girlfriend.

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.

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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 Kelly Clarkson King Clarkson be the absolute worst, but he'd also be the absolute best thing for the story. It really needed an antagonist. The rebels are still a bit faceless, but amping up the King's suckitude can only benefit. Winnowing the pool of Selected girls also helps. We don't have to wade through character soup any longer. So, yes, sometimes having dirt-low expectations can skew an average book into a win. I don't know. Maxon was there, okay? He distracted me from the badness (and the ethnic stereotypes... oh, you graceful Asians, dour Germans, and celebratory Italians) with his Maxon-ness. I don't even know what to say any longer.

http://25.media.tumblr.com/b8d49e342b6bc893648e765343a45129/tumblr_mfolcpUPii1rh9qlvo1_r1_400.gif


So if I get any more nasty emails, I will come at YOU with a pitchfork. Capisce? Great.


18 comments:

  1. I'm laughing so hard at this that I'm NEARLY considering reading the series. Not that I will, but even considering it is huge for me. :P Do you suppose the book would be any good with only the Maxon parts and all the rest redacted? I'd ACTUALLY consider it for that.

    Love your masterful use of gifs here. Just perfect. :D

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    1. Why thank you, my love. And yes. If the book were nothing but Maxon bits we'd have a FIVE STAR on our hands here! Well, maybe not. I don't know. My whole brain is confused now.

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  2. I'm always pleased immensely that I know I'm not the only one who thinks this series is just awful, but for whatever reason, addicting. Like nasty candy or Honey Boo Boo (yes...I admit it. I watched that show for a straight four hours at my grandparents' house). I've been DYING to get my hands on The Elite (and was muttering gripes all day when I found out that I wasn't accepted nor that any copy was coming to me). But YAY, it's actually not as bad as the first one! I'll probably be in your category when it comes to America, but still want to slap her silly whenever she sides with Aspen. I love how pro-Maxon you are too :) I hope I'm not too distracted in this novel with the names, but all of them sound ridiculous. In the first novel, I kept thinking Kelly Clarkson as well and it was probably just me, but I could NOT stop picturing Marlee as Cheryl from Miss Congeniality.

    Okay, basically, I love your use of gifs and your honesty and I'm totally jealous of you right now. If you get any horrible emails, just know that you have a whole group of people to sic on them.

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    1. MINIONS! ATTACK! Thank you, I appreciate your unflinching loyalty. But no mean emails yet! I mean, I said I liked the book, didn't I? Admittedly with a few reservations, BUT STILL.

      YES HONEY BOO BOO is a good analogy, but four hours? I shudder to think what you're brain looked like. And The Elite was released yesterday, so I'm pretty sure you can find yourself a copy now! And yes. Maxon. ALWAYS.

      The key to enjoying this book was to just ignore the stuff I didn't like that wasn't going to change (the names, several characters' blandness, the structure of Illea) and go with the flow. Haha Cheryl! I love it.

      As always, thanks for the gif love.

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    2. *YOUR brain. YOUR. *dies*

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  3. whoever said Honey Boo Boo wins it.

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  4. As always, the gifs are brillsauce. Sassy gay friend is my hero. As for all the rest, well, MAAAAAAAXON (can I just call him Max? This 'on' business is killing me). I just want to eat him up. Like, it's one of those times when, after reading The Selection, I'm not sure I want him with HER, but I sure as HELL want him with me! But we'll see what feels The Elite brings. WE'LL SEE. I hope I like it as you liked it. Or just like it better than The Selection (which I guess is how you liked it).

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    1. Precisely. My feelings for this book are complicated and can't be put in terms of simple "liked" or "did not like". SASSY GAY FRIEND YES.

      Maxon. That is all.

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  5. I'm glad you enjoyed it, but I still won't touch this book with a ten-foot pole. :-P

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    1. Nor should you. I'm telling you, it's a sickness. STAY AWAY OR IT WILL EAT YOUR SOUL. *slight exaggeration*

      But seriously, I feel like I just binge ate a bag of chips and I'm stuffed with junk food and unable to move or figure out what is happening inside my body.

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    2. I was thinking that reading these books is just about like tuning into the Bachelor itself...but you are really close with the junk food thing too. I can't figure out what exactly makes me want to read the next one...I'm kinda dreading it, but I know I'll do it anyway. I'm rarely this forgiving of a book that drives me bananas. I love to hate it, I think.

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  6. I have a love / hate relationship with this series. No I haven't read the books, but it's one of those I *want* to read, but yet knowing the reviews, etc. I'm not sure I want to dive in and try it.

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  7. HAHAHAHAHA your GIFS!!!............this review make me happy...I totally agree with everything you're saying..........oh lol...Maxon with his Maxon-ness...WHAT WOULD THE SERIES BE WITHOUT HIM?!

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  8. I looove your review! I'm halfway the book and totally aggravated by America's indecisiveness(I felt like tearing her to pieces). As for the response of your thinking that the book needs more antagonists, Aspen is the total antagonist for me. I have disliked him since the selection. Well, I considered to stop reading but after reading your review, maybe I need some more of Maxon's company, so.. :p
    Overall, I think your review is great and I totally cracked up on the gifs!

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  9. I read the first book like a week ago and I ABSOLUTELY LOVED IT, I know I know you didn't it that much and now you think i'm a weirdo but YOLO(?) It's the best book I've read in ages (imagine how bad the other books were haha). I KINDA HATE AMERICA BECAUSE SHE'S I LIKE MAXON BUT I KISS ASPEN AND WHEN SHE TELLS HER THEY SHOULD STAHP HE'S ALL LIKE : ''I WILL FIGHT FOR YA MY PRINCESS'' THE CAN KILL THEM. I mean I don't mind if Aspen DIES but if America dies Maxon will be heart broken and I don't want that sdfghjklñbvcl

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    1. I don't think you're a weirdo! :D People love what they love, and I definitely get the enjoyable aspects of this series. I mean, I keep reading them, after all!

      I totally get where you're coming from with Maxon there, that's for sure.

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