Wednesday, July 2, 2014

GUEST BLOGGER, "The Snark Shark" takes on The Selection trilogy by Kiera Cass

Today, we're mixing things up with a guest blogger! Let's welcome Melanie Derblich, former Borders 647 employee, budding playwright and self-proclaimed "snark shark."  She's here to share her unique perspective on the dystopian genre and Kiera Cass' "The Selection" trilogy.  This post contains spoilers; you've been warned. 

How to write a review when the heat is affecting your brain and everything around you is annoying.

This is my second attempt at writing a review for Kiera Cass's young adult trilogy, The Selection. It is perhaps unfair to write a review for a young adult book from the mindset of an adult. Teenagers are, as we all know, hormonal beasts that live every moment on the edge. Maybe it truly is the heat that made you so uncomfortable that you suffer a temporary stroke, thus making you an evil person and a complete burden on others. Or maybe this was truly a poorly researched, unoriginal piece that we read so you wouldn't have to. I will assume that the former two ultimately affect the latter which will be reflected in this review.
Readers, you can thank Jenn for making me list some good points about this series. I must digress a little with my first point and note that with young adult books, it is important to keep in mind that teenagers are emotional beings and when they feel, their pre-frontal cortex is not fully developed thus, not completely rational. So basically; not much different me now. Cass does an effective job at encapsulating the idealism of the young person who sets out to change the world. At some point or another in our adolescent lives, we all think that we can make a difference by dropping coins into a little orange Unicef box. Cass's heroine, aptly named America for her fighting spirit, is able to change a post-apocalyptic nation on a grander scale: fighting against 35 other females, BACHELOR STYLE. As a 16 year old female, I know that I would have been hooked into this torrid teenage love affair. As a 27 year old, I still found myself flipping one page after another waiting with angst to find out whether she chose her childhood sweetheart or her prince charming.

That being said, I have to wonder how much thought and research went into
writing this story. I will give the author credit as she drew inspiration from pop culture. This story, as one reviewer noted was a cross between the Bachelor and the Hunger Games. I would argue, less the latter. True this series falls into the dystopian genre as does the Hunger Games but perhaps it is not enough to jump on the bandwagon while it's hot. The same can be said about the recent surge in supernatural or other worldly books after Harry Potter erupted.
Dystopia. Karl Marx wrote The Communist Manifesto which, promotes an ideal society where everyone is equal. Is not the struggle of our government to have an equal society of democracy and checks and balances? Lowis Lowry wrote, in my opinion, the ultimate dystopian book of how a society might achieve total balance within it by eliminating "sameness." She showed how, from a distance this might appear ideal but like a Paul Signac painting, up close, is not as pretty. Dystopian fiction is not new, not even by Lowis Lowry's standards. There was Orwell's 1984, as well as a plethora of other books throughout history. Everyone seems to want to hypothesize how the world might turn out if we continue on the political path we are on. One of many characteristics of a dystopian novel is mention of the third and fourth war, after the United States has crumbled cataclysmically and China has taken over. Cass's world embodies this persona and then some. That being said, here is where I tend to get snarky. As a teenager, I would have appreciated Cass's attempt at creating an outwardly strong female character caught betwixt two steamy teenage males. As an adult, all I saw was an emotionally abundant, "why me?" "life isn't fair," 16 year old who thinks crying and throwing temper tantrums is a way to change the world. In this world, a new country and monarchy has been formed under the hand of a malicious billionaire called Illea after its founder, Gregory Illea. Castes are created to emphasize the difference between the rich and poor and it is almost illegal to try and break out of the one you are born to. America (character), born a 5 (castes are labeled 1-8, 1 being the royal family, and 8 being the homeless) falls in love with a 6. Their love must be kept a secret as it is looked down upon since one does not simply marry down in this society.

When a royal son comes of age, young girls throughout Illea are encouraged to participate in "the Selection," a bachelor-type competition to win the heart of the prince and boost the morale of the country. Though America is very much in love with her hunk, Aspen (again, character. Iknowright?!) she submits her application to the government in order to get her wishful parents off her back. Shocker! She gets chosen! From here, the story can be broken down into two parts: A love story and a war story.

Throughout the process of the selection, the monarchy is at odds with "the rebels." In Illea, there are two groups of rebels; Northern rebels and Southern Rebels. The Northern rebels are basically mischievous and annoying to the royals but otherwise harmless. Conversely, when the Southern rebels attack, there is always bloodshed and it would appear it is there mission to start a revolutions and overthrow the monarchy and the selection process. So while this war is going on, a lavish love story is unfolding. How very gone with the wind!
If course it is not America's idea to fall in love with the virginal yet somehow masculine and sexually driven prince Maxon, but apparently his musk got to her and she develops feelings. Wait, we're not over Aspen yet! He shows up, drafted as a guard to the castle. So our strong and independent heroine is caught. I love him! Now I love him! But he's my first love! But look at him shirtless! There is a mention of soldiers getting injections to make them stronger and more muscle-y but that's about as into detail as Cass goes. I was expecting a 'roid rage or some mention of super soldier kangaroos…wait…I just slipped into Tank Girl. Sorry! What was in those injections? Better yet, was there any shrinkage? We all saw those health classroom posters. 
A brief history of the country of Illea. A little more or less than 100 years ago (in the world of the book), and after World War Four, Gregory Illea, billionaire and people person, came to power. With a few strategic political moves, Illea became a monarchy and the country was divided into castes. (And here I thought India was moving away from that archaic way of thinking. Maybe Greggers was part Hindu?) A few years later, the selection was created to boost the morale of our girls. (Where is that old war propaganda poster? Uncle Sam Wants You!) Fast forward two generations and somehow all of the United States history is erased and history books have been banned. So no one knows anything about world history? Really? Less than a hundred years later? And everyone just goes along with it for this long? Have we learned nothing from the Magna Carta?
As for character development, I can't see America as the savior of the human race. Her story arch goes as follows: Whimper, giggle, blubber, giggle, scream, giggle, scold, giggle, cry, giggle, complain, giggle, yell, giggle. Basically, the girl is bi-polar. I can't imagine a girl with such emotional conviction could convince a prince, with thirty-five other hot girls just waiting to jump him, to pick her. I would have gotten rid of her the first day when she screamed at him. It's like the girl has her period every freaking day! And how about that Prince Maxon? He's sheltered for 18 years, not had one girlfriend and his first time out is basically a reverse gang bang. How lucky for him!

So to sum everything up: Girl likes boy. Girl can't have boy because boy is poor. Girl is forced to audition for the selection, a bachelor type thing in Royal proportions, girl gets selected. Girl tries not to fall for prince but does and spends three books trying to figure out who she loves more. cry, laugh, yell, wah wah oppressive government, rebellion, people die, marry prince. SHOCKER! 

Guest Blogger, Melanie Derblich

Did you read The Selection trilogy?  Share your thoughts in the comments and debate and/or share the snark with Melanie.

1 comment:

Naomi Ruth said...

I started the first one of these and was just bored and stopped, but I'd been wanting to know what the story was about since we sell it at B&N.

Thanks for the review! It made me laugh.