Book Reviews and Subjectivity: The Selection Review

I’ve posted about subjectivity before and while it can determine what books we like to read and write, it can also play into how we review books. I found myself thinking about this recently after I read and reviewed The Selection by Kiera Cass. When I reviewed it the average rating on Goodreads was 4.15 stars. I rated it 3 and the more I think about it, according to my tastes it’d be more of a 2.5. However the series is a bestseller and there are a ton of reviews gushing about the series. However, it wasn’t to my tastes. I can see why the story did so well, but I found too many aspects about the writing and book itself weak. This book is a great example of subjectivity since while I, one reader, found the book to be lacking, the book still became a popular series.

The Selection is basically The Bachelor for teens. Let’s take a moment to review the blurb and cover for it. One thing this book does have going for it is a gorgeous cover.

For thirty-five girls, the Selection is the chance of a lifetime. The opportunity to escape the life laid out for them since birth. To be swept up in a world of glittering gowns and priceless jewels. To live in a palace and compete for the heart of gorgeous Prince Maxon.

But for America Singer, being Selected is a nightmare. It means turning her back on her secret love with Aspen, who is a caste below her. Leaving her home to enter a fierce competition for a crown she doesn’t want. Living in a palace that is constantly threatened by violent rebel attacks.

Then America meets Prince Maxon. Gradually, she starts to question all the plans she’s made for herself—and realizes that the life she’s always dreamed of may not compare to a future she never imagined.

Despite all the readers who loved the book, I didn’t enjoy it. While others were drawn into the romance and love triangle, I found both aspects weak and unappealing. The romance with Maxon felt forced and unbelievable to me, and the love triangle frustrated me and I knew it would happen from the moment both Aspen and the selection were introduced. I hated the predictability, which is something I don’t enjoy about romance. I like to be surprised and have twists and turns thrown at me. I don’t enjoy stories I can guess within the first three chapters, especially if I’m not eager to see the events turn out the way I guessed. While I hate that predictability, others enjoy that feature of romance thanks to subjectivity and reading tastes.

In a way, America (a name I didn’t enjoy) felt borderline Mary Sue to me. I also found some of the characters shallow and lacking from character development. Some of them, like Celeste, felt like a stereotypical mean girl and it was clear she was only there to cause drama and tension. She felt more like a plot device than a well-rounded character. I didn’t find Maxon an interesting love interest and I didn’t even like America due to her feeling too close to becoming a Mary Sue.

Other aspects felt lacking to me as well, including the world building. At first I was confused about whether this story took place in the US (it takes place in a country that comes after the US and replaces it) and some of the development felt awkward and hard to believe, including all the rebel attacks. There also wasn’t a good enough reason (if any) given behind the development of the caste system, which played a role in keeping America and Aspen from marrying at first.

Like Twilight, I wasn’t a fan but I understand why the story hit a chord with so many. While I wouldn’t read any of the other books in the series, I would be willing to give something different by Kiera a fair shot to see if her writing improves enough to hit my tastes. I did enjoy the concept behind this book, just not the execution. And if I still don’t like her style, that’s okay because there’s still plenty of other authors out there for me to enjoy. Not all of them need to match my tastes. My review of the book focuses on weaknesses, while there are dozens gushing about how amazing the story is. Personally I like to read a mixture of positive and not so positive reviews of books I’m on the fence about since subjectivity and personal tastes can play a big role in whether or not readers like something. I’ve even read reviews about books I’ve already read that I completely disagreed with and I bet big fans of The Selection would disagree with my review.

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