Ah, the enjoyment of returning to YA reads after heavy doses of intellectual literature. The pages fly faster, and it’s good morale for meeting those Goodreads reading goals. Plus, lighthearted love stories are simply fun. While I enjoyed Kiera Cass’s original Selection trilogy, the last two books in the series (#4 and #5) didn’t appeal to me as much. Here’s why.
America Schreave has become queen of Illéa (futuristic, monarchical America, to catch anyone up who needs. And yes, America is a girl’s name). Her daughter, Eadlyn, is the focus of the last two installments. She’s of age to marry, and is the first princess to hold her own Selection (basically, it’s been The Bachelor exclusively, until this point). To add to that, the country doesn’t love Eadlyn, and she’s putting pressure on herself to pick the right man for the sake of appearances. She also wants to be perceived personally as empathetic to her people, given that she’s pretty intimidating.
I feel the quality of Heir and The Crown dropped noticeably from the original trilogy. While reading YA romance entails some cliché lines and stereotypical aspects of relationship-building, I found The Crown a bit too packed with these for my taste. Eadlyn ends up choosing a man whom, for the majority of the process, she didn’t notice that much. Their relationship explodes in a matter of days. They don’t fall in love from spending ample time together, but from a series of enlightening moments. The dialogue was fairly weak in places, and several scenes felt tailored in terms of time to fit what Cass needed. For example, after having a heart attack, Eadlyn’s mother wakes and summons her children to see her. They have a conversation that lasts less than five minutes before husband/king Maxon orders the kids back to their daily routines to let Mom recover. Eadlyn’s been agonizing over her mother’s wellbeing for days, and this is the only interaction they get now? I thought that was strange. Another instance comes near the end, when Eadlyn is torn between two choices and is out of time to decide. Her mother makes a comment that’s essentially, “I hope you figure it out and do what you truly want,” before leaving her. I feel like a mother would want to be of more help than that in such a life-altering crises; but hey. Who knows…? (Rhetorical, of course: come on, America).
Another aspect of the novel that I didn’t understand was the abundance of palace characters. It’s not that having a large cast for a kingdom-oriented story isn’t feasible. But our glimpses of side characters shift so often, and are so limited, that the reader has a hard time connecting to them. If Cass downsized and zeroed in on a few (especially given the fact that we have five or six suitors to get to know as Eadlyn narrows the men down), they would have been more effective. As it was, I found myself trying to recall faces behind names that popped up throughout her story. It’s been a while since I read Heir; so perhaps that’s part of it.
Lastly, and I know this is another facet of YA romance at times, I found the stakes for Eadlyn to be exaggerated. There’s drama going on with her as ruler, attempted sabotages, and the question of who she’ll pick; yet, without giving too much away, these problems seem to be exacerbated for the sake of suspense. Eadlyn convinces herself that the people’s opinion needs to imprison her in terms of choosing a husband; in terms of squelching threats; and as it ties into her personal self-image. Her parents might have emphasized to her that she had more agency; however, she does take leaps of her own volition that drastically reorder society (of course, without consulting any the people in place to help her with these things). So I’m not sure what I think of Eadlyn. She seems to wield more power than a teenager should, without possessing a solid identity. This makes her intriguing, but hard to get behind.
All that being said, the enjoyment of YA literature sometimes comes in sitting back and letting go of your writerly senses: rooting for a certain contestant until they are eliminated (yep, definitely happened). I like light reads, and this one is entertaining despite possessing potential for improvement. That being said, I would give it about 2.5/5 stars in terms of quality, and 3 for entertainment value. If you’ve started the Selection series, you might as well complete it to see how Cass wraps everything up in the world of Illéa. And if you haven’t started it, why not take a crack at it and see if you enjoy it?
What’s your favorite YA read/series at the moment?