The Cover: Another beautiful cover, although the dress is my least favorite of the three. I’m not really a fan of the orangish-red or the panels. But the look does seem to fit America really well for this book. This gown is sharp and rough as opposed to her soft and fluffy blue one. Her expression is intimidating and determined, like she’s either on a mission or glaring at Celeste (HINT: She’s usually both). America is once again portrayed by the stunning Audrey Hollister. If I ever have the fortunate luck of meeting her in person, I’m asking for an autograph and then stealing her tiara.
Back Blurb: The Selection began with thirty-five girls.
Now with the group narrowed down to the six Elite, the competition to win Prince Maxon’s heart is fiercer than ever–-and America is still struggling to decide where her heart truly lies. Is it with Maxon, who could make her life a fairy tale? Or with her first love, Aspen?
America is desperate for more time. But the rest of the Elite know exactly what they want–-and America’s chance to choose is about to slip away.
The Book: The covers of The Selection books promise glitz and glam, and Kiera Cass delivers. She blew us away with the first book and outdid herself with the dramatic sequel. The Selection is something straight from a fairy tale, but The Elite takes you to the whole new level of villainy. The competition grows smaller and fiercer. Tension grows as America falls deeper in love––with both boys. Danger is imminent as the rebel attacks increase and become more deadly. The Elite soon realize there is much more at stake here than just the prize–-their lives.
The Plot: Maxon has narrowed the Selection down to the six Elite–-America, Marlee, Kriss, Elise, Natalie, and Celeste. Each girl is staying for a reason, mostly influenced by King Clarkson. Marlee, Kriss, and Celeste are the public’s favorites, Elise has connections in New Asia, and Natalie is easily pliable and would go with whatever Clarkson wants. In the king’s eyes, America doesn’t have much to offer. But Maxon is in love with her.
Unfortunately for Maxon, America needs more time to sort out her feelings. She’s still recovering from her heartbreak over Aspen, but she’s slowing starting to fall for Maxon. She toys with the idea of being with a prince, but is afraid she doesn’t have what it takes to be a princess. The weight of the crown and its responsibilities scare her far more than having to choose which boy she loves most.
*MILD SPOILERS AHEAD*
Maxon promises to keep America as long as she needs. But he’s growing impatient from the pressure from his father to make a decision. In the meantime he’ll continue to se the other Elite, in case America decides in the end she doesn’t want him. Unbeknownst to Maxon, the reason America can’t commit to him is inside the palace–-Aspen. Remorseful and desperate to win her back, Aspen makes every attempt to see her. America’s feelings for him come rushing back. They sneak around privately, risking breaking the rules of the Selection. Feeling smothered and overwhelmed by both Maxon and Aspen, she wavers between the two, trying to decide who she wants. If she decides on Maxon, how can she know their love is real when he’s dating five other girls? But she’s doing the same thing. She’s sneaking around with a guard, stealing kisses from her first love. Pursuing romance from anyone other than Maxon while in the Selection is considered treason. America knows it’s dangerous; the punishment for treason is death.
America is devastated when something gruesome and tragic shocks the palace. Maxon had a hand in allowing this unspeakable horror to happen. America loses not only someone she loves, but her faith in Maxon, the royals, and the country. She realizes Aspen has always and will always be there for her. But does she really want to settle for Aspen just because her other option didn’t turn out to be what she’d expected? If she can find it in her heart to forgive Maxon, can she forget the sickening event she and the other Selected had to witness? Or the incredible pain it caused so many people? Is this how life as a royal would be?
- B Plot: As the competition progresses, the Elite are groomed for royalty. They are trained on proper social etiquette, history, law, legislation, military logistics, and diplomacy. They are expected to keep up with social and political issues and discuss them in front of the country. They are also assigned special projects in order to demonstrate the knowledge required of a princess. Every interaction and activity is a test to show well they would do as leaders. Some of the girls take it more seriously than others. Even though most of them genuinely like each other, the girls soon become a small group of frenemies. Each new test poses the threat of an elimination, and all of the Elite are determined to stay. They each, in their own ways, try to subtly outshine and bring down the others–-America included.
- C Plot: Both groups of rebels continue to attack, but much more frightening and deadly. When America has a close call with the rebels, she realizes Illéa’s little-known history may have something to do with the attacks. She digs deeper, trying to find a connection. Maxon gives her access to one of King Gregory Illéa’s journals. At first she is impassioned by his inspiring words, but then is disgusted by them. She learns the truth about the real Gregory Illéa, not the supposed hero he was made out to be. His actions left devastation for several generations to come, including America’s. America can’t help but assume Maxon is like Gregory, which makes her doubt her feelings for him even more.
- America: A lot of readers complain about America’s indecisiveness, and honestly, I see their point. She IS very wishy-washy, constantly going back and forth between Aspen and Maxon. It’s extremely frustrating, considering how obvious the answer is. America, honey, Aspen DUMPED you. He broke your heart and is now mad because you’re not pursuing him while an active member of the Selection. Maxon LOVES you. Seriously, make a decision! At times America gets on my nerves with her constant insecurities, but it also makes me love her more. To be fair, what girl hasn’t been indecisive in her lifetime? She’s allowed to change her mind. Her constant self-doubting makes her completely relatable. I just wish she’d think of herself as more than just a Five, and not let her feelings bottle up until they explode. I truly believe she’s capable of being a princess. She’s a natural leader whenever she’s ready to be. She’s compassionate, and, when pushed to her breaking point, courageous.
- Marlee: Marlee’s shocking secret comes out and she suffers an unimaginable fate. Her story is both heartbreaking and inspiring at the same time. Like America, she stays true to herself and stands up for what she believes in. She’s still the same Marlee we fell in love with in The Selection, but stands taller and braver. She’s America’s first true friend outside of her family. Their friendship is simple and beautiful. Marlee is held very dear not just to America, but to us readers as well. Having Marlee by your side is like having a personal cheerleader. She’s always ready to listen, guide you through rough times, and offer kind words of encouragement. Selectioners LOVE Marlee!
- Kriss: Kriss is America’s toughest competition. She is both sweet and toxic. She acts clueless, but she’s usually trying to gain information or insult someone. She’s generous with compliments, but they’re often backhanded. She’s a humblebragger and just as gossipy as Celeste. Kriss is popular with the public and performs well in front of the cameras. Although America sees her as a threat, she genuinely likes her and wants her to win if she doesn’t. She feels that Kriss would be a good match for Maxon and make a better princess than she would.
- Celeste: This girl is still an absolute nightmare. Celeste is determined to win, but it’s the crown she really wants, not Maxon. She wants the status but none of the responsibilities. She’s a lazy, self-centered exhibitionist. She parades her accomplishments with Maxon and openly tries to sabotage the other girls’ chances. Celeste is also flirtatious with all men, including the guards and King Clarkson. She’s constantly threatening and provoking the other Elite, really trying to hit them where it hurts.
- Natalie: Natalie is oblivious and aloof. She’s just kind of there, not trying very hard to win and just going along with what everyone else is doing. She avoids conflict and seems genuinely happy when the other girls succeed. She’s very sweet and often seems to be in a daydream. Natalie is a little scatterbrained and slightly unrefined, but her simple disposition makes her very likable.
- Elise: Elise is here to win. She’s not particularly friendly or unfriendly towards anybody; she’s fighting the competition on her own. She plays the part as she thinks it should be played, going along with whatever Maxon wants. She is pliant and non-combative. She’s upfront with her feelings about winning, but doesn’t do anything that would influence Maxon’s decisions about any of the other girls. In other words, she’s pretty boring.
- Maxon: We get to know Maxon much more intimately than we did in The Selection (#1). He gets a lot more face time, playing a much larger role as the competition narrows. He is still kind and genuine, wanting very much to please America. But we soon learn that he has to draw a line between feelings and obligations, and act accordingly. We get to understand some of his insecurities and how he displaces his feelings to cope with the stress of his position. His personal life is lonely and dysfunctional, having never known anything but royal duties. When he finally loses his cool, it’s both shocking and slightly scary. It’s obvious that Maxon cares very much about America, but he’s struggling with making the right choice for himself as well. The Selection is basically his one and only shot as his own happily ever after. He’s enduring intense pressure from his father and the public, and he can’t risk making the wrong decision.
- Aspen: My feelings of disdain toward Aspen are probably obvious by now. He really has no right to be angry with America for having feelings for Maxon. Yes, he’s remorseful and is fighting for her, but his woe-is-me-I’m-a-Six attitude is getting old. He seems to have a personal vendetta against the royalty. Rightfully so, I suppose, considering the caste system, but this is not Maxon’s fault. Aspen’s just really angry with himself. He acts selfishly, constantly barging in on America and trying to convince her how evil Maxon is. I’d like him a lot more if he tried using his position as a guard for good, rather than to “settle the score” as America says. Yes, they were once in love, but people grow and things change. He needs to let America go. If he truly loves her, he’ll let her choose to make herself happy, rather than force her to choose between him and Maxon.
- Anne, Mary, and Lucy: America’s maids offer her a great amount of support during the Selection. We find out more about Anne and Lucy’s personal lives. Anne is always put together and is proud to be a maid at the palace, but hides the fact that she wants much more. She is jealous of Mary and acts superior towards Lucy. Mary stands up to Anne for Lucy, and the three argue behind closed doors. You can’t help but wonder about these ladies and what will become of them after the Selection ends.
What’s Next: No matter who or what America chooses, her life is tangled much too tight into the Selection to back out now. If she decides to go, she’s going out in a blaze and leaving fireworks in her wake. She might move on from the Selection, but the Selection will never forget her.
Two more novellas, The Guard (#2.5) and The Favorite (#2.6) come next, telling bits of Aspen and Marlee’s stories. Aspen’s story takes place during The Elite (#2), and Marlee’s contains spoilers for The One (#3). America’s story and that of the Selection conclude with The One (#3). Will she choose Maxon, Aspen, or neither? Or will she choose Maxon but he decides on someone else? Does America really have what it takes to wear the crown? Emotions run high as we anxiously wait to find out. You can do it, America. Team Maxon all the way!
Best Quotes: (SPOILERS)
- “On the contrary, I find them rather beautiful…Sometimes I think I only dreamed that I heard you play the violin, it was so beautiful. These calluses are proof that it was real.”
- “…if there’s one thing I’ve learned from being in the Selection, it’s that some girls have a frightening killer instinct. Don’t let the ball gowns fool you.”
- “I just think that we’d be a good us.” He smiled slowly. “We’d be a wonderful us.”
- “America, tell me you’re joking. Tell me you didn’t assault the prince.”
- “Love is beautiful fear.”
- “You are a lady now, miss. You must handle this like a lady.”
- “It’s just the way it is. The sky is blue, the sun is bright, and Aspen endlessly loves America. It’s how the world was designed to be.”
- “Sometimes I feel like we’re a knot, too tangled to take apart.”
- “Your record for keeping secrets isn’t that impressive right now. But this is one that goes to your grave. And mine. Do you understand?”
- “I should have proposed that night in your room.” “I should have let you.”
- “Don’t tug your ear with anyone else. That’s mine.”
Best Scenes: (MORE SPOILERS)
- America shows up Celeste on The Report
- America greets her family at the palace
- The end of the Halloween party
- (WORST, MOST HEARTBREAKING SCENE) The morning after the Halloween party
- The altercation in the women’s room
- The encounter with the rebels in the forest
- Girl talk with the Italian royalty
- America’s visit to the princess’s suite
- America’s presentation on the Report
- Maxon reveals his secret to America in the safe room
How scandalous was The Elite? Sound off in the comments below!