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The One (The Selection) Paperback – May 5, 2015
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From School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up—Who will become the future queen of Illea and Prince Maxon's wife? The final book in Cass's "Selection" series begins in the midst of a rebel attack on the palace. The heroine, America, is one of four remaining ladies competing in the selection process in this dystopian saga. Through bravery and a strong character, America has won the people's hearts. However, the king continues doing everything in his power to undermine her opportunities to succeed. While the contestants are competing for Maxon's heart, many other events from the outside world transpire: America's father dies and leaves her a letter, she is shot visiting rebels outside the city, the relationship between Aspen and America shifts, and the Southern rebels begin attacking people in the castles. All the while, the protagonist continues to fall deeply in love with Maxon even though he is involved with her competition. Fans of this series will not be disappointed by the ending. Major plotlines are tied up, and questions left unanswered in the previous installment are resolved here. The star-crossed duo's relationship has its many ups and downs, but their love for each other remains. For general purchase in libraries where the earlier books remain popular and for devotees of beauty pageants, dystopians, and drama-filled romances.—Jesten Ray, Seattle Public Library, WA --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
“A real page-turner. Romance, royalty, and revolution in a reality-show format serve Cass’ boldly rendered heroine well in her quest for justice and love.” (ALA Booklist)
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So I enjoyed the rest of the series ish. I didn't captivate me, but I wasn't bored. I didn't hate the characters, but I didn't fall in love with them either. I'm not a bachelor fan, actually the idea just weirds me out, so I'm not sure what compelled me to pick this series up. I suppose I'm not sorry. If you love the other books, you will love this one just as much.
The one real problem I had with this book was the way Maxon treated America (and visa-versa). It was this whole, yes I love you, but I'm gonna keep smooching on the others just in case we don't work out. Him being so willing to SPOILERS............. marry Kriss at the drop of the hat............ END SPOILERS made me resent him a little (not that America was in the right either). I know the other books were similar, but this one particularly struck me is misconstrued.
BUT, this book had one absolutely redeeming quality. It brought me the closest to crying for a book I have in a long time. I get super sad at books; for days at a time I get in a funk, but I don't often cry. While The One didn't quite spill the tears, it brought them closer than I like to admit. It wasn't even a major plot point, but when SPOILERS............ her father passed away and she read his letters......................END SPOILERS my heart broke because Kiera Cass did so a good job of bring it home in the simplest, most realistic way. That one maybe two chapters made this whole book worth reading.
I have faithfully followed America, Maxon and Aspen through to the end in hopes of...more.
It seems to me there was a wealth of possibilities that all fell short with the series. This could have been great if the story telling wasn't quite so single minded and there was more focus on where to place emphasis on expanding details and background, and when to stop over cooking a plot point or even a chunk of information. Quite a bit of information was laid out that was interesting but never explored. It felt like it should or would have value within the story, but never did. Alternately, information with superficial value was often expounded on, many times, ad nauseam; which leant nothing to the story save a cringe.
The groundwork was laid for a look at an socially unraveling post war American society with a royal family. What an intriguing concept! America (Country: not the heroine) with a royal family - in a post war with China setting - in and of itself had all the possibility of great things to come. I enjoyed the premise of the story but all in all it provided very superficial entertainment. I know there is a "The Bachelor" element to it that combined some attempts at serious looks into a society that is flawed but overall; I've been left wanting. The beauty of this series is only skin deep. You never really get a true peak behind the curtain. It felt like a reality show in truth. You didn't see the reality of that world (or this piece of it) but only snippets of edited content. And all the edits felt like they cut out vital and interesting material, and just left you with what was thought to be salacious but really has been done before. The story that almost was...
To be fair, there is nothing wrong with that. If you want a light series which on occasion touches some veins of depth, but always yanks you back out in time with a dose of sunshine and, " let's not look too closely at the grime on the wall," this is for you. Another reviewer of the first book said, to effect, if you like reality romance shows, the selection of clothes and food scenes in The Hunger Games then this book is for you. They were right.
I purchased it anyway and found some great parts with the potential for more. I never received any moments of extreme enlightenment but I passed a few hours in one-dimensional entertainment with glimpses of what could/may have been coming. I was intrigued enough to keep coming back to see where it would go and with hope. Oh so much hope, not to see an interesting idea languish on the spine (of the book) without coming to fruition. Surely it would progress. But it felt rather like every time I was nearing the exploration of some interesting plot point, I'd be hurried back to the route of least literary resistance and the series and particularly The One is poorer for it.
America, is supposed to be selfless, but of course we all have flaws or what is the point of reading a redeeming story? Yet, while America falls into doing the right thing time and again, the wrong way, it appears she doesn't learn from her errors - over and over. This is consistent and can be tedious and repetitious. Is it accurate for a teenager, maybe, but this is our heroine and story foundation? I felt there should have been more growth as apparently she was always a fighter, with a strong moral compass, who knew right from wrong, etc. I found I wanted to throttle her at times but mostly...I just didn't care. The not caring was the worst part, especially when I WANTED to care. Sure, she did some great things and showed some fortitude but she brooded more than anything. I wanted to love her and root for her.
Maxon, is painted as vaguely mysterious and likely genuine but very reserved and fickle. There are reasons for this yet, Ms. Cass, never fleshes out her primary figures enough for me to truly think, "Yes, OK! I get it! I get him!" I feel I was only provided with the bare essentials and the resulting effect left me wanting more and never being able to get too far beyond a Cinderella happy ending stereotypical image with Maxon, as opposed to truly loving or hating him and/or his choices. Actually, that line is true for much of the story, not just Maxon. He (and the story) could have been a gem of storytelling either way...hero or heel. Here is an American monarchy. I wanted more from them (Maxon and the monarchy and the story) than the bare sketching we received. My goodness, the pickings were rich and again it felt as if the path of least resistance was taken. Again, Maxon and the monarchy for that matter, were the poorer for it. I can never really say I got behind him one way or the other.
Ambivalence is the most horrid emotion for a main character in my opinion. Not really feeling anything is a story killer and sadly it occurs in multiple fronts in The One and the series. Three main characters and ambivalence is the predominant emotion I feel.
Aspen falls into the same net as the other two. We receive more background on his character in the first books but in The One, he becomes a mere plot device, devoid of anything but a few hero scenarios and an inevitable stumbling block for America and Maxon. Then, he semi fades into the background despite efforts otherwise. Even with Aspen not being such a prominent figure in this book it didn't change or clarify events or feelings. I'm not missing the message that was being transmitted; I'm saying it wasn't transmitted clearly, by force or fault, I don't know.
I have so many unanswered questions. I really felt let down that some very interesting aspects, maybe some of the most interesting pieces of the supporting story structure, weren't fleshed out at all or we are given a one to two line sentence (on occasion a paragraph or two) to neatly wrap them up for us - MOVE ALONG NOTHING TO SEE HERE. Yet they aren't. There were far too many unanswered questions or areas that were just passed over. It made the story feel forced, condensed and incomplete in many aspects.
We finally learn about the two rebel groups...but do we? These are serious plot points that have been referred to endlessly yet when the time comes, we learn about the Northern rebels in only the tiniest of details. How they were formed is a bomb briefly dropped on us but it's merely mentioned in passing and never touched on again. What??? Who they came from I thought was going to be important. It wasn't. Now, Maxon and America are best friends with the Northern rebels in short order. Funny how that sense of trust was established so quickly, with them, in that volatile situation; yet all three primary characters couldn't muster anywhere near that in their own lives and interactions, despite the more immediate sense of life or death involved with the choice of faith in the rebels. And they (the main characters) had much more time together to establish trust with each other than with the N. rebels. The Southern rebels are given a brief description and then we only see two actions after that but no more explanations, formations, foundations, NADA - just accept it reader despite all the buildup. We see the ease and ability for these rebels to invade a palace over and over and some of the ways they do what they do at the end. Yet we are asked to suspend our disbelief of how easy it is with no explanation or even mention of it. Heck, anyone can walk right into the palace. No problem. The reader is asked to suspend disbelief or plausibility and not hope for any type of explanation at all in many cases. It felt and feels wrong to me.
Those points aside, it's yet another example of potential interesting points which could have helped develop this world for us, help us understand these people we are trying to loathe, love and pull for, but it just becomes a brief side note which pops up when entirely convenient and is wrapped up with a very short bit of dialogue when it's bothered to be addressed at all. There are numerous examples of this throughout The One and the series. After awhile it became frustrating though I never stopped hoping for more because there was just so much potential, but most of it ended up being a by-product of the story, as opposed to A PART of the story.
I don't want to give away anymore spoilers but I will say that this book consistently, in my opinion, failed to deliver meaningful fleshed out story lines and only touched on the most superficial of things with glimpses of much deeper oceans in the background that we never get to really see let alone swim in. That is by far the most disappointing aspect of the series. I feel like so much was either wasted or taken for granted. As a reader I don't care to be pandered to, but to be fair, the lack of information or relevant detail was constant throughout the series so it is my own fault for constantly expecting more when there was very little sign I was ever going to receive it.
There were good parts, don't get me wrong. I just could never really put myself behind one thing or another because I felt as if I was only ever getting a fourth of what was there...or could be. I don't regret reading the story and I can't not recommend it. I can say that this is a what you see is what you get and only that book. Don't look for much of the supporting information to be anything more than the sheerest of window dressing. Light with lack luster attempts at depth, a love story without faith or conviction, and a pleasant simple read if you don't expect more than a slightly modified Cinderella story/reality TV show with minor attempts at world building which falls short of the mark by measures.
I feel as though this is coming off very negative and I'm sorry if my thoughts do not mirror yours but I had to be truthful. Everything was just wrapped up so fast and too quickly skipping over what could have been exceptional story telling but ended up being the road well traveled but not well written or maybe well detailed. The end of the book just glosses over some monumental information (and characters) we've been set up with for two and a half books as well as quite a bit of game changing information last minute. Then we just get the stock standard expected ending with a few curve balls that aren't ever explored or shown proper respect. They feel tacked on for shock value and thus bring little honor or respect in storytelling.
I truly did, on a very simplistic level, enjoy some of the story and persons in it. This review reads negatively in many respects, pointing out quite a bit of faults as "I" perceived them. This should not imply in any way that this book has no value or merit. I suggest rather, that the book is a light airy book which tries to be more than that, but isn't. So enjoy the aspects which are present as it is a book that I don't regret reading and would suggest to others based on their reading preferences. This book has a core/target audience. Unfortunately, I wasn't it. I suggest that this is a time of dystopian, world building, heroine, love triangle heavy stories in the literature market. There have been some great ones and some poor ones and a lot in between. I think this is a series that tried to fit into that genre and did in minor - check the block ways- but didn't hit the mark some (including me) have come to expect or hope for in this genre. I've tried to articulate why it didn't click for me and placed more emphasis on that as opposed to the positive aspects. It isn't intentional but rather where my gut and reading experience led me. I am sure someone who experienced a better read with this will focus more on the positive aspects. Perhaps reading both types of reviews will give a more complete picture. I hope my review is not taken out of context but gives a solid foundation for those who are looking for a book in the genre I have described and can use this review to decide if it will be a story that meets the requirements they are seeking. I would try Ms. Cass in the future to see if it was just this particular topic I didn't mesh with.
SUMMATION: This series/book could have been great. Instead it's an excellent idea that just turned out ok. I was disappointed, but I still found value in it. I suggest you read this to finish the series but don't expect any deviation from the two books prior - in terms of detail or idea exploration. Take on face value what the author gives you. I will not be rereading this series as I have other series when I want to relive that feeling or freshness, I just don't think it was here in the first place. I feel this is more a true young adult book as opposed to a YA/adult crossover. And that is my mistake not the author's. I wish it could have been different, I really wanted to fall in love with this (as I will say again - the concept had major potential) but for me, it wasn't possible. I am sorry if you loved this and disagree. I am not trying to bash the author. In the end, it is our own expectations which are the greatest, and my expectations were not met. This series is a 3 star series for great ideas, though not completely fulfilled, for characters who could have been something special but fell short and who are worth meeting but not worth having over for dinner a second time.