Saturday, April 27, 2013

BOOK REVIEW: THE ELITE by Kiera Cass


THE ELITE (The Selection, #2)
by Kiera Cass

Published April 23, 2013 by Harper Teen
GENRES: YA • Dystopian • Fantasy • Sci-Fi • Post Apocalyptic • Romance • Political Intrigue


 TECHNICALLY 3.6 ROUNDED to 4

The hotly-anticipated sequel to the New York Times bestsellerThe Selection.

Thirty-five girls came to the palace to compete in the Selection. All but six have been sent home. And only one will get to marry Prince Maxon and be crowned princess of Illea.

America still isn’t sure where her heart lies. When she’s with Maxon, she’s swept up in their new and breathless romance, and can’t dream of being with anyone else. But whenever she sees Aspen standing guard around the palace, and is overcome with memories of the life they planned to share. With the group narrowed down to the Elite, the other girls are even more determined to win Maxon over—and time is running out for America to decide.

Just when America is sure she’s made her choice, a devastating loss makes her question everything again. And while she’s struggling to imagine her future, the violent rebels that are determined to overthrow the monarchy are growing stronger and their plans could destroy her chance at any kind of happy ending.
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Whew... I am holding onto my head for dear life. I feel like I just off the tilt-a-whirl at the fairground. The girl from THE EXORCIST has nothing on me right now... my head is spinning around so much. There was so much back and forth in this book from the characters that I couldn't find my equilibrium. THE ELITE had some terrific aspects as well as some that left me frustrated. Let's start with the concerns first, then we'll get to the great aspects.

One concern was America. In this second installment, she turned into a faint shadow of her former self. America was completely self centered for 97% of the book. All that went through her head was "what about me?" or "what's best for me?" or "how could they do that to me?"  It seemed like she cried most of the way through the book. She could not make a decision to save her life. Her feelings were so wishy-washy. They went from left, to right, then left, then back right, then left... OK... you get the picture. Mer's absolute inability to make a decision and stick to it left me so annoyed and irritated that my eyelid started twitching. Literally.



All the main characters' feelings were completely unrealistic. You could sit there with a bowl of popcorn and watch America's feelings ping pong back and forth. Yes, I love Maxon. No I don't. Yes.. I do. No... I hate him. Yes... he's The One. No.. he is evil incarnate. She strung both boys out the whole time. If she really did have such deep feelings, could she be able to turn them off while with the other? Instead, she seemed to have an off/on switch to her heart.



The relationships did not seem genuine in this installment. They felt forced and plastic. In the first book, we had a lot of relationship building. This book was mostly her internal musings. The actual interactions were few, spaced apart and extremely brief. Their reactions were bewildering and implausible. All the interactions between Mer, Maxon and Aspen lacked an organic feel. It was almost bizarre how out of place and over-the-top dramatic they were compared to THE SELECTION.


How could Maxon say he was sooooo in love with Mer and then do the things he did?(Sorry, can't spoil it.) One minute, I had Maxon pegged as this sweet, cuddle bear and the next he was a slimy, awful jerk... then back again. If I hadn't read THE PRINCE (a novella from Maxon's point of view) I would have thought this was actually a science fiction novel with aliens taking over people's bodies.. he was that different here. But to his credit, America was seriously messing with his head. I would be completely confused if I were him. But I must say, Maxon did some things that made me want to kick him out the palace window. 



What really annoyed me was the unfortunate fixation the author had with America's endless reordering of feelings for Maxon and Aspen. Cass seemed to focus solely on The Bachelor style competition which caused the plot to become one-dimensional and stagnant. There were SO many terrific sub plots that would have been ten times more interesting. Don't get me wrong... the overall story idea is grand. But book two was congested by America's endless internal monologues of incisiveness over her feelings and who Maxon liked best. The characters were much more fascinating in book one with more depth and flavor.  In THE ELITE, storyline just couldn't find traction and move forward, which was a shame. ALL of it... the Rebels, the society, the competition...nothing really changed. 

Oh yeah... the complete inability of palace security was an epic fail. I'm sorry, but if there were THAT many attacks, they would have been discussing it, doing SOMETHING about it. Hmm.. how about a upgrading security? The kicker was NOTHING happened. No one got killed or severely injured. We didn't learn anything about either side. There was no sense of lasting danger. Every character took the intruders almost as if they were having tea with a neighbor. Oh hum, that was nice.. what's for dinner? This had all the basic ingredients to make a fantastic meal of a novel, but she forgot to cook it long enough or forgot to stir. It made me as frustrated as much as Cruella Deville learning all her plans have been foiled.


Sigh. Now onto the happy yummy bits. 

THE ELITE was a super fast read. I think I finished in 4.5 hours. The concerns I had over the book did not diminish my need to read it or divert my attention. The book had its great moments. It did elicit a lot of emotion from me... I will admit it. Cass made me feel the betrayals and shocks as though it was happening to myself.

The evil characters (cough.. The King.. cough.. Celeste..cough) were in full force this time go round and made life a living hell for America. I didn't think Celeste could stoop any lower than she had in book one but she made those activities look like preschool play time. Cass introduced a couple of items that have great promise for intrigue and thickening of the plot. Personally, I love the whole concept even if I detest the reality show in real life. The whole cast system is intriguing. Most of all, I appreciate Cass and her ability draw from society's fears, whether from the past, present or future to create a fascinating tale of what could happen if those fears somehow played out. What would happen to our society, culture and history?

I must say I was torn as to what rating to give this. It squeaked out a four because no matter how slow the plot and irritating the characters were, it kept a steady pace, kept my attention and drew out intense reactions from me. Cass leads you and pulls you into her world. You can't help but route for one of her characters.  It was entertaining appetizer while waiting for book three, THE ONE due out in 2014. Personally, I eagerly await the last book. I hope for some incredible shockers and jaw dropping conclusions. ENJOY!

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