The Elite (The Selection, Book 2), by Kiera Cass
After My First Reading
Oh. My. God. It's a year until the next book comes out. I don't think that I can make it that long.
I just stayed up until 3:00 in the morning reading this book because I just couldn't put it down. Even when I tried to put it down, my mind kept coming back to it. So I read it straight through.
Now that I have gotten that off my chest, I will go and do my traditional reread and then come back and finish this review.
Two Days Later:
Now that I've finished my second readthrough and I'm a little calmer I can give a more rational response to "The Elite." Oh, and in the afterword, Cass says that she hopes that the reader would be up tweeting about the book at 3:00 in the morning. I find it funny that while I didn't tweet about it, I did write up my reaction to it for public consumption at 3:00 in the morning (even though I didn't publish that response until later).
Most of what happens in "The Elite" is character development. We find out more about a number of characters, including Maxon, Aspen, Marlee, Kriss, Clarkson Scheave (the King), and, of course, America herself. As a result, most of what I have to say about the book is character-based, rather than plot-based.
I am really not sure whether America and Maxon are exactly what the other one needs or if their marriage would be an unmitigated disaster. I do, however, think that America might be what Illéa needs. I have actually thought that all along. She was the only one of the candidates, for example, who kept her calm during the rebel raids in "The Selection," and she helped calm some of the other young women down. Her ability to keep her own calm and to soothe others in a crisis would be a vital skill in a queen. I reread those scenes, and there is no indication that any of the other women in The Selection were able to keep their cool at all. She also makes choices in "The Elite" opposing the injustice that she sees that might just make her the ideal choice for queen, once she can get over the tendency to react first and think later that has dogged her throughout these books.
As for America and Aspen, I have, frankly, been dubious about this pairing for some time and after "The Elite," I am even less of an America/Aspen shipper than I might otherwise have been. First love is great and all, but eventually real life intervenes, and neither one has seen the other in anything like a real-life situation -- it's all been romance and secrets. My disillusionment with Aspen started way back with his macho "I should be the one paying your way" posturing in "The Selection." Marriage is a partnership and if he cannot take her seriously as an equal, then she is not the one for him. Additionally, the fact that Aspen kept America as a secret all those years made me wonder if he was as serious about her as he claimed to be. I also am doubtful about just how unselfish Aspen's love for America is, since his behavior (particularly in the scene where he broke into her room and smooched her up in "The Selection," which was the slightly sexually violent scene I warned for in my review of that book) ran a very real risk to her wellbeing, if not her life. If that's love, I'll have no part of it.
Of course, there is a lot going on that America knows nothing about, and we get hints throughout "The Elite" about some of them and that perhaps not even Maxon knows all of it. For example, Maxon and the king take a trip to New Asia (wherever that is -- is it someplace like Vancouver, Hawaii, or San Francisco, known for its Asian population now? Did Illéa end up with colonies in Asia itself as a result of the war? What?), and America is told at least two different things about exactly what happened on the trip. The rebel attacks get worse and more frequent (there are three in this volume), and America gets a good look at one of the diaries of Gregory Illéa and learns some hard truths about the founding of her country.
The description of the book says that one event in this book will change America's perception of what is going on, and I honestly expected it to be some kind of contact with the rebels. I believed that America would get kidnapped by them, since we do need to see them up close, and since the series is written in the first person, that would require her to have close contact with them. Instead, I never saw what happens coming, and I can see how it changed her perspective.
I guess that she'll get kidnapped by the rebels in the next book.
I am very much looking forward to the next book. I suspect that America will end up with Maxon, but you never can tell. The trip should definitely be worth it.
Oh, and "The Elite" does not contain a map of Illéa, so I did end up emailing Cass to request one. So that's two times I have emailed a writer since I began this project.