May 6, 2013

book review: the elite

Kiera Cass produces a solid sequel and exceeded expectations in The Elite, her follow-up to The Selection.

Quick disclaimer... I wrote this review on my iPhone, because I'm currently on vacation. Please forgive the lack of formatting and any typos. I'll come back and fix them later. I am also essentially sharing the discussion points written in an email to friends, so the style is perhaps a little different.

Now, on to the review...

In Book Two, we find America developing deeper feelings for Prince Maxon now that she has made it to what is essentially the semi-finals of the "Who Wants to Marry a Tyrannical Prince?" reality show she's joined. Even as her feelings grow stronger, they're put in greater jeopardy as the plot thickens.

With rebel attacks and nationwide discontent still raging, and competition amongst the girls building, America continues to find herself torn between returning to a simpler life with the boy she always loved or taking a chance on a future she never imagined.

America is a much more likable character in Book Two. She seems more considerate of others -- excluding the two men vying for her attention. She's also much less annoying. I actually felt badly for her at times rather than being annoyed like in the first book.

In this story I actually better understood her romantic conflict. By this point Aspen and Maxon have gone to extreme lengths to win her affections.

In some ways Aspen has become more understanding of her conflict. He also represents a steady choice for America. They have a shared history. She wouldn't have to change as much if she was his wife. Still, you often have to chuck the easy route and take a greater risk to yield a better reward (I'm obviously still Team Maxon). She won't get quite the same thrill out of life with a man who doesn't challenge her more.

At this point, Maxon isn't as sure of a bet as he seemed after book one and the novelette. While I still like him, he is much more flawed and his feelings less secured. This makes him a more interesting and dynamic character. It also makes him less of a perfect hero.

I can understand his conflict though, too. For him, Kriss would be a steadier option. America is more of a risk. Celeste is also more mindless fun. After Book Two it's clear America has competition for his heart. She needs to step up her game.

Based on each of their actions, the stories each has left unsaid and particularly their parting words at the end, I honestly don't know how they'll end up together. It will not be as easy as it first seemed. I find myself wanting to see them find each other in the end. I just don't know how they'll overcome the challenges and live happily ever after. They've both kind of been dicks.

What surprised me most about America's increased maturity -- though she has plenty of room to grow -- is that I actually think she could be a good princess and queen. She does seem to care about others. She has good ideas. And she is brave.

But... She still acts rashly and without thought. I love her proposal for the country's future, but her reasons for sharing them were insincere and selfish. She also fell short in her defense of them. The girl needs better follow through in general.

Even if she and Maxon end up together, I question if she'll actually become queen. The king wouldn't like it, but more importantly, I think the monarchy must fall. I wouldn't be surprised to see the king (and queen) assassinated or exiled in book three. If this doesn't happen, all of this brief mention of rebellion will be for nothing.

I liked the increased rebel action, but it's still underdeveloped, which is a shame. It seems a LOT will have to happen in the next book to resolve all of these conflicts. I question how it will happen or if there is time to do it cohesively. But, Kiera Cass impressed me with this installment, and I hope she'll do it again in the next round. (At least I hope.)

I'm more excited for the final installment than I was for this one.

Rating: 4.5 of 5

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