I have to thank shinichimegumi123 from When Curiosity Killed The Cat for encouraging me to continue with this series, because it did get better, just like she promised it would. Many of the problems I had with the first book The Selection were fixed here, and while this is still not the best book I have ever read, I definitely enjoyed reading The Elite much more than I enjoyed reading The Selection.
The Writing: I seriously have no complaints here. While I wouldn’t call Cass’s writing beautiful, I would definitely call it amazing and captivating; hence the reason why I finished this book in ONE day. Seriously, I couldn’t put it down even for a minute. If nothing else, Kiera Cass knows how to draw out suspense and keep her readers wanting more. In fact, if I were the kind of person who rated a book simply by judging the writing, this book would have gotten a 5 stars from me.
As it happens, I am the kind of person who also takes the plot, characters and the ending into consideration, so unfortunately this book does not get more than 3 stars from me.
The Characters: In my review of The Selection, I mentioned how America was a character who had a lot of potential but was never given a chance to live up to it. In The Elite, I was really glad to see that changed–some of the biggest highlights of this book for me where the moments when America broke the rules and defied an oppressing, unfair king in an attempt to do what she believed was right. Sure, she was rash, and I hated her for being so impulsive at times, but mostly she was so badass and awe-inspiring, I couldn’t help but cheer for her.
This was one of the strongest points of the book, and the one of the most important things missing in the prequel, where America’s main goal in life was to become either Aspen or Maxon’s wife. I mean there’s nothing wrong with wanting to have a happy marriage, but it shouldn’t really be the whole point of your life. This isn’t the Middle Ages for crying out loud.
We also get to see America experience all the pros and cons that comes with a life full of politics and the effect that it has on her. I couldn’t help but sympathize with her throughout the whole book as I watched her try to decide if being a royal would be worth the sacrifices she would have to make.
We also get to see a lot more of Maxon, and while I loved the way he tried to defy his father (although in a much quieter, slower, more subtle way than America) I couldn’t help but question his personality every now and then, especially when it came to his feelings for America. I also felt a lot for Aspen for the cards he was dealt with simply for being a member of a lower caste.
The other characters however, still remained nothing more than cardboard cutouts–with the one exception of Queen Amberly, who genuinely intrigued me. Other than that, there isn’t much to say–The Elite is one of those books that has a very poor cast of supporting characters.
The Plot: Oh, finally, there is a plot!
I don’t mean to be too rude (maybe just a little bit), but the first book was, for all intents and purposes, nothing more than a romance book. Now I can already hear all you Selection fans screaming “Why did you read it then?” and I’ll tell you why: because it was also in the dystopia genre. And yet, other than just mentioning that the world as we know it has come to an end, Illea is the new America, and China is a superpower called New Asia, we really see nothing of the dystopia in The Selection.
The Elite on the other hand, is a whole different story. The romance is by no means downplayed–America’s obsession with Aspen and Maxon was still enough to drive me crazy and make me want to hit her every now and then–and while I still find it ridiculous that no one owns a history book, oh and the palace still hasn’t upgraded their security even though rebels keep attacking in every few chapters, there weren’t really as many loopholes in The Elite as there were in The Selection. Kiera Cass really did a lot of improvements with this sequel.
What I did have problems with was the nature of Maxon’s relationship with America. I love couples who have to work to be happy with each other, because that is how it is in real life, but with Maxon and America there is a huge gap of trust, and–to be completely honest–faithfulness. Whenever Maxon and America go through a rough patch, they turn to different people to distract themselves and be rid of the stress. Even though I still ship them, I think I would prefer it if they developed their relationship more and became more loyal to each other before taking things any further.
The Ending: I was seriously happy with the ending of this book. It gave a nice conclusion to all the events that had happened in The Elite, and while it was no cliffhanger, it was good enough for me to start reading the third and final book immediately.
Coming up: The One (The Selection #3) by Kiera Cass review.