America Singer is a seventeen year old girl who grew up in a caste system society, and when she has the opportunity to make a difference, she must decide if she wants a future as a princess, or if she wants to return home to a world familiar to her. When seventeen year old America Singer enters The Selection, a competition where 35 girls must compete for the love (and the hand) of Prince Maxon, she never expected to last as long as she did and become one of The Elite--one of six girls still competing for Maxon's love and the royal crown. Although America has come to realize she may love Maxon, she does not want to become a princess and accept all the responsibilities that come with it. Plus, there's Aspen, the boy who America fell in love with before she entered the Selection and when he turns up at the palace as a guard, her life gets immensely more complicated.
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America remains in the palace, learning rules and how to run a country. On one of her dates with Maxon, she asks him what Halloween is. Since he doesn't know, he shows her the royal library and makes her swear to keep it a secret. Together, they learn about Halloween, and Maxon lends a private journal to America. This jounal used to belong to Gregory Illea, the first King of Illea, the country the old United States has become.
Marlee is also part of the Elite and she and America are still close friends. Marlee encourages America to end the competition and agree to marry Maxon, but America resists, even when Maxon throws her a Halloween Party and invites the families of the remaining girls. Maxon admits he would have already married America except for her reluctance, and that night, America decides to accept him if he asks her. However, the next morning, America is woken up and told to dress in black.
All the girls (except Marlee) are escorted outside. Marlee and another guard have been having an affair during her time at the Selection--a crime punishable by death. Maxon shows them mercy by stripping them of their castes (making them Eights) and publically whipping them. Broken hearted, America is determined to leave because she felt betrayed my Maxon. However, he convinces her to stay.
One morning, the girls are outside planning a reception when rebels attack the palace. Panicking, America runs into the nearby forest and climbs a tree. While there, a rebel girl spies her and gives a mocking bow before running off with a large pile of books. America is found and returned to the worried Prince.
But, America and Maxon begin to drift apart, and to battle this, America throws herself into her studies, including planning a reception for the Italians. The Princess of Italy takes a liking to America and unofficially supports her because in America, she sees a potential ally who would also like to erase the caste system. America begins to see Aspen in private, even after witnessing what happened to Marlee.
Her emotions for Aspen return and after seeing Maxon make out with Celeste (America's least favorite person), America is DONE. She decides that for the philanthropy project she is supposed to plan, she will plan to eradicate the caste system, and leave the competition with a bang!
However, her presentation accomplished nothing, and had the unforeseen consequence of Maxon standing up to his father, the King. America runs into Maxon as he leaves the hospital wing just when a group of rebels attack. They make it to a hidden room, where America discovers he took a beating from his father for her, he rescued Marlee as best he could, and he ALSO wants to end the caste system. However, he's doing it slowly, whereas America ruined her chances to stay after her public denouncing of the system. They talk long into the night, and America realizes she lost her chance with him.
When they are found the next morning, America prepares to leave. At the last minute, Maxon catches her, and tells her that he sent another girl, Natalie, home. He told the King that America was responsible for saving his life, and she is allowed to stay so long as she behaves properly. Maxon also tells her that she has his heart, but not his trust, which she will have to earn back. The second novel in "The Selection Series" ends with the King threatening America, and her maids plotting on how to keep her in the game and win the crown.
Best part of story, including ending:
I really enjoy the combination of love story and politics/intrigue. America is clearly unhappy with how the country is run, but is intimidated by the chance she has to gain power and change it. When you throw in the charming prince, her choice seems obvious, but America's character is complex, making her decisions believable and interesting to read.
Best scene in story:
My favorite scene was when America and her partner threw the reception for the Italian royal family. The scene is one great party, but its also the first time America has to deal with politicking. The Princess of Italy supports America, because she thinks (correctly) that America will be an ally to get rid of the castes, which the Italians dislike.
Opinion about the main character:
What I like least about America Singer is how flighty she is with who she loves. It seems like every other page she flip flops again, loving one and hating the other. To be fair, she's seventeen, but I think how quickly she likes one boy the most, then the other is annoying at times. What I do like, though, is how she portrays love: its not something you can turn on or off, it just IS, and making decisions of the heart is difficult.