America lives in a caste-system society, and when her country's Prince comes of age, she is entered into the Selection with 34 other girls, all competing to become the Prince's wife. America Singer is eighteen years old, and a Five, the number of her caste in a futuristic society where The United States used to be. Her caste is the caste for artists, and she has chosen music as her special talent. The third oldest child, she still lives at home with her parents and two younger siblings, who struggle to make a living, However, their luck is about to change because their government just announced The Selection--an opportunity for all young women.
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The Selection is a process where 35 girls will be selected for Crown Prince Maxon to date, and from that pool, he must choose a wife. America is refuses to enter because she is in love with Aspen, a Six, who is one caste lower than her. America and Aspen must keep their romance a secret for many reasons, but hope for a future together. When Aspen has a bout of guilt for not being able to provide for America, he makes her promise to sign up for the Selection, so he knows she at least had a chance for a better life. His request backfires and America IS selected to partake in the Selection, to the delight of America's mother and her sister, May.
In addition to possibly becoming a "One" (royalty), America is instantly elevated to a Three. Terms for the Selection include becoming property of the royal crown and since she is meant to be there for Maxon alone; any flirting, dating, or writing love letters to another boy will be considered treason and punishable by death.
Aspen and America have a falling out, and America leaves her county thinking that Aspen is in love with another girl, and had no plans to marry her at all. Once at the airport, she meets some of the other girls who she will be "competing" against. Marlee quickly becomes best friends with America, while another girl, Celeste, becomes an instant enemy. America arrives to the palace with 34 other girls, but on the first night, she has a panic attack and runs outside--a place forbidden due to safety issues.
Luckily, Prince Maxon finds her and they become friends, America admits she is there by accident and the next morning during their formal introduction, she makes a deal with him. He will allow her to stay at the palace to avoid Aspen and in return, she will be his friend and give him advice on the other girls. By the end of formal introductions, only twenty-seven girls are left.
America and Maxon soon find themselves confiding in each other and becoming increasingly close. During her stay at the palace, America learns that rebels often attack the palace, and through the course of the novel, two attacks take place. But, America sticks around because she begins to have feelings for Maxon and also because she is trying to push Maxon and Marlee together. But, Marlee has a secret and seems increasingly uninterested in the young prince.
Just as America begins to enjoy herself, she runs into Aspen, who was drafted and then transferred to the palace as a soldier, making him an instant Two (if he survives his service). Torn, America realizes she's still in love with Aspen, but her feelings for Maxon grow stronger. One night when Maxon finally kisses and asks her if she could ever love him, she replies that its possible.
Another attack is launched on the palace and in the aftermath, Maxon declares that he will only keep the six girls he genuinely believes he has a future with, and send the remaining girls home for their safety. The remaining six girls will be known as The Elite, and they include Marlee, Celeste, Kriss, Elise, Natalie, and of course, America.
Maxon tells America if he could be sure she was around just for him (and not the food/avoiding Aspen) he would have already chosen her. Likewise, Aspen tells America that despite it being illegal, he's still going to fight for her because he still loves her. America realizes the Selection wasn't something simply happening to her, but something she will now have to live with and manage.
Best part of story, including ending:
This is such a fun YA novel for girls. If 'The Bachelor' and 'The Hunger Games' had a baby, this book would be it. There is a government oppressing the majority of society, plus a charming, handsome Prince who genuinely cares about his people. I like that its told in first person by America because we get to make discoveries the same time she does.
Best scene in story:
My favorite scene is when Maxon and America formally meet. The night before, America scolded him in the garden and is prepared to be sent home. Instead, Maxon finds her charming and offers to let her stay and eat all the good food she wants. She agrees, and offers him friendship which immediately makes her stand out from the rest. The best part is she genuinely wants to be JUST friends, which lets the audience see her true personality.
Opinion about the main character:
What I like most about America is that she remains true to herself. In the overall plot, it works well, and her frank, cynical attitude makes her insights and observations interesting. Her inner struggle when dealing with her emotions over Maxon and Aspen is also very relatable.