A few months ago I heard about this book series that is popular with young teen girls. Its called The Selection. It is essentially about how a Prince chooses his bride by doing a version of The Bachelor. Now I must admit I was amazed that it was so popular with this generation of girls (I thought we were over this whole boy gets to chose whatever girl he wants idea). Anyway I decided that I needed to read the series so I could have a proper informed opinion about these books.
First things, there are quite a few books in this series and I have read the first 3 which are the original books in the series. Each book took me an afternoon to read – they are a very easy read.
The basic story. This is set in a Dystopian world where there is a country ruled by a Royal Family and everyone in the country is bound by their caste. Your caste is determined by who your parents are and it determines what job you can do and hence your income and living conditions. The people in the lower castes have a really hard time, they survive on little food and little money, often going hungry and will sometimes steal food. I must admit the lower castes did remind me of the districts in The Hunger Games (which honesty if you are looking for a Dystopian series, The Hunger Games books are a far superior series to read.)
In this world the young Prince needs to find a wife and he does this via a process called The Selection. All the girls in the country of a suitable age (between 16 and 20) submit an application and he then chooses 35 to come to the Palace to meet him. America Singer, the main character is 16 years old and although she is in love with another boy she is persuaded to submit her application and ends up being one of the 35 chosen (have to admit first alarm bell for me – she is only 16 years old and is being “pushed” into this selection where she has no real power). She goes to the palace, with no intention of winning the prince over but over time she falls in love with him (although she does keep stringing her former boyfriend along – another thing which I did not like was how the “heroine” treats the former boyfriend, just stringing him along – not a good role model).
That is the rough outline.
From a Dystopian angle it is an interesting look at the concept of forcing people to live in a caste system, where your caste determines everything about you and limits your future. It is an interesting idea and one that would spark thoughts about how we treat people without even getting to know them, or how some people have an advantage purely based on the family they are born into. From this point of view I do not mind the story and think it is interesting concept for a Dystopian story but it is the idea of the selection that really concerns me.
During this selection the Prince dates a number of girls, while they act in a very submissive, doting manner, competing for his attention. There is a scene where one of the girls in the selection falls in love with someone else and she and her boyfriend are beaten in public for shaming the prince. I struggled with this concept, the idea that all these girls are at his disposal and he gets to choose who he wants. It is a concept that I found unsettling because it is written in a way that young teen girls are loving it. The prince is on the whole, kind and his relationship with the main character is intriguing. So I can see why young teens find this entertaining. But that for me is the problem. This is not the kind of situation you would ever want your daughter to be in so why is it being romanticised in this way. Why is the competition between these girls for the attention of this Prince something that we would want out teens to read? The entire message of dating several people at once, being in a contest for affection, not feeling secure in your relationship, being inferior to the dominate male, this for me is troubling.
I really do struggle with this. I believe that what we read is important (just like what we watch on TV). What we put into our brains makes a difference.
The other thing that concerns me is I have seen suggestions that this series is for kids aged 11 and over. Nope, sorry I would say more like 15 years. Just based on content and how relationships are portrayed I really would not be comfortable with an eleven-year old girl reading this. There are some scenes which are quite explicit and I really do think this is more for an older teen.
I would never ban my daughter from reading this series but I am also not going to encourage her to read it. However if she does chose to read it I will make a point of discussing the selection process with her, and I will highlight a few of the very negative relationships that are depicted in this book.