The One Book Review
An alternate title for this review would be “YA Book Review: The One, or, That Time I Wished the Book I Was Reading Was More About the Political Intrigue in the Background and Less About the Characters,” but that was too long of a title to fit on the title block. But seriously. I’ll come back to that discussion in a bit. You may be thinking that I had really mixed feelings about this book, and you would be correct.
The One is the final book in “The Selection Trilogy” by Kiera Cass, made up of The Selection, The Elite, and The One, with a follow-up series (Book One is The Heir, and it was released not long ago). It’s Cass’ debut series, and for the most part, it fits beautifully into the YA Dystopian Novel Niche. I picked up the series out of curiosity because it was described as “The Hunger Games meets The Bachelor,” and I was intrigued. The knowledge that Cass based her story off of the Biblical story of Queen Esther also made me want to read and see what all the fuss was about.
The series takes place in the land of Ilea, what the United States is called after the Fourth World War. The country is divided up into caste systems, each caste having their own roles to play in society (ones being royalty and eights being laborers). When it comes time for the heir to the throne to marry, all eligible women who wish to may be entered into a drawing and one from each of the 35 provinces will be sent to compete for the heir’s hand in marriage in a competition called The Selection. This pool of 35 will be narrowed down to The Elite, and from that pool, the prince will choose his bride.
Our heroine is America Singer, a five. She is entered into the Selection by her mother and catches the eye of the Prince, Maxon. But there is political unrest (two different rebel forces are constantly attacking), the King is a harsh and unfeeling leader and America is torn between Maxon and her first love, Aspen (a six who broke her heart). Rebecca already reviewed the first two books in the series, so check out that review below!
If you haven’t read the other two books, there will be spoilers below. I am going to try to keep this as spoiler-free as possible, but something that I don’t count as a spoiler may be one to you, so watch for that. With that, let’s take a closer look at the conclusion to “The Selection Trilogy,” The One.
I’m just going to come right out and say it, the love triangle was frustrating to me in The One. I understood it in the first book, where America is torn between the world of fives and sixes that she knows and the world of ones and Maxon. She clings to Aspen, despite the pain he caused her because he was part of her old world and she wasn’t sure she could fit into the new one. I got that.
That aspect of America’s conflict made sense to me. What I didn’t like was how that became her central thought process; I wished more time could have been spent with her feeling torn between two worlds, not two men who represented those worlds.
I also wished that she had just been honest with Maxon. I get that she was in the process of dating a man who was dating 34 other girls (and 3 of them seriously), but he trusted her, so her returning that trust would have been neat. He also told her, in no uncertain terms, that she could just give the word and he would pick her (so the other three girls were really just backup in case America flaked out and were since halfway through the first book).
Also, technically, Aspen becomes a two when he joins the palace guard, so he’s not from her old world anymore. I felt like the love conflict could have been resolved much earlier (at the end of the first book, or the middle of the second, when America realizes that Maxon is worth being a one for), allowing more time to focus on the fascinating political backdrop and the relationships among the girls in the Selection, which had lots of very interesting dynamics.
Whatever else I might think about the story of The One, I loved this world that Cass has created. It’s fun and has bits of The Hunger Games as well as shades of The Giver. It’s an intriguing mix, and again, I really enjoyed it. The idea of a Selection as both a country-wide moral booster and a way to entertain people was an interesting twist as well.
However, maybe it’s because I’ve been watching too many debates, but I wanted the in-depth back-story to Ilea, the politics that shaped it and were still shaping it, more information about the Northern Rebels and the Southern Rebels, the Resistance and all those other details. The reason I didn’t get this, I’m sure, is because America tells the story and she’s a five, so she really doesn’t know these stories.
This put me in the awkward position, however, of wanting to read the story that is hinted at more than the story that is there. There is some interesting political stuff happening here! The Southern Rebels are trying to kill everyone, the Northern Rebels want to dissolve the castes and support Maxon, there is a secret support network for the Northern Rebels throughout the kingdom and one of the Elite is a member, America is able to gain the support and admiration of the Italian Nation, the Southern rebels are attacking the families and castes of the Elite, and the hidden heir of the founder of Ilea appears and offers his support to Maxon when he becomes king.
Lots of exciting things are happening in Ilea, and America right in the middle of it, like Cinder, was in “The Lunar Chronicles,” another dystopian YA series that has recently been released. But America sometimes seems to be most concerned that she might hurt Aspen’s feelings, or that Maxon might pick another girl. Sigh.
I realize that America’s pain and indecision are real to her. Heartbreak is serious. I also know that the romance is central to the plot, it’s about the Selection, after all, but I wanted her to get out a bit and tell me more about her country and the other people she was interacting with. I didn’t really care about many of the other girls in the Selection, they were just there. There are some exceptions to this, several big ones, actually, but that was my overall impression. Less moping, more action and more relationships with more people!
My favorite parts of the book are when America is quietly and respectfully subversive; she is given several chances to use her new status to affect change, and she does so. The people end up loving her, she wins the heart of the prince and her presence and genuinely honest nature gains the kingdom new allies that it might not otherwise have had.
I also really enjoyed the relationship America had with Maxon. I thought they were sweet together and I was pretty sure that the love triangle wasn’t as much as much of a triangle as America thought it was. It was well fleshed out over the course of the series and they ended up caring for each other deeply. Because of this, I ended up giving the book a higher romance rating than I expected.
The other thing that I loved was the way America and the other girls interacted, although I wanted to see more of that dynamic. I have always thought that must be hard, to be one of many women dating the same man for the entertainment of others while trying to find love. I thought that Cass showed the vulnerable side of that dynamic in both Maxon and America. Her struggles as she watches him date other people feel real, and his struggles as he tries to pick his future wife and one of the rulers of his country from 35 women that he is dating while under national scrutiny also feels real and I feel bad for the guy (and all 35 women).
The conflicts seem well thought out; the girls fight like 35 women dating one man with the bonus of becoming a princess. The strict laws of the kingdom also play a part and are shown as having given rise to both Rebel groups. Because we see into America’s head, we have a clearer idea of what she is thinking, which is both good and bad. On one hand, we can clearly see her motivations, but on the other hand, we don’t know when she’s wrong until she does. Finally, it’s a realistic futuristic book in that characters are hurt and some characters die.
The One is the final book in the series and so has to wrap everything up from the previous books. For the most part, The One covers the major plot points, which I’m not going to mention in detail because of spoilers. Overall, it’s a satisfactory conclusion to a series that I think is a bit like cotton candy. It’s fluffy, warm and sweet, perfect for a warm summer day or for reading while you’re curled up in a big, fluffy blanket with cocoa.
Is “The Selection” my favorite dystopian YA fiction series to come out in the last decade? No. Is it one I’ll probably reread in the future? Most likely. Am I going to read The Heir when it comes out? Of course I am, I already bought it. Like I said, I had very mixed feelings about this series.
If Kiera Cass was at the wheel and seriously involved, this could be a great series of films. She could put in all the political intrigue and other characters that were hinted at but not developed because it was America’s story. Casting-wise, I would probably put Jane Levy as America, Logan Lerman as Aspen, William Moseley as Maxon and Tom Felton as August. Those are the only characters that popped into my brain though there are tons of them. Who would you cast in the roles?
You can buy The One on Barnes and Noble or Amazon
“I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship”
“In vain I have struggled. It will not do. My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.”
How did you feel about the series? About The One? Do you agree? Disagree? Tell me why in the comments!
Pin this article to read later! And make sure to follow us on Pinterest.