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The Selection, Book 1

Book review by
Julie A. Carlson, Common Sense Media
The Selection, Book 1 Book Poster Image
Entertaining futuristic take on reality TV dating shows.
Popular with kidsParents recommend

Parents say

age 12+
Based on 8 reviews

Kids say

age 12+
Based on 96 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

The Selection takes a different look at reality TV dating shows. Although similar in scope to shows like The Bachelor, it focuses on the importance of family, bullying, showing kindness toward others, and staying true to yourself.

Positive Messages

Despite discussing beauty and appearances ad nauseam, The Selection shows how beauty is skin deep and appearances can often be deceiving. America worries that she's average and that Prince Maxon won't like her, but she decides she'd rather be herself than a phony. Friendship, loyalty, and bravery are also major themes. At the palace, America befriends the servants and stands up for them in time of need.

Positive Role Models & Representations

America is a sweet and generous character who's not afraid to show her emotions. She loves her family and will do anything to help them out financially, even if it means hurting her relationship with Aspen. Aspen is admirable and wants what's best for America. Prince Maxon is caring, kind, and doesn't push the girls to be anyone other than themselves. Some of the contestants are shallow and concerned more with their appearance and what Maxon thinks of them, instead of who he is as a person.


Mentions of hunting, crop burning, innocent people being killed, and a boy being whipped for stealing food. The attempted rape of a servant by a rebel intruder is also discussed. Rebels attack the palace, but the scenes are brief and not very frightening. In some ways, the scenes are a little hokey and confusing; the politics behind the attacks are far more interesting to the story than the actual contest and what the girls are wearing. Several of "the Selected" girls are extremely competitive with each other when vying for Maxon's attention. One competitor slaps another girl. America often expresses that she'd like to hit Celeste, one of the competitors, and she also knees Maxon in the groin.


Swooning romance, lots of flirting and kissing. America deals with confused feelings over Aspen and Maxon. She and Aspen express love for each other and say that they "want" each other but go no further than kissing. After America is "Selected," palace officials ask whether she's still a virgin. Another offical tells her that she must not refuse Prince Maxon no matter what he wants -- even if it's more than kissing. The competitors aren't allowed to be in a relationship with anyone other than Prince Maxon. If they're caught with someone at the palace, it's considered treason and punishable by death.


Insults like "wimp," "stupid," "shut up," and "damn." Due to jealousy, Celeste directs catty remarks toward America.  

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Characters drink wine at dinner and a party at the royal palace.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Selection is dystopian romance that's a mash-up of Cinderella and The Bachelor, as 35 girls, including the main character, named America, enter a televised competition to marry a prince. Although set in a futuristic United States, The Selection is fairly tame as far as dystopian stories go. The romance leads only to flirting and kissing, and America is a positive role model, a respectful daughter, and a level-headed heroine. America and her fellow competitors express body and self-esteem issues. The only actual violence is a rebel attack on the palace, but the scenes are brief and not very frightening. An attempted rape of a servant by a rebel intruder is discussed but not shown. 

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bySchatz July 15, 2015

Engaging, but...

My 9 year old was recommended this book by our librarian. I told my daughter I would read it first since it came from the teen section. The book has some viole... Continue reading
Adult Written bypoppyblu April 25, 2012

Great YA dystopian book with strong female role models.

I thought the heroine was well developed, and the last sentence in the book implies that America has a strong sense of self. I liked how the history was wound... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written bycleanreader12 October 24, 2013

Too Intimate

Okay... I loved almost everything about the book. The review on common sense media says that all America and her boyfriend do is "just kiss" .if you c... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byHeq073198 June 25, 2012


I enjoyed the original and empathetic premise, but if not for that, I don't think Cass could have been published. Her descriptions were not, well, descript... Continue reading

What's the story?

A hundred years in the future, in the country of Illea (the former United States), girls between the ages of 16 and 20 are chosen through a selection process to marry Prince Maxon Schreave, who's coming of age. The participants are housed at the royal palace and showcased on a TV program. \"The Selection\" is held so princes can marry \"women of the people to keep up the morale of our sometimes-volatile nation.\" Despite loving another boy outside her caste, America Singer enters the competition and is selected to be one of the participants. She soon discovers that Prince Maxon isn't unlikable and snotty, as she assumed him to be, but rather an honorable young man with good intentions.

Is it any good?

Filled with romance and political intrigue, the book is weak in its creation of a dystopian world, but the story's strength lies with protagonist America and her relationships. Throughout the novel, America discovers that she might be fit for the crown, and so does Maxon, who's looking more for an ally and friend than a trophy wife.

That said, while Maxon is charismatic, his characterization often feels wooden and unrealistic. The romance between America and Aspen is more believable. America must decide which of the two boys really has her best interest at heart, and it's a tough decision.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the popularity of dystopian novels, reality dating shows, and why teens and young women are drawn to them. Why do shows like The Bachelor tend to focus on sex, scandal, and fighting among the contestants? Are these shows unhealthy? Do they degrade women and men?

  • What messages does the book send about arranged marriages, especially at such a young age?

  • America's mother is adamant that she enter "The Selection." What do you think about parents who want to live through their children? Or who choose their child's destiny for the good of the family? 

  • Why are so many YA books, like The Hunger Games, optioned for television and movies? Does it make you more or less interested in reading the book if you know there's another media tie-in?

Book details

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