Kiera Cass has created a future dystopian United States where a royal family rules and everyone lives in a caste system. The ones being the royals and the eights are homeless people with no welfare and no education. America Singer is a five, which means her family are artists and musicians. She sings and plays several instruments. Whether her family eats is based on whether her father sells paintings or she and her mother get performance gigs. Kind of like Cinderella meets” The Bachelor”, the handsome prince Maxom is at the age where he needs a bride. To keep the country’s moral up, eligible girls from all castes compete to win his heart and become the country’s future queen. The families of the 35 girls are given money for as long as the girl stays in the competition. For America’s family this is the answer to a lot of problems. Most girls would kill for this shot, but America is already in love, a forbidden love to a boy in a lower caste. Marrying him would mean a much harder life than she already has. When she is picked to go to the palace her boyfriend encourages her to go and then dumps her, leaving America angry and confused. In this state she meets Prince Maxon and takes out her frustration on him. Maxon is a sheltered, well mannered boy whose experience with girls is nonexistent. He is completely baffled by her. She explains how much this competition means to her family, but she doesn’t expect him to fall for her. Instead she strikes a deal with him. Friendship. She will be his friend on the inside, helping him navigate through all the women. The things I enjoy most about this book is that growing friendship and Cass’s world building. She creates a world where U.S. History is not widely known and people are kept in the dark. The United States was taken over by China because of the nation’s debt to China. A war ensues and the solution results in a new version of the U.S. which has none of the same freedoms. There are curfews and low caste families are denied birth control. Premarital sex is also illegal. I truly enjoyed this book. Teen girls are going to gaga for it with the dreamy boys and the clothes. It is an easy sell for reluctant readers. I am looking forward to the sequel The Elite which will come out sometime in 2013. I am also curious about the TV series that is being shot for the CW. Keira Cass has updates on both the show and the sequel on her website at www.kieracass.com.
Some ideas for discussing with teens:
Talk about the caste system and compare it to countries like India that have one.
Why do you think Aspen had his arm around the girl as America left for the palace?
What was your first impression of Maxon?
Talk about the growing friendship between Maxon and America.
America had never been around a bunch of girls. They were catty and she was not. Why do you think girls act like that? If they were not around other catty girls would they be catty themselves?
Compare the book to the show ” The Bachelor.” Compare it to The Hunger Games.
Talk about the old history book with the pages ripped out. Why would someone want to hide U.S. History?
Discuss Maxon’s ignorance about how other people lived. Talk about his decision to create the food program.
Discuss how her feelings for Maxon changed.
Who would you choose Maxon or Aspen? Who do you think America should choose?