Thursday, December 6, 2012

It's Better to Be Selective

So, we are midway through Dead Week here at the U.W. - so named due to the glazed-over eyes, lackluster pallor, and inability to respond to questions, unless in monosyllables, that students exhibit while in the crunch of studying for last-second grade pick-ups - and I'm feeling unproductive. I am tired of walking through the house, seeing people draped over desks in mental exhaustion, gradually accruing more and more mugs of tea that have already grown cold from waiting for so long, rubbing their tired eyes, pining for bedtime. Granted, this is usually at around 1 am, when my hours-long Pinterest spree has finally reached its half-hearted conclusion, but still. People are freaking, and I'm responding by doing... less than I should be. Hence, the unproductive spirit.

In a desperate attempt to do something of personal benefit, I decided to dig out my Kindle from its months-long exile and order a novel that was cute and fluffy, that I could use as a sweet escape from the bitter tang of a wasted day. This sort of craving usually entails a trip down the romance aisle of YA, but instead, I chose to check out a novel of which I had heard both praise and condemnation: The Selection, by Kiera Cass. Still a romance, but with the mass-market inflection of a dystopian future, the combination of which, the summary promised, was a mixture of "The Bachelor and The Hunger Games". Besides, that cover, I must admit, is pretty damn gorgeous. And if there's the word "princess" anywhere in the description, you can bet that I am going to be all over it. I was actually interested in the story, and excited to read this book. 

I was looking for an ego-boost, which is the typical result of reading YA for me, but I don't think there is anything in the world that is more demoralizing than consuming a novel you thought would be an actual source of entertainment, only to find it was simply another by-product of the radioactive waste pile that is current YA lit.  Simply a mutated mass of woefully misrepresented genres and glinting with the shards of deconstructed and overused plot structures, The Selection hardly strayed above a fifth grader's vocabulary, sloppily wandered through what was either a malformed or a deliberately ambiguous story line, and almost crumbled in several key places due to the sheer unreality the author was attempting to pass off as a convincing universe. I initially thought, even if it was bad, that I would be able to pass this off as a topic of conversation to my 13-year-old sister, but now, I don't think there could be anything in the world worse for her spunky spirit, than a heroine who masquerades as a fiery redhead, when in reality, there was hardly any spark in her attitude at all. 

America Singer - widely lambasted as the worst name to hit pop culture since "Renesmee"'s introduction in Stephanie Meyer's Breaking Dawn - is as just as irritating and ineffectual a heroine as her name is an actual name. Proclaimed to be stubborn, feisty, and inspirational, America is only stupid, flat, and insipid. She bemoans the unjust and strictly enforced caste system in place in her desperately-wants-to-be-futuristic land of Illea, and in particular, the fact that this means she can't marry the prideful and ungrateful boy, Aspen, who she has loved (no, it's really "love," really, she repeats the word, for emphasis, almost once for every time this book gets a bad review on Goodreads) for two years (by the way, she's 17). Then she immediately writes off poor plain Prince Maxon as a snob and a bore because he's in a different caste as well. 

And did I mention that she MOCKS the idea of being a Princess? That she didn't want to be a part of the Selection at all? She only joined in because her constant mood-swing of a boyfriend broke up with her after she gave him the gift of food - which is the LAST THING IN THE WORLD a boy would ever do in response to a girl cooking him dinner, least of all when he is poor and starving - and because her mother bribed her to do it. Also, this dear prince we are supposed to immediately side with, is at times normal, at most other times a robotic being devoid of any capability besides getting irrational or being stiff, conversationally stilted, and essentially unfamiliar as anything resembling a teenage boy. America actually knees him in the groin at one point in the book, which I believe is a fairly natural response to anyone overusing the words "dear" and "shall" to his extent. 

Also, you can't compare something to the Hunger Games, and then have nobody die. That's just misrepresentation, faulty PR work on your part. 

And such incongruencies are not even the worst of it. Such a banal, ridiculous and contrived plot line there has never been before. I can't stand the characters, the vague and abstract threat that this "dystopian" future supposedly holds, and especially the fact that any of what's going on is supposed to inspire any sort of empathy or excitement. The reason I sped through this book in two hours alone probably owes less to my reading ability, and more to the inability of Cass to build the kingdom of Illea up as anything more than a cardboard castle, a forced, stereotypical love triangle, all with a flimsy support system of a lackluster heroine and the feeble, shopworn threat of death - whether it be at the hands of truly unbelievable laws or barbarian rebels that don't seem to cause much damage. 

At any rate, its been a while since I've found a novel that could inspire this much despondent head-shaking, mourning the fact that this sort of manufactured drivel is being spoon-fed into the underdeveloped minds of young, impressionable women. Like my sister. 

Who I am now going to be buying a VERY NICE book for Christmas.

So I guess  I at least did something productive for today.