I'm going to start this out on a foot of objectivity and inoffensiveness, by saying, I'm well aware this series has a large fanbase. I know you're out there, you've been plenty vocal on Goodreads, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest and more. You guys aren't just there, you're active. Books don't just appear on the New York Times Bestseller Lists... there are many people out there who love this book and enjoy this series, and I acknowledge not only your presence, but your success at ensuring this book does well on the major markets.
Now, I'm getting personal. I am NOT one of those people. I think this book series has a lot of issues, and I mentioned as much in my original review of The Selection, the first book in the series. I didn't even bother writing a review for the novel's sequel, I thought it was such a waste of my time. And I'd clearly like to state, that despite the fact that the fan base is rather large, that doesn't mean there aren't plenty of people also taking my side of the discussion.
In fact, two of those people are members of my sorority (and I realize how lucky I am to have them). As you might imagine, we have had A LOT to say to each other about this series. Recently, I had the opportunity to catch up with one of said friends, and sort of casually book-club The One. Thanks to the nature of Facebook conversations, I was provided with documentation.
The major complaints we found with The One are organized in order discussed:
- That Epilogue was 21 flavors of unnecessary and 50 shades of "well,duh."
- If you haven't been calling the resolution of this epic fail of a love triangle since Day One, then you just haven't been paying attention.
- It was almost like there was a specific amount of page space she was allowed to take up with actual plot, and in attempt to control quantity rather than quality, a plot bomb exploded, and irregular plot pacing, new characters, old characters, and new narrative elements were sent careening through the novel.
- Meanwhile, during one of the most climatic parts of the novel, our main character is trapped in a closet. *cue R. Kelly track*
- The deaths of some major characters left us not unsteady or shocked... but giggling. Really, you're going to kill off a major character in a supposedly-dystopian Universe due to some "heart trouble"?
- America manages to finagle her way into a scrape in a back alley, and suffers some kind of misguided epiphany, all "Yes, a bullet barely grazed my shoulder, and now I'm getting stitches... I suddenly understand the plights of all people #enlightenment" (That may be paraphrasing, but the sentiment is there).
- Meanwhile, several revelations come into play, where it is discovered that specific people close to America were secretly Rebels all along... and it doesn't freaking matter. Literally, at all. No one cares.
- At certain times, where major characters' lives are hanging in the balance, you almost want to smack them for being so over dramatic, when clearly, they are not going to die.
- And, of course, the "death monologue" being one of my least favorite and the dumbest plot devices ever written, made everything even more absolutely melodramatic and ridiculous.
- At the end, you were kind of left just asking... so what? What happened to the prisoner? What's happening with Kriss, who had some secrets of her own come to light? And Aspen, Maxon and America all get conveniently happy endings? NOTHING MATTERED.
I'm not going to lie, about any of it. The plot is not well constructed. The characterizations are awful. The novel follows through with just about every cliche in the novelist's handbook... nothing is new or unexpected. And yet, I didn't just purchase all three... I pre-ordered two of them, and read them both on the days they came out. This series was one I looked forward to, actively, despite its flaws. I don't know what kept me so addicted, but I was. I wholeheartedly bought into everything surrounding this series, even though I didn't like it, at all. It's honestly something I'm still trying to figure out.
Therefore, due to my significant background with this series, I especially feel well-supported when I can definitely say this: Kiera Cass grew as an author throughout the production of this series. There were marked improvements between the three installments of this series, with complexities of language and plot escalating, as well as attention paid to not only reader feedback, but especially the demand for stakes and danger, as befitting the ties to the dystopian genre. While we definitely had problems with The One just as much as we had with The Selection, there were deliberate efforts made for improvement, and that's what I not only want to specifically acknowledge, but encourage. Cass is reasonably new to the game, and is definitely going to be someone continuing to work on the YA scene. She's going to get better. So, congrats to Cass.