It was bound to happen:
I made a feast of this odd little stew of a book, swallowing some sections whole, sometimes savoring a passage as I sorted it into its component ingredients.
Oh, I’m on The Bachelor.
Nope, I’m in The Hunger Games.
America Singer is a lowish-class teenage musician. She lives in a futuristic but recognizable world. Even though she’s just a semi-starving artist, she thinks she’s found true love in the arms of Aspen. But Aspen comes from an even lower caste than she does. They can’t exactly tell their parents they’re dating. And then he dumps her to give her a shot at wedding the country’s most eligible bachelor, Prince Maxon, on a reality TV show.
America kicks up a fuss at all the frills and nail polish and etiquette, but the depth Cass uses to describe it is, well, American. America the country today, like America the character, has a love-hate relationship with royalty, celebrity, and wealth.
Prince Maxon isn’t exactly the guy of our heroine’s dreams, but he turns out to be a decent enough fellow. Naïve, perhaps, but not shallow. He means well. America admits from the start that she would rather just be his friend, not his queen. Perhaps because he finds her blunt honesty refreshing, Maxon keeps her on the show, round after round.
But under the cameras and makeup and fairy-princess story runs political unrest. It’s nowhere as sharp as what you might find in The Hunger Games or a regular teen dystopia. But it’s prevalent enough America, Maxon, and the reader begin to question the deceptive refinement and stability of the world around them. Will they get a happily-ever-after, or is the system so flawed there’s no such thing?
Our heroine America is predictably a champion of the masses and dismissive of fanciness, which of course fascinates our prince. Despite the familiar arrangement, I found this book as a whole interesting. The social commentary is sweet and airy as Cool Whip, but it’s there. And like Cool Whip, you wonder how much is real. I have not decided whether this is a reduced-calorie dystopia that lacks substance, or whether the fluffy airiness that surrounds the social issues is the whole point, and that makes the book brilliant.
A dystopian fairy tale. It’s like eating a mud pie a la mode. You’re just not sure whether to swallow the sweetness down or spit it out.
I look forward to analyzing the next book in the series before I draw any final conclusions.