As worthy a follow-up as one might expect to The Selection, The Elite picks up right where the first book left off. America (“Mer”) is one of the remaining contenders to become the bride of Prince Maxon of Illéa and she surprises herself by feeling strongly for the prince. However, Aspen, the boyfriend she left behind at home after he broke her heart is now at the palace serving as a guard and she finds herself caught between the two. There’s also supposed to be an element of danger here because— as she learns by example —to be caught being disloyal to the prince during the competition can be deadly.
But let’s talk about the part of the book that is more interesting: Mer begins to learn the secret history of Illéa via diaries from the country’s founder, an ancestor of Prince Maxon’s, and she begins to understand why the rebels cause so much trouble. When Maxon ticks her off, she decides to make a big show of her defiance of the current natural order of things— the caste system —on live TV, and makes a decision so incredibly stupid that it really, really takes one out of the novel. There is subsequently a ridiculously cliché reveal relating to Maxon that should be sad but ultimately shrieks of desperation to make you feel for the character…he was already relatable so I’m not really sure why this became necessary; instead it turns an understandable conflict into sort of a vaudevillian good guys vs mustache-twirling bad guys thing.
And still, Mer is mostly just kind of worried about her romantic scenario. I wouldn’t begin to guess what the author has in mind but Aspen seems like a pretty dull throwaway character right now, despite having some reasonable development at the beginning of the first book.
I’m invested enough to read the finale when it comes out, but as with the first book, it’s a guilty pleasure; the series panders hard and fast.