Book Review – The One by Kiera Cass

book cover - the oneMy number finally came up for my library’s copy of The One by Kiera Cass and after finishing it I had to laugh at the timing having just finished Sophie Perinot’s Médicis Daughter (though you’d probably have to both to understand why). There were definitely some surprises in this third installment of Cass’ Selection Series—I’ve already put my name in for the The Heir—surprises that were an improvement on some of the disappointments in The Elite but there are still areas I think could have been stronger.

Having made up her mind to fight for Maxon, America must navigate the more treacherous Selections tasks that King Clarkson puts before her. Still doubtful about both whether she wants the responsibilities that would come with being a princess and where she ranks in Maxon’s affections, America also learns more about the larger political situation the palace and her country are embroiled in—the differences between the northern and southern rebels and what their goals are. She must also confront telling Maxon the truth about her history with Aspen.

The internalized back and forth America succumbs to in the early pages of The One were a little too much like The Elite. Quite frankly, I don’t think it was necessary for them to be two separate novels—the events from both could have been trimmed and condensed enough to make one book a bit longer but stronger and tighter overall. There was more world building in The One—most of which should have been in The Elite but the new characters that came with the world building were engaging and a welcome addition. The events of the final few chapters were well executed and pulled all the right emotional strings but a lot of the lead-up felt unnecessarily stretched.

One of the bigger twists in The One was the redemptive arc for Celeste. I certainly liked her better in this installment but I’m not sure there was enough depth to her redemption—getting an explanation for her terrible behavior earlier doesn’t excuse it and the reactions from the different characters as she makes her apologies aren’t entirely realistic. Given later events in the book, I understand why we were given a better look at Celeste’s character but I feel it’s too little too late for the impact to be what it could have been with a different character—I’m all for redemption arcs but this one just felt forced because it came so late (if it had started in the last book, maybe).

One of the biggest disappointments for me was the world building—or rather, the lack thereof. We finally get a bigger glimpse at the world in which Illéa resides but it isn’t very specific or detailed. There’s a bit of insight into the differences between the northern and southern rebels and we get the origins—sort of—for the northern rebels but not much about those from the south. Some of this might be due to the limitations of using a first person narrator in America—one of the reasons I am so sick of first person narrators, especially in Young Adult fiction. And while the events of the novel’s—and first three books of the series’—climax are exciting and well written, there’s almost nothing concerning the fallout from those events.

I am still eager to read The Heir but knowing there’s a significant time jump and that there’ll necessarily be a tremendous shift to new characters as well, I’m dubious about how much I’ll enjoy it. The answers I still have regarding the politics of Illéa in the first books will likely remain unanswered as the situation should have shifted enough for those details to no longer be relevant, so once more I fear it will be too little too late. While this series had a surprisingly long start, I think there was too much filler and not enough substance overall for the series to have a lasting impact—at least not with me.

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4 thoughts on “Book Review – The One by Kiera Cass

  1. WeAreThePoisonedYouth (BookLoverFob) says:

    Nice review! So you still don’t like Celeste? I agree that there wasn’t too much world-building, but I always saw the series as a light, romantic read rather than a particularly intelligent one. Maybe different people interpret it differently. Did you still like Kriss in this one?

    • Lauryn E. Nosek says:

      I liked her better than I did but it takes a much longer redemption arc to bring me around to characters I don’t like and I really don’t care for situations where I feel like a character is redeemed in order to make what happens to them later more sad. I had the same problem with Stephenie Meyer when she came out with the Short Second Life of Bree Tanner – she couldn’t bring herself to kill off the characters she was attached to so she went back and tried to make the audience care about a character that everyone knew was going to die. Doesn’t work – at least, not for me. I also don’t buy that all the girls Celeste apologized to were just so quickly willing to forgive and forget like that – she was horrible and getting past that kind of treatment takes way more time than it was given in the book (I know and have seen too many people who were bullied like Celeste bullied and it isn’t something that a simple apology fixes).

      You’re right about it being a lighter, more romantic read as opposed to particularly intelligent. Given the premise, I wasn’t expecting the level of world building you’d find in Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, or even Hunger Games, but it just felt… lazy. They’re just the northern rebels and the southern rebels – couldn’t even come up with real names for them? There are tastes of more and so much potential that it breaks my heart to see it left so underdeveloped.

      I do still like Kriss but actually found Elise surpassed her as my favorite of the secondary girls (I think if she’d chosen to kill her off instead of Celeste it would have been better; Elise was so straightforward and simple in many ways, completely unoffensive and her death would have rocked everyone so much more, especially Celeste; seeing her dealing with feelings of survivor’s guilt or something would have done so much more for her redemption in my eyes).

      I really think books 2 and 3 should have been condensed into one – as it is they both feel a bit stretched thin.

      • WeAreThePoisonedYouth (BookLoverFob) says:

        I agree that Elise was a really nice character but, for me, she was still too uptight. It was a sudden turnaround for Celeste but I felt like she really was sorry. In ‘Happily Ever After’ it gives you a better sense of Celeste before The One so maybe that swayed my opinion, but I thought that Celeste being shot was very emotional. Were you on Team Aspen or Team Maxon?

        • Lauryn E. Nosek says:

          I’m not sure I’ll end up bothering with the novellas – they’re in my library wish list for now but it’ll depend on how I like The Heir. I don’t know how much I like the trend in Young Adult fiction of offering other characters’ perspectives like that but that might just be because I’m sick of so many first-person narratives. They’re just too limiting; I like a change of pace within the story, a shift of focus. This series – so far – has been a prime example of how repetitive aspects of it can get without making much forward progress in the plot. I still don’t find Elise uptight but I guess that’s a matter of opinion (actually, I think Kriss felt more uptight). Celeste’s death was well done and quite shocking. I was a little surprised we didn’t get more of the physical/emotional aftermath from the attack. There are only four characters we know whose deaths are confirmed. Was Celeste really the only one of the Selection girls who was killed? Again, wasted opportunities in story telling drive me crazy and while the action was fantastic, there were so many missed opportunities as the story wound down (especially since the fact that she and Maxon would end up together was obvious from Book 1).

          As for Team Aspen or Team Maxon… I never liked Aspen. Right off the bat he set off on one of my feminist pet peeves – getting upset when America wanted to contribute financially to their future, wanting to provide for her and their future all by himself while she became essentially an ornament. It’s the kind of thing that makes me want to slap a character and tell him to get over himself – it’s her future too and she should contribute to it in any way she can, especially if it’s what she wants. I’m afraid he never did anything to dig himself out of that hole, only deeper.

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