I gave these books a fair chance. I didn’t judge them too harshly because it was clear that they were not intended to be heavy and intense. I found the first one surprisingly enjoyable and the second somewhat so because they were light and fun and I really loved America. So I did find things I liked about them, saw the potential, and wanted to like this final installment.
But I can only deal with certain things for so long.
My biggest issue (I know I’m repeating what I said in the other reviews, but they’re my reviews, I do what I want lol) was that this series did not consist of three books with three stories. It was just one story cut into three pieces and spread out into three books. This is a deal-breaker for me. I LOVE series. I completely get the whole series-having-one-overarching-goal thing. But that’s not what this was. Each book should’ve had an inciting incident, a goal, rising action, a climax, and some sort of resolution. The first book had the inciting incident. I guess we can call the second book the rising action. The third book had the climax and resolution. I gave the books a chance anyway and read them all, but I finally got too fed up with it during this last one and was ready for it end already because then at least I’d get some sort of resolution. Then, when it did end, it felt very rushed and sudden.
Second, I couldn’t handle the love triangle–but not for the reasons you think. *SPOILER ALERT… technically, I guess? (I think it was pretty obvious from the beginning who she’d choose but don’t read this part if you really don’t know – I couldn’t get my spoiler hiding tag to work on the list.)* Just the other day I was watching a video on BookTube in which the person asked if anyone in the world was actually on Team Aspen. Me! I was on Team Aspen. And here’s why:
- Maxon was a cookie-cutter character. He was kind, understanding, good-looking, rich, royal, perfect. That’s exactly why he was perfectly boring. I can accept that some people like those kinds of characters because reading isn’t real life and should be fun and all that, but I’m not one of those people. I don’t like perfect characters. But he somehow also managed to come across as a jerk half the time with the secrets and princeliness. And then there were the “romantic” things he was constantly saying… Look, I’m a total sap. I’m far more likely to cry over something sweet a character says than a character death. But the things he was saying, especially toward the very end, had me cringing. Yeah, Aspen was too proud and ungrateful in the first book which obviously weren’t good qualities, but he was also a more passionate person about things, more genuinely romantic, and a far more interesting character. But also…
- America was on Team Aspen, at least for the first 2.5 books. He was clearly the one she truly loved. The entire story wasn’t about her deciding between Maxon and Aspen, it was about her deciding whether she actually had feelings for Maxon or not. She even said herself that Aspen was the one constant among everything else, and that her love for him was always there in the background, just covered up sometimes by everything else going on. Her feelings for him never wavered. It was just that her feelings for Maxon came and went. There was never any doubt in her mind about Aspen, never any thoughts that she’d be unhappy with him, never any worry that she’d change her mind, never any negative thoughts period. But she constantly had negative thoughts about Maxon and lost her feelings for him and was stressed out about him. Don’t you think that, I don’t know, maybe that’s a sign that he’s not right for you when all he does is cause you stress and doubt? If you’re feelings for someone waver that much and that constantly, I don’t think you should be dating him. Maybe that’s just me? So I felt like the love triangle was based on a nonexistent problem because I didn’t understand why she wasn’t just with Aspen.
- Lastly in my list of reasons why I was Team Aspen, the way Aspen and his relationship with America was described, it was so much more deep and romantic and sweet and meaningful. For example,
In an instant a thousand secrets that Aspen and I had built and saved flooded my mind: the names we’d picked out for our imaginary children, our tree house, his ticklish spot on the back of his neck, the notes we’d written and hidden away, my failed efforts in making homemade soap, games of tic-tac-toe played with our fingers on his stomach … games where we couldn’t remember our invisible moves … games he always let me win.
I remembered suddenly that Aspen had always been this way. He sacrificed sleep for me, he risked getting caught out after curfew for me, he scrounged together pennies for me. Aspen’s generosity was harder to see because it wasn’t as grand as Maxon’s, but the heart behind what he gave was so much bigger.
It was just so much more meaningful than the way Maxon did things like throw her big parties that required no work, no effort, no commitment, no risk on his part. I get it that everyone has memories like that with exes and it doesn’t always mean two people should stay together, but America and Aspen didn’t actually split up because of relationship problems or incompatibility, so I didn’t see any real reason for them to not get back together. *END SPOILER*
Another issue I had with the book was that I finally got fed up with America. As I’ve said, I loved her from the beginning because I found her relatable and loved that she was taking her time to make a decision rather than being pressured into rushing into a relationship. And I loved that she was upfront about it. But then she kept thinking things like,
I was here. And sometimes I didn’t understand why. Maxon was still spending time with Kriss, even after all he’d done to get me to stay. The rebels unrelentingly attacked our safety from the outside, and inside, the king’s icy words did just as much damage to my confidence. All the while, Aspen orbited me, a secret I had to keep. And the cameras came and went, stealing pieces of our lives to entertain the people. I was being pushed into a corner from every angle, and I was missing out on all the things that had always mattered to me.
And all I could think was, then leave already and be with Aspen if you’re so unhappy with Maxon and everything related to him. It seemed like a really obvious solution. And normally I don’t call characters in love triangles selfish, but what bothered me was the fact that she literally kept telling each guy she wanted to be with him and giving him false hope before then changing her mind. Again. And again. And again. Then, out of nowhere, after spending the first two books and a third of the last book going on and on about the feelings she still had for Aspen and not being able to imagine life without him and how her love for him was always there, she suddenly thought to herself, “And even though I wasn’t in love with Aspen, he still mattered to me, and I didn’t want to cause him pain.” Wait, what? When did that happen? And that was it. With a snap of her fingers, all feelings for Aspen were done and gone. I knew from the start she wouldn’t end up with him, but it bothered me because I had no clue when or how or why it happened so suddenly. But it still didn’t fix things because, even though she’d decided she was in love with Maxon and knew that he felt that way from the very beginning, she kept avoiding the subject, wasn’t willing to tell him she loved him first, kept pushing him away over little things, and generally just acted unnecessarily weird about the whole thing. For example, “Maybe Maxon did love me, but if he wasn’t man enough to say it out loud…” Why did she expect him to say it if she didn’t want to say it? She had a ridiculous double standard that it was ok for her to do (or not do) all these things but got angry when Maxon did the same. That might not be a big deal to other people, but I see that far too much in real life, the way women expect the men to always be the ones to take the risks, speak their feelings, chase the women, etc. and feel like they should never have to do those things themselves, so it bothered me.
Overall, I can understand why people like this series. I really can. I could’ve liked it, too–it had potential and a fun romance premise and a character with a personality I loved, at least in the beginning. So if you haven’t read it yet and it sounds like your kind of book, I say go for it. But I feel like a better option would’ve been to cut Aspen’s character, eliminate the love triangle, focus more on the Selection and the rebels, and combine all three books into one. Or to plump up each book with its own goal and story so that it was worth splitting into three books. If it had been like that, I think I could’ve overlooked the smaller flaws and given it a much higher rating. As it was, I just ended up frustrated with the whole series.