I bought this book as soon as I'd finished The Selection because it was so fun and enjoyable, this book definitely did not bring the same level of fun.
At the end of the first book America basically said she wasn't going to bother thinking about whether she preferred Aspen or Maxon and try to work out who she was by herself which I thought was pretty smart considering the last three years of her life had been shaped around them, but five pages into this book and it seems she's just forgotten that decision entirely. As much as I want her to start a revolution with her maids and her father and be Queen by herself, it's so obvious that America will end up with Maxon that the majority of this book in which he does something she doesn't like and then she is too afraid to ask him about it and runs to Aspen, who it becomes very clear that she has gotten over and thinks of as a close friend, is so unnecessary. Also if you hadn't picked up on the fact that you were supposed to dislike Aspen in the first book it becomes very clear that's the author's intention when he tells America she wouldn't be a good princess and trying to force her to love him. If it weren't for the Marlee plot, America and Kriss' reception, and the last thirty or so pages when she finally sets both boys straight on her feelings and stands up to the King I would've given up on this book. I had hoped the love triangle wouldn't be prominent like in the first book and we could see America using her position to make some badass changes to society but that is not the case and the one time America manages to stand up for her beliefs on television it is only because she thinks she's leaving anyway. My favourite character in this book is America's father, he's so lovely and obviously is aware of the problems with the government and is trying to learn what he can while still wanting only the best for America, his letters and scenes in this novel really lighten it and make it so much more enjoyable to read. I'll read the last book because I'm a sucker for happy endings and it looks like this triangle has finally been demolished, also if there's hope of more Marlee then I'm in. Only read this book if you enjoyed the first one and want to know what happens next.
Although America is conflicted about Aspen and Maxon, she continues spending the majority of Maxon's free time with him and when they learn about halloween, which was abolished years ago, he decides to resurrect it and throw a halloween ball with all the elite and their families. Before the ball America basically tells Maxon that she chooses him and he then asks her father for permission to propose to her. The morning after the halloween party however, they are brought to a public stage where Marlee and a guard who were caught having sex (which is illegal before marriage in this society) are being sentenced to a life as eights and have to be caned 15 times each. America goes crazy and tries to get Maxon to stop it while trying to charge the stage. She is taken away and restrained in her room and when Maxon comes to see her and to tell her he got her as light a punishment as he could she still doesn't understand how he could do that and if she ever married him how she could do the same thing. There's a number of raids and galas and Maxon starts to have feelings for Kriss so America's really crushed and leans on Aspen. The girls then have to make a presentation for a philanthropy project they would install if they became Queen and a few days before the broadcast on which they will present their ideas, America is going to find Maxon to see if he had read Gregory Ilea's diaries because he was basically an evil tyrant who stole the country. She finds Maxon making out with Celeste and then they have a giant fight where she basically asks to leave and he says he won't let her. She then decides to do her broadcast on abolishing the caste system and after they are off the air the King basically wants to kill her and tells Maxon he has to send her home. Later she is heading to the gardens when she runs into a clearly pained Maxon and before they can say much there is another rebel attack and because of his injuries a guard puts him and America in one of the small sealed safe rooms that are all over the castle and usually used by servants. Once in the closet, for lack of a better word, Maxon gets America to dress his wounds, which were obviously inflicted by his father, and that weren't the first of this kind he'd experienced. He and America finally talk over their problems and explain everything and then spend most of the night kissing and talking until she falls asleep. Just before she is about to leave the next day Maxon tells her that he convinced his father to let her stay as long as she keeps her behaviour in check, he also says that although he loves her, he cannot trust her and she has to earn that back. She decides she is going to fight for Maxon now, and then runs into the King who tells her everything he hates about her and that he's going to stop her from winning.