Here’s the thing: This was a highly entertaining read. It’s basically The Bachelor but in a dystopian America: drama, drama, drama. Once I reached page 140, I was a little more invested, because that’s when the worldbuilding actually started.
The world itself is interesting, and I wish there was even more of it! I think the overall themes and commentary on the current American society are great, including purity culture, self worth based on class, and the US’ relationship with China, despite the main character’s name being too on the nose.
The writing is…not great. Too much telling. And if felt too unpolished, too unedited.
The dialogue is stiff and too direct. Aspen’s character is such an asshole; Maxon comes off as a little, well, off; America is basically, “Oh, poor me. Everyone thinks I’m beautiful enough to win this contest, but I don’t think I’m good enough and want to go home to my asshole boyfriend.”
I also couldn’t help but compare this to The Hunger Games the entire time I was reading. That might be my own fault, but I think there were just too many similarities (though watered down similarities, to be fair).
This had the potential to be a great commentary on American society, but what can you do!