America (protagonist) is living in the world after America (U.S.A) falls to China, regains its independence, and is ruled by a monarchy. In the new society, things are governed by a caste system. If you a one you are royalty. If you are a six you are servant. If you are an eight, you are considered criminal and an outcast. America is a five, which means her family are all artists, and dependent on the upper castes for income. Which also means they do not have a surplus to eat. Even worse, America is in love with a six named Aspen, who battles hunger to feed his younger siblings. There love seems almost impossible, because marrying a lower caste is highly unusual.
Then, a chance for a different kind of life is given to America. She could become a one, a princess, if she enters the selection. The Selection is where 35 girls are chosen, move to the palace, and one marries Prince Maxon. Although she does not want to answer, Aspen actually encourages her and her family would not worry about food anymore. She enters and is selected.
Upon arrival, America does not expect to bond with some of the other girls, and she definitely does not expect to like Prince Maxon. They agree to be friends, but the reader can clearly see their relationship blossoming, even when America can't. To make matters worse, Aspen is assigned to guard duty in the castle, and America becomes even more torn.
The novel ends with America being told that she makes "The Elite", which is the final eight.
Think I gave a lot away? This novel has so much more in it! I read a lot of books, and it has been a long time since I liked one this much. Definitely a must read!
A dystopia that shows there is still hope
No "I must fight like Katniss to save the world" theme