The One (The Selection #3) by Kiera Cass (2014), narrated by Amy Rubinate
The Selection and The Elite. If you haven't read them, proceed at your own risk.
What I thought was the final book in this series* begins with America in a precarious position. The king is extremely displeased with her and she had narrowly avoided being sent home at the end of The Elite. But she's not ready to give up yet. The stakes are getting very high - both inside and outside the palace walls - and in this politically-charged climate America finally feels ready to seal the deal with Maxon and become his princess.
So much happened in this book! America's friendship with the other remaining girls really solidified, tragedy struck her personal life, she grew to really admire Queen Amberly, and stopped waffling about Maxon v. Aspen. When she thought it was over for her and she had lost, she realized that she still wouldn't go back to Aspen, so thank goodness that love triangle was somewhat sorted out.
Of course that doesn't mean that everything was fine with her relationship with Maxon. There was still some neurosis between those two. She and Maxon had a few too many conversations in which they each tried to convince the other to finally proclaim their love, but they were both too scared. I kind of wanted to knock their heads together. But, you know, in a friendly way, because I still really like them both.
America really was too outspoken for her own good and I got a little frustrated with her at times. She had some fairly radical views that, of course, the king disapproved of. When called upon to publicly say or do things that went against her views, she balked. Which I totally get on one level, but still. She couldn't seem to understand that she could do way more good if she was able to actually become princess, than the small amount of good she'd do in these individual little acts of rebellion.
I worried a lot about the ending, especially because the rebel attacks kept getting worse throughout the series and I just knew major characters would die eventually. But I also had other hopes for the ending, and many things went the way I wanted them to. All in all I was satisfied with the outcome.
I found this entire series totally captivating and enjoyable from beginning to end. The characters were well-developed - even the secondary ones - and the story kept me just anxious enough about the outcome, while still enjoying the romance and intrigue. I highly recommend it to anyone who likes young adult novels, romance, dystopia, or pretty dresses.
*I just learned there is now going to be a Selection #4 set 20 years in the future. It comes out in May. How can I resist that?