My immediate reaction to this book is simply this: foolish, foolish girl. I hope that this story doesn't stand as any kind of example to young girls as a way to behave.
Not that any girl would be in this situation today. This is a dystopian novel where the US has changed into a monarchy. Becoming the next princess is basically a popularity contest. It is televised in a similar fashion as Hunger Games. It is a national event and everyone has their favourites.
As far as characters go, I found America Singer to be slightly less than appealing. She starts out ok but quickly descends into someone I don't overly dislike but certainly don't understand. Perhaps this is because the character doesn't really understand herself that well. She is working through a broken heart and possible new relationship. But her waffling got tedious. I found myself rooting for the guy I wouldn't have expected. While America seems noble in her defense of the less fortunate, she is less than honoring of the privileged who have shown her grace. This contradiction in her personality earned my distrust. The times when she would overstep her bounds and be embarrassed didn't seem believable; she wasn't brash, but those examples painted her as brash. And she wasn't shy, although hiding out in her room to think painted her as shy. I didn't get it.
The plot fell flat for me. The conflict was basically the contest as to who wins the prince's hand. And as this is a series, we don't even find out who it is. There is the love triangle, but it is unsatisfying because it is not really believable. The heroine doesn't seem to be thrust into any kind of bad situation; the worst thing she encounters is a room full of spiteful, catty girls and a torn sleeve on her dress.
On a romance scale of recent books, I have to say that the Matched Series did a far better job. That is not to say that this series won't improve, though.
On the up side, this book did keep my interest. I think that's because the characters were revealed bit by bit. I liked the prince a lot, and there were accessory characters that made things somewhat lively. I'm interested enough to read the sequels. I still want to know who gets the crown. This book appeals to the Cinderella in us all, despite its flaws. And while I think the prince will get his girl, I wonder if ultimately it will be the girl we expect.