Let’s Read The Selection ch. 11

the_selection_cover

Note: I’m going to take a blog break to recharge from now until after Christmas

Chapter 11

Are you ready to read more about America moping around a big fancy house? Well buckle up, because have I got the chapter for you.

IN THE MORNING I WOKE not to the sound of the maids coming in—though they had—or my bath being drawn—though it was. I woke to the light coming through my window as Anne gently pulled back the rich, heavy curtains.

This is such a clunky sentence. She wasn’t woken by the sound of the maids coming in, but the she was still woken by them.

Yes, I’m nit-picking. Shut up.

(Also if someone came into my room and opened he curtains while I was sleeping, I’d deck them)

She hummed a quiet song to herself, absolutely happy with her task.

I find this characterization utterly baffling. Why are the maids so thrilled to perform acts of menial labour for America? Is there any reason for it? And come to think of it I still have no idea what these characters look like or even what ages they are. I’m picturing Anne as an older women with grey hair and glasses, Lucy in her twenties with blonde hair, and Mary around America’s age, but there is absolutely no basis for this in the book itself. In fact America refers to them all as “girls” which makes me assume they’re not much older than her at the very most, although–again–we haven’t actually been told this.

I wasn’t used to being naked around other people—not even Mom or May—but there seemed to be no way around it.

Well gosh, couldn’t you just tell them to go away while you’re having a bath? They work for you, and you’re now much higher than them in the hierarchy.

Jesus Christ, I hate passive protagonists.

With bows and smiles, they wished me well as I went to leave. Lucy’s hands were trembling again.

The book keeps harping on Lucy being really nervous all the time. This seems like it could potentially be hinting at something–are the maids treated poorly if they don’t do their jobs well enough–although maybe that’s just me grasping for anything interesting.

Even when Silvia came to escort us downstairs, we still had to wait for Celeste and Tiny,

I can’t remember who the fuck Tiny is, even though she must have been introduced in the previous chapter. That’s how unmemorable these characters are.

I caught a glimpse of myself next to Marlee and Tiny. I looked positively plain.

But at least I looked like me, and that was a minor consolation.

There’s a fairly large disconnect between what the books seems to think it’s doing here, and what it’s actually doing.

What it thinks it’s doing is highlighting the fact that America stands out because she doesn’t try to hide who she is or change herself to appeal to people.

What it’s actually doing is highlighting the fact that America is naturally superior to all the other girls, so she still stands out from them even without trying. We know this is the case because side characters keep falling over themselves to tell her how gorgeous she is–in fact, half of them seem to exist just to do this.

Marlee was in the row in front of me, and Ashley sat to my right.

Who is Ashley, again? I think she’s like Marlee, except…not Marlee?

Yet another mistake on my part. That giggle caught the attention of Silvia,

…Who?

I swear to God I’m not trying to be funny here, I legit can’t remember who any of these people are?

We weren’t to speak unless spoken to. Of course, we could talk quietly to our neighbors, but always at a level befitting the palace.

This part seems to indicate a level of patriarchy and traditionalism in Ilean culture, but if that’s the case I wonder why America hasn’t encountered standards of “ladylike” behaviour before.

Maxon saunters into the room, and America expects him to be angry with her over the previous night even though he didn’t seem mad in the slightest at the time. He has a short five-minute interview with each girl (is he speed-dating?) and the book continues to make him seem utterly unappealing as a romantic lead.

“Oh, please don’t cry!” Maxon’s whisper was marked with a genuine worry. “I never know what to do when women cry!”

Don’t you just want to swoon?

America offers Maxon a trade of sorts: if he lets her stay at the palace for a week so her family can get money, she’ll be his confidante and help him choose one of the Selected.

This is actually a pretty good idea for a romance–Maxon falls for the one girl who’s supposed to be off-limits–but the way it’s being presented here is so boring and lifeless, with America and Maxon just telling each other their plans and motivations.

“Do you think,” Maxon asked, “that I could still call you ‘my dear’?”

“Not a chance,” I whispered.

“I’ll keep trying. I don’t have it in me to give up.”

This dude is a such a weenie.

They all go into the dining room for breakfast (ROYAL PANCAKES) and we discover that eight of the girls were eliminated from the competition and sent home after the interviews. Including Ashley, so now I don’t have to bother trying to remember who she is, hooray.

Why weren’t any of the rules of this competition explained beforehand? None of the Selected have any idea what they’re going to be doing or what’s expected of them from moment to moment, and there doesn’t appear to be any rhyme or reason to when eliminations happen. If this is meant to be a Big Brother-style reality TV show, wouldn’t it be better to have designated times for eliminations?

Clearly, no one has thought this arbitrary nonsensical competition to select the country’s next queen through.

Trumpwatch: Neo-Nazis At The Wheel

The de-Trumpening continues, as our upcoming orange overlord continues to backpedal on many of his more outrageous campaign promises, to the chagrin of his most obsessive fans. We may soon be looking at the cheerful prospect a full-scale anti-Trump revolt as the hardliners who he spent the last year and a half courting turn against him.

Or perhaps not. A disturbing number of Trump-adjacent people have been floating the idea of a reinstatement of the post-9/11 registry for immigrants from Muslim-majority countries (some even bringing up the WWII internment of Japanese Americans as a potential road-map), and for reasons we’ll get to in a minute, Trump himself may soon no longer be the most critical component of a right-wing apparatus that would probably be more effective without his incompetent ass leading it.

Continue reading

Let’s Read The Selection ch. 7 + 8

the_selection_cover

 

Chapter 7

THE NEXT MORNING, I DRESSED myself in the uniform of the Selected: black pants, white shirt, and my province flower—a lily—in my hair.

“Black pants and white shirt” seems a little mundane, but whatever.

America has to go to a big public event (at “the square”) for her send-off to the palace, and she complains and moans about it for pages and pages. I don’t have a problem with her not being super thrilled about all of this, but it would be so much more engaging if she was reluctant, but chose to enter the Selection of her own volition because she wanted to win–or at least stay in the game as long as possible–for the sake of her family.

The day began uncomfortably. Kenna came with James to send me off, which was kind of her, considering she was pregnant and tired. Kota came by, too, though his presence added more tension than ease.

I can’t remember who any of these people are.

The upper castes looked at me like I’d stolen something that was theirs. The Fours on down were cheering for me—an average girl who’d been elevated. I became aware of what I meant to everyone here, as if I represented something for all of them.

Why is all of this so fucking dry? These book is just spinning its wheels through these scenes until it gets to the more interesting stuff, and it shows.

It took a few passes of the crowd before I found him. I immediately wished I hadn’t. Aspen was standing there with Brenna Butler in front of him, casually holding her around the waist and smiling.

A bit later, America looks at Aspen again and he seems pained. I bet he’s doing some stupid noble thing where he’s trying to pushher away because h e  c a n ‘ t  s t a n d  s e e i n g  h e r  g e t  h u r t or something.

The mayor (who goes completely undescribed, which makes me picture him looking like the mayor of Townsville from the Powerpuff Girls) asks if America wants to say a few words and she brushes him off by claiming she’s too overwhelmed.

He cupped my hands in his. “Of course, dear girl. Don’t you worry, I’ll take care of everything. They’ll train you for this kind of thing at the palace. You’ll need it.”

This is such a waste of a scene. It would be way more interesting if he just stuck a microphone in America’s face and she had to improvise something on the spot; a scene like that could be simultaneously funny and tense, and it would give America a chance to show off her stuff. You could even turn it into a good romantic beat later on by having Maxon comment on something she said, thus indicating that he was paying attention to her and found her noteworthy.

There’s a goodbye scene with America’s family that’s just as dull and lifeless as everything else in the book so I’ll skip over it, apart from this bit with her dad:

If I came back used and unwanted, he’d still be proud of me.

*Purity culture siren intensifies*

Chapter 8

It’s time for America’s first trip on a plane, and for some reason she’s terrified to the point of fearing a panic attack. I don’t get why. Is she afraid of heights? Is she prone to anxiety around unfamiliar environments? She handled all the interviews and the public appearance without batting an eyelid, so what’s up with this?

They were both smiling, confirming my thought that I was the only one of the Selected who might be depressed today.

America concludes this based on a single glance at two other girls. Okay, America.

They were both from the North;

Why is “North” capitalized? This book just keep throwing up weird, baffling little details like this.

America’s two plane-mates, Marlee and Ashley, appear initially friendly to the point where their interactions with her are stupefyingly uninteresting (just like most of this book), but the tropes of YA romance dictate that at least one of them will turn out to be some sort of back-stabbing asshole.

Marlee and I got along easily,

SHOW DON’T TELL

I ‘ve said before that I think that edict gets overused at times, but this is a classic example of the sort of thing it’s intended to stop. We should read Marlee and America’s conversaton for ourselves and be able to tell they’re getting along easily without being spoon-fed the information.

There, walking toward us, was a brunette with sunglasses on. She had a daisy in her hair, but it had been dyed red to match her lipstick. Her hips swayed as she walked, and each fall of her three-inch heels accentuated her confident stride. Unlike Marlee and Ashley, she didn’t smile.

No wait I was wrong, here’s the asshole now.

(By the way, I have almost no idea where any of this is actually taking place. I think they’re meant to be in some sort of airport lobby, but I really can’t tell)

This person, who I recognized as Celeste Newsome of Clermont, Two, didn’t bother me. She assumed we were fighting for the same thing. But you can’t be pushed if it’s something you don’t want.

Imagine the sound of a balloon deflating as the last vestiges of tension drain from the book.

I know this whole business with America not giving a shit about the Selection (until suddenly she does, like earlier when she decides she’s going to do her best for the sake of the lower castes) is meant to make her inevitable victory seem even more stunning and accentuate the fact that she’s secretly the fairest of them all despite her constant insistence otherwise, but it also means there’s absolutely no stakes to the story. America isn’t fighting for anything and doesn’t want anything except for her life to go back to the way it was before the book started, and as we’ve covered elsewhere here on this very blog, a main character who keeps wishing the story would end is no fun at all.

Anyway, Celeste is totally way intimidating for some reason, except America isn’t phased by her at all so you can tell she’s a total fucking badass.

“I hear all four of our Selected girls are here?”
“We sure are,” Celeste replied sweetly. The man sort of melted a little, you could see it in his eyes. Ah. So this was her game.

What, act charming and seductive? Isn’t that sort of the default mode for a contest like this?

The flight, which was really only terrifying during the takeoff and landing, lasted a few short hours. We were offered movies and food, but all I wanted to do was look out the window. I watched the country from above, amazed at just how big it all was.

WHY IS THE WRITING SO BORING

This is America’s first time on a plane! She’s (supposedly) not used to having good food, or having entertainment on demand! All of this should be amazing to her, but instead, thanks to how lifeless the writing is, there’s absolutely no feeling of wonderment or even novelty at all.

“I don’t want to talk badly about anyone, but she’s so aggressive.

Celeste has uttered maybe three sentences since her introduction. What’s all of this based on?

After the plane trip, the girls are led through an airport lobby where there’s tons of jubilant crowds waiting to cheer them on.

Luckily, Celeste was in front, and she started waving. I knew immediately that that was the right response, not the cowering I had been considering. And since the cameras were there to catch our every move, I was doubly glad I hadn’t been leading the pack.

If America doesn’t care about winning, then why would that bother her?

This book continues to go downhill. The opening chapters were baffling and ridiculous, which was at least entertaining; but these last few chapters are utterly joyless. Maybe once we get to the palace, things will get interesting again.