Quick Read: The Selection ch. 2 + 3


Chapter 2



Anyway, America and her baeuo retire to a treehouse to do kisses. Teens sneaking off to treehouses to make out– what a fantastical future society this is!

I think that’s one of the major things that bugs me so far about this book– it’s set in this weird mildly fantasy-esque society that seems, on the surface, as though it should be completely indistinguishable from contemporary America, but in fact it’s basically exactly the same as contemporary America.

America the country, not America the character.

Fuck me, I hate that name even more now.

“Please don’t call me gorgeous. First my mom, then May, now you. It’s getting on my nerves.” By the way Aspen was looking at me, I could tell I wasn’t helping my “I’m not pretty” case.

Stop insisting you’re not pretty, you’re the heroine in a romance novel of course you’re pretty.

To my surprise, the bits with America and her boyfriend Aspen (no seriously) interacting and talking are actually done quite well. Aspen isn’t an asshole, they have obvious chemistry, and it really helps that they’re already in a relationship instead of just encountering each other for the first time.

I mean, I’m guessing that’s what totally happens between America and Prince Whatever once she gets to the palace, but it’s nice for now.

His black T-shirt was worn to threads in several places, just like the shabby pair of jeans he wore almost every day.

In this zany future kingdom, teenagers wear scruffy black t-shirts and jeans! What an unusual setting!

If only I could sit and patch them up for him. That was my great ambition. Not to be Illéa’s princess. To be Aspen’s.

You know, this almost works. Almost. If they hadn’t come packaged with the protagonist wishing she could do household chores for her love interest, those last two sentences would be pretty sweet.

Aspen was a Six. Sixes were servants and only a step up from Sevens in that they were better educated and trained for indoor work.

Why is there such a huge demand for servants that there’s an entire social caste made up of them? How did that happen? Are we going to get an explanation for that?

“How do you feel about it? The Selection, I mean?” I asked.
“Okay, I guess. He’s got to find a girl somehow, poor guy.”

Why can’t he find a fiance via political marriage, like actual monarchs did? If that’s not an option (are other countries also monarchies now?), then why doesn’t he attend fancy social events where he has a chance to mingle with noble girls?

And what if the prince happens to be gay? What if the girl who wins the Selection is gay, and she just entered for the money and social status? Hell, what if she just entered for the money and social status anyway and hates the prince’s guts? Wouldn’t that be virtually guaranteed to happen? At least with a political marriage the girl will have been raised expecting to be married off to someone, so it’s more probable that she’ll at least tolerate the arrangement.

I found my little bundle and brought it to Aspen, who, to his merit, nibbled it all slowly. I took one bite of the apple so he would feel like it was for us, but then I set it down and let him have the rest.

Look, see? That’s pretty good romance! Why isn’t this just a straight forward love story without the nonsensical world building?

The twins were both sad because their mom had made them drop their after-school drama club so they could work more.

You can really feel how down-trodden the Eights are, having to give up their after-school drama clubs.

Why the fuck do they have an after-school drama club when they’re on the brink of destitution? Why are they even going to school? We’re getting right back into high school city territory again, where the author is completely unable to step outside of the social norms and operations of their personal experience, so the setting just feels like American suburbia with a few paper-thin sci-fi tropes tacked on.

“Aspen Leger, don’t you dare!

“Aspen Leger” sounds like a Gundam protagonist.

“When we have kids. And we’ll just be careful about it. Who says we have to have more than two?”
“You know that’s not something we can control!” I could hear the anger building in his voice.

Apparently anyone under level Three isn’t allowed to use contraception, because……. I have no idea, the book doesn’t explain it. It can’t be religious, because then it would apply to everyone.

You know what contributes hugely to poverty, over-population and general societal ills? Insufficient access to contraception. Particularly when poor people don’t have access to it, and particularly particularly when it’s due to a completely arbitrary rule (hello Catholicism) rather than a genuine difficulty in attaining it. The royal family (or whoever is in charge of Ilea) is shooting the entire country in the foot with this nonsense.

Anyway, Aspen convinces America to enter the Selection so she’ll have a chance at a better life; he does this by way of mildly skeevy emotional manipulation.

Aspen had been through a lot, but I had seen him cry only once, when they whipped his brother in the square. Little Jemmy had stolen some fruit off a cart in the market. An adult would have had a brief trial and then, depending on the value of what was stolen, either been thrown in jail or sentenced to death.

What the flying fuck is with this setting? Is it Everytown USA suburbia only everyone is poor and there’s a king for some reason, or is it the Hunger Games? Who is “they”? The police? The town authorities? What’s the actual government like? Is there a government?  WHAT IS GOING ON NOTHING MAKES SENSE HELP

We were cautious, always stopping shy of the things we really wanted. As if breaking curfew wasn’t bad enough.

What, are they not allowed to have sex before marriage? For fuck’s sake, why? Is this a fundamentalist society or something?

I felt special, priceless, irreplaceable. No queen on any throne could possibly feel more important than I did.

This romance is turning YA-tastic really quickly. America’s entire existence and sense of self-worth seems to revolve around Aspen to a degree that feels unhealthy, and there’s this really troubling dynamic where he takes everyone’s burdens to heart so she deliberately tries not to cause a fuss or worry about anything for his sake. I really hope the book realizes that that’s not a good thing in a relationship.

Chapter 3

This chapter begins with America getting pestered some more by her STUPID FAT BITCH MOTHER (unlike her father who is angelic and saintly) about entering the Selection.

“What do you want?” I said.
“For you to submit your name for the Selection. I think you’d make an excellent princess.”
It was way too early for this.

Just enter the fucking Selection, we all know you’re going to.

“America, if you loved an Eight, I’d want you to marry him. But you should know that love can wear away under the stress of being married. Someone you think you love now, you might start to hate when he couldn’t provide for you. And if you couldn’t take care of your children, it’d be even worse. Love doesn’t always survive under those types of circumstances.”

…So get ready to marry your designated love interest, who’s fabulously wealthy and therefore better in every way!

We kept rotating through options with Gerad, but none of them were sticking. One look at the battered soccer ball in the corner or the secondhand microscope we’d inherited as payment one Christmas, and it was obvious his heart just wasn’t in the arts.

This is why splitting people into castes based on jobs– or at least, jobs that take years of practice and dedication to get any good at– is a terrible idea.

“I know.” It really seemed unreasonable to limit everyone’s life choices based on your ancestors’ ability to help the government, but that was how it all worked out.

Is that where the Caste system came from? That makes no sense.

“Hello, Lena. Kamber, Celia, how are you?” Mother greeted them.
“Good!” they sang in unison.
“You guys look beautiful,” I said, placing one of Celia’s curls behind her shoulder.
“We wanted to look pretty for our picture,” Kamber announced.

Why does everyone younger than America act like they’re about ten?

There’s some thing where it turns out the Selection lottery isn’t random like everyone assumed, or whatever, bored.

“I don’t know why some girls go so over the top. Look at America. She’s so pretty. I’m so glad you didn’t go that route,” Mrs. Leger said.


And of course America does the whole “oh no I’m just so terribly average” routine again. That’s going to be a running thing with her, isn’t it?

Not a whole lot actually happens in this chapter, as it’s almost entirely made up of Aspen’s mom and sisters stroking America’s ego and then speculating about the mysterious girl that Aspen is going out with, unaware that she is in fact standing right before them. I don’t get why Aspen and America are keeping their relationship a secret; supposedly here’s a big taboo about marrying people who are lower caste, but just last chapter America’s dad said he’d be fine with her marrying an Eight, and Aspen’s family would obviously be thrilled if he married up a level.

Next time: maybe the Selection will finally happen.


6 thoughts on “Quick Read: The Selection ch. 2 + 3

  1. blogarithmicfunction

    I prefer to think that Aspen really is a Gundam protagonist and when he’s not on the page he is off to fight the Space Revolutionary Army. That way I can pretend that something is actually happening. :v

  2. Hal

    Have you gotten to the dinner scene yet? If so, I’m surprised you didn’t mention it. It’s a great illustration of the Kvothe problem where an author is trying to depict poverty but can’t imagine anything but white middle class existence. They’re eating a fairly standard middle class meal of chicken and vegetables, but there’s a line about how they can only have one glass of tea each because they’re ~so impoverished.~ You have enough money for a sunday roast dinner but not enough for more than one glass of tea per person? What a very specific level of income.

    And why are musicians so lower-caste in this universe? It’s made clear later on that America’s family is doing performances for the upper class. Shouldn’t people who own harps and pianos and play fancy rich people weddings be a higher tier of servant?

    1. Elisabeth

      “You have enough money for a sunday roast dinner but not enough for more than one glass of tea per person? What a very specific level of income.”

      There’s also a mention that the chicken is flavored with spices and herbs. Somehow I don’t believe that a family who can afford spices and herbs (that don’t provide any calories) is that poor.

      America also has her own bedroom. She lives in a family of five, but she has her own bedroom. Presumably her younger siblings do too, since they’re mixed-gender, and if there wasn’t enough rooms for everyone, she’d share a room with her sister. Three bedrooms, and I’m supposed to believe that they’re poor?

  3. Signatus

    “America and her baeuo retire to a treehouse to do kisses”

    Took me a while to realize the book’s talking about the girl, not the continent or the USA. Sorry, woman, but you really need to reconsider your naming ideas because this is not working.

    “Fuck me, I hate that name even more now.”

    I see you’re having the same issues I am.

    ““I’m not pretty” case.”

    Ugh, I hate this trope so much. Why don’t you just describe your characters and let people imagine them however they want? And why do we have to insist so much on her beauty? Why is her beauty so important? Against what most people seem to believe, women have high cognitive habilities and enjoy different hobbies aside from “babbies” and fashion. I like makeup, I love experimenting with my skin, different color combinations and such, but that doesn’t mean that’s ALL I am, and I deffinitely don’t do it to please my male counterpart (I do it because it’s fun, and because I love painting and skin is a canvas fun to work on). I have so many hobbies they fill half of my CV and like 99% of them are completely unrelated to fashion or men.

    What is America aside from not being pretty and being a rebel for absolutely no reason at all?

    “Aspen (no seriously)”

    Ok… so this is Kanto, Ash ketchum is just around the corner and prof Oak will come at any moment to give America her starter pokemon.

    No, seriously, stop using weird names that actually have meaning in the real world. You just reminded me of the trophic cascade speech I had to give a couple of months ago. One of the elements in the speech was the study of the development of aspen after the reintroduction of wolves in Yellowstone. Now I have a continent, a tree and a study of trophic cascades in one of the USA’s most important and well known national parks. I don’t think that’s the imagery you were going for.

    ” and it really helps that they’re already in a relationship instead of just encountering each other for the first time.”

    You know? This is actually something that I’ve realized works for me. I hate the girl meets boy meets girl stuff. I’d rather just start with the characters knowing each other and work from there. Makes relationships feel more real.

    Anyways, like you said afterwards, this is only working until she meets the prince where we’ll go back to such dynamics.

    “If only I could sit and patch them up for him. That was my great ambition. Not to be Illéa’s princess. To be Aspen’s.”

    Can this book be even more mysoginist?

    “Why can’t he find a fiance via political marriage, like actual monarchs did?”

    This is a sorry excuse of a beauty pangeant. Nothing in this book makes any sense. A prince was not going to go off marrying some commoner (nor a princess) because there are many political and economical interests behind his/her choice. Not to mention a woman/man who shall become queen/king must be educated in the nobility at the very least. Some farmer or shepherd from the Pyrenees just won’t do, not because this person is worse or anything, but because he or she hasn’t been educated in the manners and customs expected from high nobility.

    “The twins were both sad because their mom had made them drop their after-school drama club so they could work more.”

    Hello… it’s the rest of the friggin world again. I am here to point at you in the direction of several countries where they would LOVE if the worst of their problem was having to drop after school drama classes to gain some bucks at the factory. There are countries where if a woman gives birth to twins she has to CHOOSE which of the babies lives or dies because she can’t feed both. There are people getting into weak boats to escape a war zone, people who must attempt to reach land in the cold of the night as if they were mere smugglers, when the only “crime” they’ve committed is being caught in the crossfire. There are people drinking mud because that’s the only water they have available. Children forced to use a weapon against other human beings, and I’m not even getting into what women have to go through in many parts of the world simply because they’re women.

    Really, get your fucking reality facts straight, dammit. The rest of the world exists and sadly is a more miserable place than your lame attempt at a post depression America will ever be.

    “You know that’s not something we can control!” I could hear the anger building in his voice….either been thrown in jail or sentenced to death.”

    So just throwing in some random bullshit only to make the world a more depressing place for absolutely no reason at all.

    “America, if you loved an Eight,…”

    Blablabla… so you’re telling me there are THREE books revolving around the marriage stuff?

    “I don’t know why some girls go so over the top. Look at America. She’s so pretty. I’m so glad you didn’t go that route,” Mrs. Leger said.”

    OMG, this dialogue HURTS.

  4. Andrea Harris

    Nothing at all in this book makes sense, which makes me wonder if the author even watched a Disney princess cartoon never mind studied history. There’s just random dystopia and Future!Monarchy because, I guess, those are the sort of things the author likes to read? But has she though… for one thing, why is Aspen dressed in rags if he’s in an indoor-servant caste? Royals don’t want their servants looking like they sleep in an alley, they give them at least enough wages to dress decently. He’d have boring, maybe mended up but not *rags*, clothes, and a uniform. I mean ffs wasn’t Downton Abbey a big deal on tv?


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