Let’s Read The Selection ch. 5 + 6

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Okay, I’m going to level with y’all here: I’m really not enthusiastic about slogging through the remaining chapters of Eye of The World. In normal circumstances I’d suck it up and do it, but not after the week we just had. So let’s skip it and move onto something more fun, shall we? We could all use a nice, light-hearted story about a near-future America that’s been transformed into a poverty-stricken oligarchy.

…I may have mis-judged this slightly.

I spent most of the Quick Read wondering when the actual selection was going to start, as the book’s opening chapters seemed determined to focus more on America and Aspen dicking around (literally as well as figuratively) in a tree house.

Chapter five begins with… more of that.

A WEEK LATER, I BEAT Aspen to the tree house.

I don’t care about the tree house and I care even less about Aspen, get to the god damn Selection.

I’d sung at no less than seven celebrations, packing two into a night for the sake of getting my own paychecks. And Mom was true to her word. It felt liberating to have money that was mine.

This is different from any modern American teenager getting their first paycheck…how?

I know I’ve harped on it over and over again, but these people really don’t feel like they’re teetering on the brink of destitution.

America made Aspen a feast with all this sweet cash-money, but he throws a big patriarchal hissy-fit because he thinks he’s supposed to provide for her and not the other way around.

“I’m not some charity case, America. I’m a man. I’m supposed to be a provider.”

I’m not sure how to read this.

On one hand, I’m pretty sure it’s the book setting Aspen up as the Jacob to Prince Maxon’s Edward, in which case we’re obviously not meant to agree with anything he’s saying here. But on the other hand, YA as a whole so often traipses merrily down misogynistic and traditionally patriarchal paths that I’m not exactly comfortable giving the book the benefit of the doubt. And America herself, in reacting to Aspen’s outburst, gives no indication that she finds his views sexist or even factually incorrect (he is in fact not a provider given that just surviving as a couple–let alone having a family–will undoubtably take both of them working together, and especially since his lower caste status means that America will always earn more money than him).

I could actually see this being the beginning of something fairly interesting, by either confronting the gender politics of YA and/or making explicit what most YA romances only accidentally imply, that America and Aspen just want to have sex and actually aren’t in the throws of the epic, star-crossed love story they think they are.

Anywhoo, Aspen declares that he can’t stand the idea of bringing her down to his caste if they get married (is that how it works? Why wouldn’t he become a Five?) and breaks off the proto-engagement. Bye, Aspen! I hope you enjoy spending the next two and a half books in a doomed love triangle.

“I remember when Queen Amberly was chosen! Oh, I knew from the beginning she would make it.” Mom was making popcorn, as if this were a movie.

Insert additional commentary about how these people are totally not as poor and miserable as the book is trying to make out.

Whoa. She must have been in a good mood. I couldn’t remember the last time she was that affectionate toward Dad.

Why is this book so hateful toward America’s mom?

“Queen Amberly is the best queen ever. She’s so beautiful and smart. Every time I see her on TV, I want to be just like her,” May said with a sigh.
“She is a good queen,” I added quietly.

Why is she a good queen? What does it even mean to be a good queen in this setting? Is she active in state affairs and the shaping of policy, or is she just a figurehead?

The screen changed to the national emblem. In the upper right-hand corner, there was a small box with Maxon’s face, to see his reactions as the pictures went across the monitor.

Seriously? Is he doing a Let’s Play of the Selection?

Mom screamed by my ear, and May jumped up, sending popcorn everywhere. Gerad got excited too and started dancing. Dad … it’s hard to say, but I think he was secretly smiling behind his book.
I missed what Maxon’s expression was.
The phone rang.
And it didn’t stop for days.

The part where America gets Selected is actually pretty good, so maybe the book is improving now that the actual plot has started? Possibly?

Chapter 6

Lol no.

America’s reaction is weirdly rushed over, as chapter 6 opens with her seemingly taking her Selection in stride and concerned with trivial practicalities like security measures and wearing formal dresses. Come to think of it, Aspen breaking up with her was also swept under the rug quickly.

I wasn’t sure how I felt about wearing dresses that were as formal as the queen’s all the time, but I was looking forward to a change.

You can really feel her shock and disbelief.

“Miss Singer, this is going to sound harsh, but as of last Friday, you are now considered property of Illéa. You must take care of your body from here on out. I have several forms for you to sign as we go through this information. Any failure to comply on your part will result in your immediate removal from the Selection. Do you understand?”

This is a really ham-fisted way to make this scene seem more ominous and evil than it actually is.

Essentially this skeevy guy wants American to sign some forms agreeing to take certain medical and dietary precautions, which isn’t really different from how modern heads of state and elected officials are placed under certain restrictions regarding their health and safety. No, they’re not the “property” of their country, but that’s not an entirely inaccurate description at the same time. The nation has a vested interest in its leaders not succumbing to a heart attack or a stroke, even though sometimes you really wish they would.

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Now, the dude does ask America if she’s a virgin, which in our society would certainly be misogynistic and onerous in the extreme. But keep in mind that in this setting, having sex before marriage is (for some reason) a crime, which would clearly make America unfit to be Queen.

This is another scene where the book seems to forget that it’s not set in contemporary America (the country not the character). You’d think that people policing teenagers’ virginity would be a much bigger deal in this world, and yet America (the character not the god fucking damn it) is completely flabbergasted by this question.

I was glad Illéa existed, considering that this very land had nearly been turned to rubble, but these regulations were starting to make me feel like I was suffocating, like there were invisible chains keeping me down. Laws about who you could love, forms about your virginity being intact; it was infuriating.

DID I MENTION THAT THIS IS A DYSTOPIAN YA NOVEL? BECAUSE IT TOTALLY IS, NO REALLY.

“There is no set timeline for the Selection. It can be over in a matter of days or stretch into years.”

It could even last for three whole books!

“Your only romantic relationship will be with Prince Maxon. If you are found writing love notes to someone here or are caught in a relationship with another person in the palace, that is considered treason and is punishable by death.”

The fuck? Where did that come from? This is the most contrived way to create tension that I’ve ever seen.

Skeezy dude goes on to explain that America is now a Three as of being Selected for the Selection, which is a great way to instantly rob all tension out of the story. Sure, the rest of her family remain Fives, but her elevation means she can take on far better-paying work and support them all the same.

I was miserable at the idea of leaving, but I was sure if I went there only to be sent back the next day, this check alone would provide us with enough money for a very comfortable year.

Well I guess the story’s over, time to go home everyone.

If I had to pick one of the career paths of a Three, I think I’d teach. Maybe I could at least help others learn music.

You know, it is possible to make far more money singing than teaching. Most artists and musicians can’t even support themselves fully via their craft, let alone get rich off of it, but it is possible. The caste system seems to completely ignore this, treating it as a given that every job category pays exactly the same amount across all individuals. Or is there some weird arbitrary rule saying you can’t pay musicians above a certain amount, because reasons?

“I know it sounds … unbecoming. But it would not behoove you to reject the prince under any circumstances. Good evening, Miss Singer.”

Hey, here’s something that is actually as gross and onerous as the book is making it sound. Except it doesn’t make a blind bit of sense for the future King to be caught breaking the law on a reality TV show, but whatever.

The law, Illéan law, was that you were to wait until marriage. It was an effective way of keeping diseases at bay,

Actually not arbitrarily banning poor people from using contraceptives is an effective way of keeping diseases at bay. In fact, it’s the only effective way of keeping sexually transmitted diseases at bay.

But now that Aspen and I were over, I was glad I’d been forced to save myself.

*Screeching of breaks*

Wait, is this whole thing some sort weird purity culture parable? Is that where the story is going?

Aspen comes back (already!) and he and America have another big stupid argument but whatever. Let’s see what happens at the palace next chapter.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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6 thoughts on “Let’s Read The Selection ch. 5 + 6

  1. Hal

    There’s a lot of reeeeeeeeeaaaaaally weird undertones to a lot of YA books in this recent fad. I guess it kind of goes back to the Mormon undertones in Twilight? Like this book has the purity culture shit and the crazy racist stuff about war with China, that Divergent series apparently has some anti-intellectual Christian business going on…I dunno, maybe the people who write all of these just come from that kind of background?

    Reply
  2. Signatus

    “A WEEK LATER, I BEAT Aspen to the tree house.”

    Congrats. Do you want a medal?

    “I’m a man. I’m supposed to be a provider.”

    What an asshole. I know Kiera Cass is trying to make Aspen look like a mature, romantic young man who wants to take care and protect America, but right now he looks like a big, mysoginistic, asshat who is all about reinforcing certain patriarchal roles where the woman is submitted to the man and shouldn’t work. It would be a whole different story if there was some social commentary on this in the book, but there isn’t. It’s the accepted sexism, the most dangerous form of sexism because society can’t see it. Society accepts it, thus maintaining and reinforcing stereotypes and gender roles.

    “is that how it works? Why wouldn’t he become a Five?”

    Because he’s the man and she’s the woman, and women are always one step behind men. Therefore it’s not likely she would bring him up, but he would bring her down. It’s the same principle behind giving up your last name (your identity, your family identity) when you get married, adopting the man’s last name, because as a woman you are worth less than the man. In my country this doesn’t happen, the children have two last names, the mother and the father, but traditionally it is the father’s last name that goes first reinforcing, yet again, the idea that men are more important. There are laws now that allow the mother’s last name to go first but people keep doing the traditional thing.

    “I remember when Queen Amberly was chosen!”

    Has there ever been a female princess? Or is this one of those cases where only men inherit the throne, independently of whether they were a first son or not?

    Oh, and she reminds me of my mom talking about the royal weddings she’s seen through TV, and we’re middle class. So yeah, America’s family looks middleclass to me, and while we never had the money to buy a Ferrari, we ate three times a day. had a decent car and could even have luxuries like going to the cinema or buying books.

    “She’s so beautiful and smart.”

    Maybe I’m being nitpicky but, doesn’t it bother you how beautiful goes before smart? As if the physical appearance was more important than mental prowess.

    “I wasn’t sure how I felt about wearing dresses that were as formal as the queen’s all the time, but I was looking forward to a change.”

    So you’re getting dragged away from your family and all you can think about is dresses? Really? My boyfriend got a pretty good job abroad. That meant leaving my family, friends, my whole life behind. I knew it was for the better, we would earn so much more money than back home and he had been unemployed for too long (tends to happen when you have an unemployment rate of 25%). The week before I spent it throwing up every single day and I even looked for any stupid excuse to delay the trip, like, hearing a weird noise in the car’s engine so I had to take it to the mechanic or some other similar stuff. I was terrified!

    No, I didn’t think about dresses, luxuries, or anything. All I could think about was that I was leaving my country possibly forever, and I even started planning when I’d return for a visit. I know each person reacts differently, but this is a pretty huge change, and I would expect everyone to feel a little bit of fear.

    “the dude does ask America if she’s a virgin”

    If this was expanded it might have been interesting. It would give depth to this society and serve as social commentary. For some reason Kiera thinks being not a virgin is a terrible crime and yet she has failed to give a rational explanation of why. Women in today’s societies get ask in job interviews whether they are going to have children or not (which businesses consider a terrible crime while the state tells us we have to breed, and therefore we become the property of the state and the company). It would have been a great opportunity to talk about this issues, but again, Kiera Cass thinks this is perfectly normal.

    “Laws about who you could love”

    Really? When did this happen? As far as we’ve seen there was absolutely no problem for you to marry someone three castes below your own. In traditional India that would be unthinkable.

    ” forms about your virginity being intact”

    Again, WHY? Because is not an answer.

    ” that is considered treason and is punishable by death.”

    Wait, what? That would have been overkill even for feudal Europe.

    ” It was an effective way of keeping diseases at bay,”

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!

    WHAT??? Married couples can’t get STDs? Are you frigging serious??????

    Contraceptives like condoms are a good way of keeping STDs at bay, and if this fucking book is situated in the fucking future they would know that. I hate how books act as if the past had never existed or it had been erased somehow. IT DOESN’T WORK LIKE THAT.

    Even more, executing a pair of teenagers for acting on their instincts (because, SURPRISE, WE’RE FUCKING ANIMALS) is going WAY overboard, specially when the whole reason this stupid ban on sex is to avoid STDs.

    Do you know what else is said to be done to avoid STD’s (by keeping sexual desire at bay)? Female genital mutilation. Do you know where that’s traditionally practices? Africa. I don’t think I have to add anything else.

    Reply
    1. Lissa

      ”It was an effective way of keeping diseases at bay,”

      This is stupid. There’s no “virginity test” for men, some sexually transmissable diseases (HIV and Hepatitis B and C) can be contracted through other means (blood transfusion, piercing, tattoos, IV drug use, or in utero or childbirth if the mother is infected), there are other types of sex other than vaginal (namely anal, which spreads disease more easily than vaginal sex), and virginity tests for women DON’T WORK. You can’t tell from looking if a woman’s had sex or not! Young girls can accidentally tear their hymens, and in females past the age of puberty, the hymen is flexible and made to stretch during sex instead of tearing. Seriously, it pisses me off so much to see a YA book pushing this retrograde sexist, non-scientific nonsense.

      Reply
      1. Signatus

        Agree so much with your comment. It irks me to no end that females are always blamed for everything, and yet nobody gives a damn about men at all who are, funny enough, told by society they have to mate with many females to demonstrate manhood (while for females it is exactly the opposite). The prince’s virginity is never mentioned, as far as we’ve seen, and yet if the candidates are not virgin they’re not eligible. Worldwide female virginity has been a major issue while men had been told in some societies not to mate before marriage but the social consequences of that if a male mated were not even comparable to those a woman would face. For a male mating is a sign of prowess. A female would be socially shunned and called all sorts of “nice names”. Genital mutilation, lapidation, incarceration and execution in all kinds of gruesome manners are the sort of thing a female in some parts of the world faces in the case of an infidelity or mating before marriage. How many men are executed for mating before marriage? Or even for being unfaithful to their wives?

        This middle class american is reinforcing stereotypes that, in other parts of the world, are actually KILLING women. She’s not even doing it as a criticism to society, because she’s painting it under the light that this was necessary because STDs, which would make many (illiterates and bigots) nod in approval. She has, unwillingly, represented a patriarchal society, the very same one she lives in, normalizing sexism and even treating it as something logical. She has assimilated the patriarchal society so much she can’t even see it any more.

        The problem is teenagers are reading this trash, Twilight (which is textbook gender violence), the Grey saga, and they’re assimilating the same principles written in this book as something normal. Sexism has not gone down. It’s going UP in western societies. 15-20 year old kids today are more sexist than we or my parents were (and they’re over 50). How do you explain that unless you take into account the media and the role models they’re selling us?

        It’s sad, and scary.

        Reply
      2. Christie Greenwood

        Tell me about it. Books like this perpetuate the erroneous and quite horrible belief that a cis woman has some sort of quality seal that gets broken during penetrative sex. That is not only biologically inaccurate, but has connotations that are really harmful to women in general. I really hate it that in this day and age, people still cling so much to this dumb, outdated and frankly ridiculous myth of “virginity” that doesn’t hold up under any kind of scrutiny. What, homosexual women are perpetual virgins? Does butt sex count? Oral sex? Handjobs? This is so stupid. This Kiera Cass woman is stupid. This trope is stupid. There is nothing clean or pure about the fact that a girl has never had sexual contact with another person. Purity Sue can suck it. /rant

        Reply
  3. AaronAO (@AaronAO)

    If there’s a caste system why is it so easy for people to move around in it? The fact that you can marry below your caste, even though the higher ranked spouse would lose their status, calls into question the very reason of segregating the population at all. Even worse is the capability of girls to marry into royalty and move up in rank. A more likely thing to happen would be lower ranking girls becoming royal concubines, but not having the status of royalty with the role of official consort being reserved for the nobility or other royalty.

    Reply

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