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?
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.