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*
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.