I KEPT MY HEAD DOWN at dinner. In the Women’s Room I could be brave because Marlee was beside me, and she just thought I was nice. But here, sandwiched between people whose hate I could feel radiating off in waves, I was a coward.
I know I’ve harped on about the lack of stakes over and over again, but it bares repeating: this scene would make way more sense if all the girls hadn’t been elevated to Threes as soon as they were selected. If they knew that they had to go back to their old lives if they lost–if it was a case of coming first or losing everything–then their animosity would be far more understandable.
Picture it this way: let’s say you got twelve people who were struggling with financial issues, and had them all compete for a grand prize of $10 million. There’s no prize for coming in second place– it’s all or nothing. You can easily imagine the kind of heightened emotion that would cause. It’s the kind of scenario people would be willing to kill over.
Now picture the same thing, except that all of the contestants got $250,000 just for taking part. It doesn’t quite have the same emotional heft, does it? Sure, people would still want to take the grand prize, and you’d get a few really vicious contestants who’d do anything to win, but I imagine most people would be relatively chill about the whole thing compared to the first scenario, given that they’re already receiving a life-altering sum of money.
This is basically the scenario in The Selection. All of the contestants have gone from a future of hard labour and/or dire financial uncertainly (supposedly) to a steady-income job in an office. No, they’re not suddenly rich, and their families are still stuck lower in the hierarchy, but they’re already orders of magnitude better off than they would have ever dreamed could be possible.
I didn’t understand why it was all so important. So the people seemed to like me, so what? They were outranked in here; their little signs and cheers didn’t matter.
After everything was said and done, I didn’t know whether to feel honored or annoyed.
I know how I feel.
How did she manage to do that? Hadn’t that same clip declared her one of the immediate favorites? How did she get people to talk to her?
Maybe she’s not a judgmental asshole who couldn’t take a compliment graciously if the universe depended on it.
America asks Marlee why
she’s so awesome and impressive all the other girls are so jealous of her, and Marlee explains that all girls are bitches.
…okay, that’s kind of uncharitable to the book, but only kind of. The social dynamics she describes do happen in real life, and I’d probably glide right past this part if I wasn’t aware of the post-Twilight tendency for YA novels to vilify all women who aren’t the heroine while casting men as the sole sources of friendship and affection, but at the same time the book is being very consistent in sorting its female characters into categories depending on whether they pose a threat to America’s romantic interests. Girls in this book either recognize her superiority over them and are depicted as nice and good-looking (although not so good looking that they overshadow America) or they find her unimpressive, in which case they’re shallow, uninteresting airheads who dress like sluts and wear too much makeup. Or they’re May, who’s too young to compete with America and gets heaped with praise and affection because of it (watch out May, that’s not going to last long).
I’m not the only one seeing this, right? Hell, look at how the book treats America’s mother as an annoying asshole while her dad is practically the second coming of Christ– another post-Twilight trend.
See, it’s all about knowing the person, figuring out what will bug them the most. Lots of girls give me backhanded compliments, or little remarks, things like that.
I could almost buy that this is meant to be self-aware, since this is exactly what America’s narration has been doing.
“For you, someone kind of quiet and mysterious—”
“I’m not mysterious,” I interrupted.
God I hate this character.
“Better luck to you, Marlee. I’m sure Prince Maxon will be more than pleased to meet you.” I squeezed her hand one time.
I think the only thing that could salvage the book now is if Marlee actually won.
I suppose the effect was meant to be soothing, but I was ready to have them gone.
America’s reaction to her maids seems oddly muted. Like, they’re literally undressing and washing her. Most people who aren’t used to that sort treatment would find it extremely uncomfortable.
After the maids leave, she thinks about her uninteresting romantic spat with Aspen some more.
But the hope ached. And with the hope came homesickness, wishing May was sneaking into my bed like she sometimes did. And then fear that the other girls wanted me gone, that they might keep trying to make me feel small. And then nervousness at being presented to the nation on television for as long as I was here. And
AND THEN I FELT THIS EMOTION, AND WHEN I WAS DONE FEELING THAT EMOTION I FELT THE FOLLOWING, DIFFERENT EMOTION, AND THEN
America has a sudden panic attack out of nowhere, and decides that she needs to get out of the palace (it would have been nice to get some of this on her way in, when everyone was watching). Two guards try to stop her from going out into the garden, since I guess that would be a security risk.
Actually, I want to unpack that a bit. It is a security risk because we know that rebels have repeatedly gotten into the palace grounds, but their response to this really shouldn’t be to ban people from going into the gardens, it should be to get better security so rebels can’t break in whenever they feel like it.
How did I get here? How had I let this happen? What would become of me here? Would I ever get back any piece of the life I’d had before this?
Why is all of this only coming out now? America has reacted to the entire Selection process without batting an eyelid, but now suddenly she can’t stand it?
I was so consumed with my thoughts that I didn’t realize I wasn’t alone until Prince Maxon spoke.
“Are you all right, my dear?” he asked me.
“My dear”? Seriously? That makes him sound like an old man.
“That is an unfair statement. You are all dear to me. It is simply a matter of discovering who shall be the dearest.”
This guy seems absolutely fascinating.
America rants some more about how the contest is bullshit, which Maxon finds charming for some reason.
“America, my dear, I do hope you find something in this cage worth fighting for. After all this, I can only imagine what it would be like to see you actually try.”
I’m getting increasingly bothered by how America constantly impresses everyone without even trying. You could read this as some sort of lesson about being yourself, but it feels more like the book is setting her up as naturally superior to all the other girls.
I looked at the warm spot on my hand, stunned for a moment. Then I turned to watch Maxon as he walked away, giving me the privacy I’d wanted all day.