Let’s Read The Selection ch. 13


Chapter 13

Strap yourselves in, folks. This ones’a  doozy.

America gets out of bed the morning after her tiff with Maxon (which, in case you’ve forgotten, occurred because she thought he was going to rape her for extremely contrived reasons) and assumes she’s going to be de-Selected.

We were halfway through breakfast before Kriss worked up the courage to ask me about our date.

…Kriss? Who?

“How did he act?” Tiny asked.


“Are you being like that on purpose?” Zoe interjected.

I know I’ve done this several times, but I swear I’m not joking, I really can’t remember who any of these characters are. And not like “I recognize the name but I’m having trouble recalling their role in the plot”, I mean I literally had to search back through the book because I would have confidently bet money that none of these names had ever been mentioned before now. It doesn’t help that everyone who isn’t America seems to exist to either hate or fawn over her, and is differentiated solely by which of those two categories they fall into.

All of this excitement is interrupted by some sort of rebel attack (remember those guys?), and for some reason Maxon and his parents scramble over to the windows to pull down the security shutters. Shouldn’t those things be automated? Shouldn’t their bodyguards be getting them to a safe room, instead of letting them go near the windows?

“They’re inside the walls, Majesty, but we’re holding them back.

If the book is to be believed, this is the third time rebels have managed to get inside the palace walls. What the hell is the army doing?

And it’s not like they’re in the middle of a civil war (although if they were, this would indicate that the government was in a pretty dire situation), by all accounts the royal family’s grip on the country is more or less solid, and the rebels are just striking around the fringes like you’d expect of an underground terrorist group.

So what the fuck? Why is the palace security so incompetent?

How many times had she survived attacks now? We got reports that these happened several times a year.

Are you serious? How? Why hasn’t the king fired his whole security team by now?

Surely, eventually, the rebels would figure out the right alignment of circumstances to get what they wanted.

Have they tried just walking in the front door? Because that would probably work.

Others were near hysterics, whimpering on their knees. Some had mentally shut down, blocking out the entire ordeal. Their faces were blank, and they absently wrung their hands, waiting for it to end.

All that happened is that there was a loud noise and someone threw something at a window. I’ve been in more harrowing situations than that in the last month alone.

Guards waited on edge by the massive doors as heavy things were thrown against wall and windows again and again



Also what is going on with the rebels? Are they this dangerous terrorist group bent on assassinating the royal family, or are they just protesters hurling shit at the palace? The book seems to flip-flop on this on a paragraph by paragraph basis.

And even if there were no easy way in, this would be an excellent time to mount a protest. At its barest of bones, the Selection was kind of disturbing.

Is it? Apart from the fact that the contestants are expected to never turn down any of Maxon’s advances (which the rebels couldn’t know about, since America only found out about it after being selected and it came as a total shock to her), America doesn’t seem to have been particularly bothered by anything going on.

Apparently at some point America decided that Marlee should win the contest (I don’t remember this happening, but I do at least recall who Marlee is), so she feeds her advice on how to respond to the attack in a totally queenly fashion. I’m not sure how America knows all of this, unless it’s just another indication of how awesome and naturally superior she is to everyone else.

We usually have an alarm system, but the last time they came through, the rebels thoroughly dismantled it. They’ve been working on fixing it, but…”

…but what?

Maxon sighed.

No hang on, finish that sentence. The palace’s security system was sabotaged by the rebels during one of their frequent escapades into the grounds, and it hasn’t been repaired yet because…why, exactly? Is there a shortage of alarm system components? Does no one know how to repair it? The royal family is able to pay to fly 35 people across the country on private jets, put them up in private rooms with three-person servant teams for however many weeks or months the contest lasts, and pay their families a (apparently quite generous) stipend while they’re there, but they can’t get an alarm fixed?


A few people have said in the comments that it feels as if this story originally had a different setting, and scenes like this really drive that home. This whole sequence makes a lot more sense if you recast the royal family as minor nobility in a fantasy setting, and assume the rebels are bandits or something.

“So how are you handling a roomful of crying women?” I asked.
There was a comical bewilderment in his expression. “Nothing in the world is more confusing!” he whispered urgently. “I haven’t the faintest clue how to stop it.”

I think I’m getting a migraine.

“Try patting them on the back or shoulder and telling them everything is going to be fine. Lots of times when girls cry, they don’t want you to fix the problem, they just want to be consoled,” I advised.

migraine intensifies

Maxon explains more about the rebels. There are two groups–“Northerners” and “Southerners”–and it really does seem as if all of their activities consist of periodic attacks focused solely on the palace itself. The royal family seems to treat this as a tragic inevitability, like a natural disaster, rather than something they should be trying to actually prevent.

This basically breaks the story. The idea of the rebels repeatedly breaking into the palace over and over again is totally fucking ridiculous and makes it impossible to take the setting seriously. The fact that no one seems to know why the rebels are actually rebelling and aren’t particularly interested in finding out just makes it worse.

Oh and it seems like the Northerners are looking for something in the palace, but whatever.

“You mean there’s more than one?” That made the entire experience much worse. If this was one group, what could two or more do together? As far as I knew, a rebel was a rebel was a rebel, but Maxon made it sound like some could be worse than others.

You can totally tell the author wasn’t interested in any of this.

And then the rooms—well, all the ones they can get into—they’re a mess. Every drawer pulled out, shelves searched, carpet upturned. Lots of things get broken. You wouldn’t believe the number of cameras I’ve replaced over the years.”



Seriously, there are only three possible explanations for this:

a) The palace doesn’t have enough security

b) The security that is there is incompetent

c) The rebels are really militarily capable

If Maxon is to be believed then it can’t be option c, since he describes the rebels as lower than eights and living in bombed-out ruins way off in the sticks somewhere (how they manage to sneak into the capital for these raids is never explained), so why aren’t the royal family hiring better security?

(Actually there’s a fourth possibility, which is that the palace is in a totally isolated rural area and can’t call for any sort of police or military backup in case of trouble, but that’s even stupider than the other three)

“Do you think it’s silly?” Maxon asked, bringing me out of my wonderings.


Something mildly interesting finally happens when America returns to her room and finds Lucy (the nervous maid) having what appears to be a full blown panic attack. We get her back story, which isn’t terribly interesting–she was basically given into indentured servitude so she couldn’t marry someone below her caste–and learn that she’s trying to hide her anxiety from the wider palace staff so she won’t be demoted to a dishwasher.

If you screw up, you’re put in the kitchen, where your fingers are working all day, and the clothes are baggy.

Oh, no. Baggy clothes.

I’v worked in a kitchen before, and while it’s not exactly a massive hardship, there are worse things about it than having to wear unappealing clothes.

Or you chop firewood or rake the grounds.

Why do they need someone to chop firewood full-time? Can’t they just buy pre-chopped wood? And the palace is in southern California, how often would they even need to light a fire?

Two years ago, there was an attack on the palace in the middle of the night.

You know, one of the like seventeen times rebels have managed to break into the palace.

Oh my god my mind is being blown all over again by how utterly nonsensical this is. It’s not just me, right? You all see what I’m talking about?

Anyway Lucy was almost raped in the attack, but someone managed to shoot her attacker in the head. This understandably left her a bit traumatized.

I promised myself that, if I could help it, Lucy wouldn’t have to go through that again.

Maybe you could tell Maxon to HIRE SOME MORE FUCKING GUARDS.

Or I don’t know, build a big barbed-wire fence or something. The people who attacked most recently didn’t even have guns, that would probably do it.





7 thoughts on “Let’s Read The Selection ch. 13

  1. plantpaladin

    Reminds me of a forum I read where they go through another failed attempt at a dystopian setting. Starcraft 2 Wings of Liberty. The main human villain in this setting was earlier established as commanding by having a very persuasive attitude. The original Starcraft ending shows the “truth” the masses are fed and reminds the viewer just how effective propaganda can be.

    In the followup they decided to make the character over the top as well as his propaganda.
    Links to a breakdown of the games.


    .. https://forums.spacebattles.com/threads/ua-plays-starcraft-ii.270603/

  2. Signatus

    I happen to see a trend going on in bad literature. I had the same problem with the Qvothe books. Most characters, specially Qvothe’s friends, were so underdeveloped I never really knew who was who, what their roles in the book were and what they were supposed to look like. There is a clear difference with Rowling, for example, where I can clearly recall each of the character’s names (even the evil, underdeveloped ones, but who played certain roles) and even remember what they were supposed to look like.

    This kind of bad authors focus so much on their protagonist they completely forget about developing the rest of the characters.

    ” Shouldn’t their bodyguards be getting them to a safe room, instead of letting them go near the windows?”

    You’re actually asking this person to think about what she’s writing? This is a clear scenario of an author with absolutely ZERO knowledge on the topic she’s writing about tossing in whatever comes into her mind that makes sense and never going back to rethink about it.

    “the rebels would figure out the right alignment of circumstances to get what they wanted.”

    And what exactly do they want?

    “Others were near hysterics, whimpering on their knees. Some had mentally shut down, blocking out the entire ordeal. Their faces were blank, and they absently wrung their hands, waiting for it to end.”

    Let me guess… women? Because obviously women can never hold themselves together when we are in a dangerous situation, unlike man who will get one shotgun in each hand and start shooting rebellion into submission…

    Gah, I hate this author.

    “Guards waited on edge by the massive doors as heavy things were thrown against wall and windows again and again”

    Ok, seriously. WTF? Is this a rebellion or a civilian protest? Because this doesn’t look like rebellion at all. It looks like society is sick of the government and is protesting against it by throwing tomatoes at the walls of the presidential house.

    It’s not like Kiera Cass has any excuse not to know how things work, damn it. This is not some obscure political scientist knowledge. All you have to do is turn on the TV and watch the news. Look up what’s going on in other parts of the world.

    “So how are you handling a roomful of crying women?”

    Ha… Ha… Ha, thought so. Women in a situation of crisis are useless beings that turn into moping rags, unable to do shit about it. Yeah… it’s good to know I’m not a woman and when I’ve been in a situation of direct emergency I’ve been able to hold my shit together and drive wherever I needed to drive… oh wait, I AM A WOMAN, DAMN!

    Look, Cass. Emotion is a tricky thing, allright? But evolution is efficient enough to eliminate traits, like becoming a useless, moping rag simply because some dudes are throwing stuff at the walls, which serve NOTHING to the survival of the species. You CAN push a human being, woman or man, to a point of learned helplessness and you don’t need to use direct threats to do that. It’s such a deep, psychological thing making someone feel useless is enough to put them into a state of learned helplessness (as demonstrated by a experiment they did in a classroom… where obviously there was no bunch of protesters throwing stuff at the walls). Women and men alike are capable to withstand situations which are more aversive than this one, because if they couldn’t we’d be EXTINCT, or do you actually believe traits being passed discriminate depending on whether you have an X or Y chromosome? (some do, such a several gender specific diseases, but temperament is not that simple).

    Sirians are running away from their homes, getting into overcrowded boats to smuggle themselves into the safety of european land. Do you truly think women are uncapable of SURVIVING? They are uncapable of being proactive in a high risk situation? They just lay down and wait to die or something? Women fight back, women can be highly aggressive when need be (just like any other animal). Women are proactive, they think and they make choices and take action. I’ve been called at 4 am because someone I love dearly was in the hospital. How do you think I reacted? Do you think I just layed down and mopped? (OH, DISGRACE, WHY MEEEEE?). NO, I fucking got into the car, drove until I found my boyfriend (who was walking the dog) told him the situation and we, WITH ME DRIVING, got to the hospital, Oh, do you know who called me? MY MOM, A WOMAN! WOW, WOMAN CAN DO STUFF WHEN THREATENED!

    “There was a comical bewilderment in his expression.”

    Yeah, this is all so funny!

    “I haven’t the faintest clue how to stop it.”

    YOU-SELFISH-BASTARD. So a person is crying out of fear and all you can think about is how uncomfortable you feel and how to make it stop so you stop feeling uncomfortable. Yah, thanks for taking into consideration my emotions and for telling me to stop being an irrational whinny idiot.


    Ok, I want to clarify that. Despite my rant, which was mostly aimed at Cass unable to think women are something else than weak (because crying makes you weak, you know…), I have nothing against people having emotions. I cry, I cried a lot when I lost my little girl and I still do when I look up her photographs. I cry when I hear a song that strikes me in the right place. My brother cried when he had a car accident and he did so when he left to live abroad and had to say goodbye. I HATE people that judge other people based on their emotions. I don’t care how irrational it might seem that my brother broke down because he had a minor car accident, he is feeling that way, he needs to be supported, understood, not shunned because you think you would react or feel differently in the same situation.

    This is another example of the macho man hero (who never leaks a tear it seems) considering that women are weak and useless because they’re crying in a situation where he isn’t. Well, know what? I don’t give a shit. They have a right to be afraid if they want to and you’re no-one to judge them because of that.

    “Try patting them on the back or shoulder and telling them everything is going to be fine.”

    WHAT??????? You… YOU… ARGH!!!!!

    “Lots of times when girls cry, they don’t want you to fix the problem, they just want to be consoled,”

    Yeah, when my girl died all I wanted was to be consoled, that’s why I cried. Emotions be damned. YOU ARE AN ASSHOLE!

    “That made the entire experience much worse.”

    Try living with three terrorist groups which kill people on a monthly basis. Try living in a situation where you never know if the next time it will be you, or in which you have to look under the car EVERY SINGLE TIME because you never know if there will be a bomb under it. Try living in a country where such terrorist groups attacked CIVILIANS to put pressure on the government, and where such civilians had to flee their houses to survive. We good? Ok.

    Why… why would you even try to get into this sort of plot when it is very obvious you have ZERO interest and you’ve done NO research at all? Why mock people like me, who suffered over 40 years of endless terrorism and we never saw an end to it? What? You needed some antagonist? WHAT FOR? Did the story really need this sort of antagonist?

    I know Brandon Sanderson is not well loved in this areas, but he did something really cool with the Storms. He created a looking threat that would appear when least expected and put our protagonists into a situation of risk, but since this was a natural disaster it didn’t need any more explanation or development. It was like mount Vesubius erupting, it does it rather frequently and it needs no motivations or more explanation aside from the geological one of; “well, it’s an active volcano, spewing lava is what it does.”

    Why get into such complicated issues only to create (you failed, by the way) an atmosphere of unpredictable risk?

    “what could two or more do together”

    How about “fight against each other”? Or “completely ignore one another”? Because that’s what tends to happen with rebel groups when they don’t go after the same objectives or their goals collide. They’ll either ignore each other or fight. I mean, there could be some collaboration, I’m not an expert, but this is not something I’ve seen myself.

    “Do you think it’s silly?”

    No, I think it’s impossible and the trademark of a terrible author.

    “and the clothes are baggy.”

    And this is dramatic because…?

    “I promised myself that, if I could help it, Lucy wouldn’t have to go through that again.”

    How about an electrified fence, some towers with sharpshooters and a good anti-terrorist protocol? This is the FUCKING FUTURE, remember that, Cass?

  3. Andrea Harris

    I don’t know if the author was a typical American girl who grew up in the safe bubble of a middle-class suburb, where the worst thing that ever happened to her was missing the school bus, but she sure writes like one.

  4. devilsjunkshop

    I’m waiting for the twist ending where none of this makes any sense because it’s the scrappy disordered ramblings of someone making up a story in an actual post apocalyptic wasteland – “…and there was like a palace-we don’t have those now-and the princess journeyed in one these silver things called planes that flew in the sky when it wasn’t boiling angry purple all the time…”

  5. Ben

    The rebels really are ridiculous. If most of your country is living in crushing poverty under a rigid caste system, offer an automatic promotion to a higher caste for all able-bodied persons who are willing to serve a five- or ten-year stint as guards or soldiers. Problem solved! If the rebels are already at the point of regularly breaking into the palace, the danger of a few disloyal people on your side is immaterial.

    Unless, of course, the lower castes aren’t actually living in crushing poverty and the author’s just saying that they are because it makes America’s background more dramatic and tense.

  6. A. Noyd

    The rebels are just as incompetent as the palace security if they only ever hit the palace and not other targets of significance. As for the bit about searching for something, why not infiltrate the place and snoop rather alerting everyone to your intent by tearing the place apart? Hell, one of the snoopers could be another contestant and America could catch her snooping and get tangled up in the rebel shenanigans that way. But that might make this book something other than a snooze-fest of a plot peppered with rage-inducing misogyny, and we can’t have that.


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