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.
“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
WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE JUST FUCKING SHOOT THEM OR SOMETHING
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…”
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?
NONE OF THIS MAKES SENSE.
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.
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.”
HOW ARE THEY BREAKING INTO THE PALACE OVER AND OVER AGAIN
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.
I SURE DO THINK IT’S SILLY THANKS FOR ASKING MAXON
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.