Remember how I’ve been complaining for post after post that The Selection keeps eliminating stakes and tension at every turn, as though actively trying to make the story as boring as possible? Well now, 75% of the way through, the book finally decides to introduce a bit of conflict…and fucks it up.
Maxon strides into the dining hall during dinner and makes a shocking announcement: the “natural” Twos and Threes (ie the ones who were born into that caste rather than being elevated to Threes upon joining the contest) will no longer be receiving any monetary compensation. Fours and Fives will now get “slightly less”.
When I initially got to this scene, I assumed it was going to go the other way: the lower tiers (of which there aren’t many–America is the only Five remaining) would be getting nothing, while the Twos and Threes would keep their allowances. That would skew the contest toward the higher castes, lay bare the lie that the contest is an egalitarian affair where one’s social rank doesn’t matter, and force America to confront her feelings and decide whether she’s actually just in this for the money. I can imagine a follow-up scene where her family writes to her, asking her to come home–if they’re not getting compensated for her participation then her being in the contest is just depriving them of a source of income–but she can’t bring herself to do it and justifies it internally by arguing that she still has a shot at winning and solving all of their money problems for good.
Which of course would introduce even more tension into the story, because now America faces letting her family down if she doesn’t take the ultimate prize, and every day the contest drags on brings them closer and closer to destitution.
But NOPE, the only people who really lose out are the ones who didn’t need the money to begin with. We swiftly move on to America putting on a fancy dress for a TV appearance.
“We talk to all the other maids, miss. We hear a lot of things,” Anne began. “We know that you and Lady Janelle are the only two who got more than one date with His Majesty, and from what we understand, there might be a link between you two.”
“How so?” I asked.
“From what we’ve heard,” Anne continued, “the reason she was asked to leave is because she said some rather unkind things about you. The prince did not agree and dismissed her immediately.”
“What?” I put a hand to my mouth, trying to hide my shock.
“We’re sure you’re his favorite, miss. Most everyone says so.” Lucy sighed happily.
Gosh, could it really be true? I’m shocked.
Also America’s maids are really starting to creep me out. It’s like they have no personalities or interests beyond fawning over her. Are we sure they’re not actually robots?
There’s a whole lot of BS about how America is totally the favourite and all the other girls have started emulating her style but fucking whatever, let’s get to the next thing that passes for an actual plot point.
I didn’t know how to explain to them that the notes he sent me, the time he’d spent with me, meant nothing other than friendship between us.
I really can’t decide whether this is just supposed to be America being clueless, or whether the reader is meant to actually buy any of it.
Something semi-interesting finally happens when Celeste (one of the Mean Girls) confronts America right before a live interview and tears her dress (because she’s just ~so jealous~ of America).
Well, this is an interesting development! America will have to go on camera with a big ol’ rip in one sleeve. I guess she’ll need to think quick to spin it into something positive, or
“America, lift your arm,” Marlee instructed. She expertly tucked my tattered sleeve into the side of my dress as Emmica plucked away a few stray threads. You couldn’t even tell anything had happened to it.
Ha ha nope, once again The Selection won’t let America deal with even minor setbacks.
Maxon goes on stage and announces that he’s totally woke now (he actually uses the words “woken”) and wants to do something about the plight of the lower castes. He’s setting up places where Eights to Fives can get free food, and the higher-caste contestants’ compensation was taken away to help pay for the program.
Which makes me wonder how much money they were giving out for participating. Something like this would surely cost hundreds of millions of Illea-bucks, if not more. And the fact that he can set this up so easily really does make it sound as if the inequality in the country only exists because no one has ever thought to do anything about it before now.
[Celeste’s] interview was predictable, and so was Bariel’s. They tried to be sexy, bending forward a lot to get clear shots down their dresses. It looked fake.
In case you forgot that the gender politics in this thing are a real train wreck.
“America Singer. That’s an interesting name you have there. Is there a story behind it?” Gavril asked.
I sighed in relief. This was an easy one.
“Yes, actually. While my mom was pregnant with me, I kicked a lot. She said she had a fighter on her hands, so she named me after the country that fought so hard to keep this land together.
That makes no sense. Didn’t America get totally crushed by the Chinese in the backstory? There’s clearly a reason they decided to rename themselves instead of keeping the old name.
Anyway America does the interview, it goes totally swimmingly, then later her and Maxon have a big rambling conversation and she admits that maybe she is actually starting to like him after all. Be still, my heart.