By Aditi Shukla
The Selection, by Kiera Cass, is a five-book series that encompasses the journey of America Singer, a poor musician, whose life is changed through the process called the “Selection.” The Selection is a process in which 35 girls are chosen from the fictional country of Illea to compete for the affections of Prince Maxon in hopes of becoming the next Queen of Illea. These girls come from the divided castes, from one to eight, where ones are the respectable and wealthy elite, and eights are the untouchables, the disrespected people of the kingdom. America comes from caste five, which is one of the poorer levels. However, by going through the Selection process, she wins the affections of Prince Maxon and becomes the Queen of Illea.
When first looking at this book, it’s undeniable to see the similarity between The Selection and The Bachelor. Prince Maxon takes each of the girls out on dates, just like the bachelor takes each of the contestants on a date, and there are elimination rounds as well. It leads the girls into fights over Prince Maxon, both for his affection and for the crown. The girls take low blows, insulting each other’s family and character, and even get into physical fights at times. All of this just to marry a man. It begs the question: was feminism completely disregarded in this novel? Sure, America starts off as a friend to the prince, refusing to play into the same game as the rest of the contestants, but eventually, she competes for his affection as well.
The Selection starts with 35, and after many eliminations, is left with the final six, the Elite. Our protagonist, America, is strong and determined, and while she stands out as a woman who makes bold decisions, she does do things in the book that suggest that a lot of her actions are also just related to the prince and to gain his affections. And I think in a way, it makes her more refined but she also loses a bit of that feisty spirit she has had.
Marlee, America's best friend, while most of her actions were driven from love, is someone I truly admire. She didn’t care about the system, the preconceived notions most of them had. She simply loved who she wanted to, and that in itself shows a strong woman to me, and a strong act against society.
Kriss, America’s main competition, while smart and poised, disappointed me. While she wasn’t vile, she acted only for Prince Maxon though she had so much potential to develop as a character. Keeping her as Maxon’s comforter would have been interesting, simply to show her develop as her own individual personality.
Elise and Natalie aren’t really spoken too much about in comparison to the other Elite. I can’t seem to form an opinion about them. They are powerful in the fact that they know how to gain the love of a crowd and wield relations with foreign countries, but that’s all I have to say about them.
So each girl does have their own portrayal in the series, some that play into some archetypes, others that are unpredictable, which is what maybe separates them from society. However, though the concept of the Selection demonstrates the sexism shown in the culture, each of the women had their own reasons for coming to the palace, for love or for power, and for their own personal benefit, showing that to some degree, every single one of them was independent.