Check out our episode here! The Selection by Kiera Cass
America Singer just got a letter in the mail that she's not too happy about. Because she is between the ages of 16 and 20, she's been invited to take part in the Selection. Prince Maxon is finally of age and has to choose a girl to marry to become his queen. One girl from each province will be selected to participate. America could be chosen to be the next queen of Illéa, what used to be the United States. But a Five becoming a One? She's happy being a Five for the most part. Sure her family doesn't have a lot and sometimes they're hungry, but they're artists. They get to perform for the holidays or special occasions or create beautiful things! They might be three steps up from literal dirt, but that's fine. She's happy with her small-town life and with the boy she's loved for years, Aspen... But, he's a Six, a servant. It's not a good idea for a woman to marry down. America's family really wants her to try out, after all, the families of the girls in the competition get a nice stipend and money is pretty tight. She sneaks out in the middle of the night to see Aspen and take him some food. They talk of their future, but Aspen tells America he wants her to try out for the Selection. He couldn't live with himself if she had the chance to marry a prince but gave it up for him. She sings to him, they make out a lot, he pays her a penny, then she goes home.
The next day, America's mom bribes her with the ability to take her own singing jobs and keep half the money if she'll just sign up for the Selection. Since she was going to do it for Aspen anyway, she fills out the application form and she and her mother walk across town to submit it as soon as possible. Most of the other eligible girls are also submitting their forms at the same time. While they're waiting in line, Aspen's mother and his twin sisters arrive too and talk about how they learned that they're taking pictures of the applicants and that it's not a random drawing like everyone thought. Then they talk about how Aspen is happier lately and has been setting money aside to get married. No one knows that Aspen and America have been seeing each other, but America's so excited to learn he's saving for her that she's practically glowing when it's her turn to have her picture taken. That night, the Singer family watches the Illéa Capital Report and sees King Clarkson talk about the ongoing wars and getting a new crop of soldiers soon and then Gavril Fadaye talks to Prince Maxon about the Selection and what kind of girl he likes. He's pretty stiff but handsome in his own way. After the report and lots of taunting by her younger sister May about being Maxon's girlfriend, America goes to bed, but is awoken by Aspen tapping at her window. They make out some and then he leaves.
The night before the drawing to decide who will be chosen for the Selection, Aspen breaks up with America. She made him a huge meal with all the money she'd earned from her performing jobs and he was ashamed of it, having to beg for food and pay her in pennies. He couldn't dare take her from a Five to a Six, so he breaks up with her. Luckily, though not surprisingly, America is one of the girls chosen for the Selection. Many people from the palace are in and out of her house for the next few days, getting her ready to go, fitting her for her new wardrobe, preparing her for life at the palace, telling her the rules of the Selection. Aspen comes by to give her flowers "from his sisters" and she asks him for help cleaning up her room. Since he's a Six, a servant, he can't turn her down. They whisper-yell at each other about loving each other and also being afraid of the draft and America being taken down a peg to become a Six as well. When he leaves, they are angry with each other, but she pays him all the money she was saving for their marriage, plus the pennies he gave her for singing. All but one.
Soon America is being sent off to the palace. She sees Aspen in the crowd gathered to send her off with his arms around another girl. Jerk. Her parents and family are happy, excited and sad for her to go. As she's getting in the car to the airport, Aspen runs up, yelling for her, but she ignores him and drives away. At the airport, she meets three other girls from nearby provinces. Two of them, Marlee and Ashley, are from lower castes and are nice enough, but Celeste, a Two, is a bitch. Together they fly to Angeles, the capital. Upon arrival, there's a ton of people waiting like paparazzi. America speaks to every single person that wants to talk to her. Celeste rolls her eyes at this. Inside the palace, there is a flurry of activity. Girls all around getting makeovers and camera crews catching before and after shots and getting interviews with each contestant. Afterward, they are all shown the Women's Room where they'll spend most of their time and their own rooms where they meet their three maids. America's are Anne, Mary and Lucy. A little later, they go down to dinner where they watch the weekly Report and all the news captured about them between leaving their homes and arriving at the capital. America, one of only three Fives, is a favorite already.
After dinner, America dismisses her maids and then has an attack of claustrophobia, freaks out and runs toward the gardens outside. She's blocked by guards but then Prince Maxon comes and insists the guards let her out. She cries and yells at Maxon about being kept in a cage, how she's only here for the food and now everyone here is fighting for him or for the crown. He calls her "my dear" a lot which she hates and she tells him to stop. She's pretty bratty to him about having this competition to find a wife, but he explains that that's how his parents met and fell in love and he doesn't really know anyone else that he could have fallen in love with. She begins to think a little better of him, especially when he asks her not to tell about their meeting and gives her permission to visit the gardens whenever she wants. He kisses her hand and leaves.
Before breakfast the next day, Silvia, the woman in charge of the girls in the competition, begins teaching them all table manners, then Prince Maxon arrives. He introduces himself and speaks to each girl individually. When it comes time to speak with America, she apologizes for treating him so poorly the night before. He asks if she thinks she could love him, but she says no. When he offers to let her go home, she asks to stay since it would be good for her family. She offers to be his confidant in the competition, his friend to help him sort out which girl to marry. He agrees, but tells her he'll keep trying with her anyway. After each girl meets with Maxon, several are asked to stay behind while the rest go to breakfast with the king and queen. The girls that were left behind were sent home. 35 girls became 27 before the first breakfast. At breakfast, Maxon notices America really enjoying a strawberry tart. He asks her if she likes the food and she does, but says her sister would probably cry if she ate one of these tarts. Maxon takes her bet. If May cries, then she gets whatever she wants. If she doesn't cry, he gets to take her on a walk around the garden. What does she want? To wear pants. May doesn't cry, so they go on their walk, but while they're chatting, he takes her to the edge of the forest. She gets anxious as he steps close to her, thinking of what she was told by palace staff while they were helping her get ready to leave for the palace. One told her that she should give the prince whatever he wanted wherever he wanted it, whether she wanted to give it or not. Yikes. So as he's getting close to her, she knees him in the crotch. She's made to eat dinner alone in her room that night. When she gets back to her room, there is a gift on her bed: three pairs of pants.
During breakfast the next day, there is a rebel attack. The girls were warned this might happen when they first arrived. America helps shutter the windows while the other girls cry and faint. Everyone is moved to the back of the room and Maxon comes to check on them. He and America talk for a while, she apologizes for kneeing his junk and tells him what the guy said about giving him anything he wants. They jokingly talk about crying girls and how he can console them, and then they talk about the rebels. There are two groups, the Northerners and the Southerners. The Northerners seem to be looking for something when they attack, but the Southerners are violent. America is worried about her maids and hopes they're all right. Maxon assures her they are fine, then America sends Maxon off to talk to Marlee because since she's just his friend, she really hopes he'll pick Marlee for his queen. Back in her room later, America comes in to find Lucy, her maid, having an anxiety attack. Anne explains that during a previous attack, Lucy was taken and licked by one of the rebels. Yikes. America puts her in bed to help her calm down.
America spends the next few days mostly in her room getting to know her maids. Maxon walks by her open door, flustering the maids who rush giggling from the room. Maxon pokes around her room, asking about her family and music and things, and then asks her if they can have a secret method of communication since they're friends. They decide whenever they see the other tug on their ear, they'll get together in private as soon as possible, likely by Maxon coming to her room after dinner. The Capital Report is on the next night and all the girls have to attend. Before it starts, Maxon catches America's eye and tugs his ear. The report mentions the rebel attack and then Gavril talks to Maxon about the remaining girls. Maxon tells about being yelled at by one the first time they spoke and that rather than sending her home, he plans to keep her for a long time.
At the ear-tug meeting, Maxon takes America for a walk. He's upset that she dismisses her maids each night and plans to put a guard outside her door. He asks her about why she doesn't want to go home and she finally tells the story about Aspen, crying the entire time, about him helping her older brother Kota and then accidentally falling in love and secretly dating for two years and her thinking that he was going to propose but then he broke up with her instead and then seeing him with another girl at her send-off. Maxon hugs her and promises to keep her there as long as she wants to stay. The next day is Saturday and America spends the day in the Women's Room talking to Marlee about their dates and what they like about Maxon. Another girl, Tuesday, comes over to ask about America's night with Maxon last night. Apparently she's the only one to be alone with Maxon twice so far. Then, in the background, Anna slaps Celeste. She's sent home before dinner. The next day they have to do magazine photoshoots and while America is taking her turn, a man interrupts to tell Maxon there's been an attack and he's supposed to decide what to do about it. After the photo shoot, Maxon goes on a date with another girl, but sends her home afterward and no one knows why.
Silvia teaches a history lesson and America realizes she doesn't know much about history because it's not taught in books anymore. The only history book she's seen is one her father has that was burned and ripped up. But she learned about Halloween from it, so that's good. She learns from this lesson that after World War 3, China invaded because the US owed them a lot of money and then the United States became the American State of China. Then later, Gregory Illéa led an attack on Russia and became king of what is now called Illéa. But why isn't any of this in books? The girls receive letters from home after that. May wants lots of juicy details from America in her next letter. America decides she really wants to speak to Maxon, so she rips off a piece of May's letter and sends an ear-tug note to him through a maid. He runs up right after and he and America talk in the hallway. His mother wants to fund education and he supports that, but his father doesn't think it would do any good. America talks about how it would be, but it needs to be done in the right way and that it's Eights, the homeless, that cause the most trouble. Then she tells Maxon about being hungry and what you would do for your loved ones if you were starving. He kisses her on the forehead and goes back to his meetings. At dinner that night, Maxon announces that even though the girls were told they'd receive compensation for being part of the Selection, as of now, Twos and Threes will receive no more financing. Fours and Fives still will, but less. He'll explain at the Capital Report.
Back in her room preparing for the evening Report, America's maids tell her that she's Maxon's favorite and that all the other girls are requesting dresses like hers and to tone down their makeup and jewelry to look more like her, so to compensate, they made her a lovely red dress instead of her usual blue. All the girls are jealous of her new dress and Celeste even threatens her to force her to trade. She rips her sleeve in jealousy before the show starts, but Marlee and a few others help hide the tatters. Maxon starts the Report this evening by making his announcement that there will be food provided to everyone in the lower castes. His mother is beaming at this, but his father seems less than enthused, but now, it's time for the girls to be interviewed by Gavril Fadaye. America slips and calls Maxon by his name instead of something more formal which is terribly frowned upon, but Maxon seems okay with it. She's also asked about yelling at Maxon and has to tell the story of the first night in the garden. In her room later, Maxon comes to see her and things change between them. America finally realizes that she will never stop loving Aspen, but that's over with, so she can love Maxon instead. He kisses her, his first kiss! and it's so awkward, but then America says they can erase it and try again, so they do. He asks if there's even a possibility of her loving him even though they agreed to be friends only, and she says yes.
Over the next few days, the girls start to change. Some realize that they all need to support each other because like it or not, only one of them will be married to Maxon. But then Olivia announces that Maxon kissed her. America is jealous because now she's having intense feelings for Maxon, but again, she might not be the one chosen. Then Silvia comes in and announces that the king and queen of Swendway and Queen Amberly's family will be visiting soon. They arrive and America is introduced to Queen Amberly's sister Adele by two of the other girls who end up mocking Adele after she leaves because she's been drinking and is apparently an embarrassment. This makes America upset and then she pretty much gets upset with everyone because she's struggling with jealousy and wondering what people think of her and thinking about the future and a million other things. She watches as Maxon plays with his cousins and tries to talk to Marlee, but she's sitting far away from everyone with only one guard nearby and doesn't want to talk to anyone. America goes inside to get away from everything and ends up talking to Adele for a while. Adele feels bad for Queen Amberly because she was only able to have Maxon while she's got six kids running around all over the place. Her sister loves all the girls but doesn't want to get close to any of them because she'll be sad when they have to leave. America goes back outside to find Maxon and they each tug on their ears at the same time.
More time passes. A few more girls have gone home and the Queen has been in the Women's Room a few times. Things are becoming normal for America in the palace. Marlee confides in her that she doesn't feel anything for Maxon but doesn't want to go home either. America tries to convince her to try to like Maxon, but things get weird for her after that and they don't talk much for a few days. Maxon takes America on another date and as they're walking to the movie theater in the basement, they run into a bunch of newly drafted soldiers and Aspen is among them. All the feelings for him rush back but she decides she can't tell Maxon about him for fear that he'd be sent away or punished somehow. Their date is mediocre because she spent the entire time thinking about Aspen, but oh well. She tries to avoid seeing Aspen at all costs, which means sticking to the Women's Room. Soon it's one of the girls, Kriss's, birthday. They have a party in the Women's Room. Kriss is dressed in a gorgeous pale ballgown and everyone celebrates her without any pettiness. Well, except for Celeste. America plays her violin for Kriss and everyone else in the room and sees Maxon staring at her, awestruck. Then, to ruin everything for everyone, Celeste "accidentally" dumps her wine down Kriss's dress. America tries to tell Maxon about it, about all the things Celeste has done, but he dismisses her. He says he doesn't want to talk about other girls, but she keeps on, so he yells at her, puts her in her place for being rude to him, and leaves. He tries to ear-tug her throughout that evening's Report, but she ignores him.
When America gets to her room that night, feeling pretty terrible, Aspen is outside her door on guard duty. He sneaks in later and they furiously make out. This is considered treason by the rules of the Selection and they could both be put to be death, but they make out anyway. Aspen asks if America loves Maxon and she says no (liar!) and they make out even more. He finally leaves but promises to come back again soon. Later, there's another rebel attack, this one much worse than the first. The maids try to send America down to the safe room but she won't go without them. They insist they have their own place to go but she won't let them leave her, fearing for their safety. All the girls and the royal family are in this safe room, plus a few guards, including Aspen. Lucy seems smitten by him. When they get the all-clear and go back to their rooms, America finds hers in disarray. Her photos are ripped up and her room is a mess, but nothing seems to have been taken. Silvia comes by to make sure she's not leaving because several of the other girls have decided to go home. Nope, America is staying right where she is. Silvia gives her a phone to call home and May asks if she'll please come home, but again, no. She's staying. May asks if it's because she loves Maxon and she doesn't really answer, but May starts singing about it anyway. America decides she's got to do something about Maxon and Aspen.
At breakfast after the attack, Maxon decides to go ahead and narrow the Selection down to the Elite, but instead of narrowing them down to ten, he narrows them to six. Marlee, Kriss, Celeste, Natalie, Elise and America. He can't keep girls around who he feels nothing for if they are in danger of being hurt during an attack. Later in her room after the maids are gone, Maxon comes by. They apologize for being terrible to each other and Maxon declares that if he could, if he knew she felt the same way, he'd send everyone home and end it all with her by his side. But he's got to keep the other girls there because they're all of some import. Marlee is a favorite of the people, Celeste comes from a powerful family, his family and advisors like Natalie and Kriss, and Elise has ties to New Asia, so she could be helpful in ending the war. America feels she has nothing to offer like that, but Maxon genuinely really cares for her. They kiss again since their first time and it's lovely. Aspen comes into her room in the middle of the night and America tells him she's here for Maxon and that they can't have whatever it was that they had back home anymore. He scoffs, upset that she's choosing some suit over him, but no, she's finally choosing herself. He leaves the room, promising not to give up fighting for her. Now she finally feels like she belongs, after all, she is an Elite.