As someone who has once worked part-time in a bookstore (no, I’m not Joe Goldberg from YOU), I can say that it’s easy to see a trend forming based on books that are a hit. When the Harry Potter books came out, fantasy universes hiding in plain sight became a trope. Twilight started teen romance novels featuring a mortal girl choosing between two supernatural love interests. And then The Hunger Games paved the way for dystopian futures.
One of those dystopian-type young adult novels, The Selection Series, takes that dystopian trope but then does something unique with it. If you look at the series’ review on Goodreads, you get the idea that’s basically The Bachelor (or The Bachelorette, for its later spin-off) but set in a dystopian future.
For those who aren’t into reality TV, The Bachelor is a show where a group of women compete to win the affection of one man. The grand prize isn’t money, but a marriage proposal. But in The Selection series, that marriage proposal comes from the future king of the country, so you can imagine how big of a deal that is in the books.
But to generalize this as The Hunger Games meets The Bachelor would be doing the book a huge disservice. Here’s a run-down of the entire Selection series. As of writing, there are five main novels (The Selection, The Elite, The One, The Heir, and The Crown) and five novellas (The Prince, The Guard, The Queen, The Favorite, and Happily Ever After) in The Selection series. Be warned that this article will contain spoilers, so read at your own risk!
- The Caste System
- History of the Selection
- The Selection
- The Elite
- The One
- The Heir
- The Crown
- Themes from The Selection Series
History of Illéa
Before I explain the series of the books, I think it’s best to explain the history of the universe the Selection takes place in. Geographically, the novels take place in the United States, but it’s since been changed and is now called the country of Illéa. During the Selected (the term given to the women chosen to compete for the prince’s hand)’s history class, they recall the history of how Illéa came to be.
In the book’s past, the Third World War began because the United States was so bankrupt that it could not afford to pay China back the money that they owed. The Chinese army invaded and won, creating the American State of China. For years, China (and later on “New Asia”) pulled the strings in all of the United States’ legislation. The United States lost its allies, while their European allies sought alliances with each other by reviving the practice of intermarrying royal households.
Later on, Russia attempted to expand its territory in both directions and failed when it went to war with China. Gregory Illéa, a wealthy figure in the United States’ politics and military, had ambitions to usurp their current president and be the next ruler. It’s unspecified how, but Gregory managed to do this and use Russia and China’s war with each other to retake the United States’ power for their own country.
Because the name “United States of America” had such a bad reputation, Americans agreed to change their country’s name to Illéa, after Gregory. He was considered president, but he wanted to become king like many of the other countries in Europe. Therefore, he forced his only daughter, Katherine, to marry Emil de Monpezat, a much older man and the Prince of Swendway. Her marriage made her a princess, thus giving Gregory the right to call himself king.
The Caste System
Prior to becoming King, Gregory had already drafted his idea of a caste system. It’s most likely based on the caste system developed in India. Outwards, the caste system was made to reward those who donated the government. However, it’s later made clear that it was a way for Gregory to reward his friends by placing them high in the caste an his enemies at the bottom.
When the caste system was implemented, families had to change their last names to names that were appropriate with their given castes. There were eight castes:
- One: The Royal Family and religious figures;
- Two: Celebrities, police officers, politicians, military members, firefighters, guards;
- Three: Businessmen and women, high-ranking members of the music industry, people working in college-level professions or higher, the Selected;
- Four: White-collar workers, farmers, chefs, factory workers;
- Five: Artists and performers who aren’t popular or high-earning enough to be a Three, photographers;
- Six: Blue-collar workers with indoor jobs;
- Seven: Blue-collar workers with outdoor and dirty jobs;
- Eight: Mentally/physically incapable people, addicts, runaways, and illegitimate-born and abandoned people who cannot prove their caste.
When a man and woman marry, the woman takes her husband’s caste. Inter-marrying a person from a different caste is not uncommon, but it’s generally preferred that a woman marries a man with a higher caste rather than go down and suffer. Because of the complexity of the caste system, men and women are not allowed to engage in sex until after marriage.
History of the Selection
A few years after Katherine’s wedding, the Royal Family experienced a tumultuous time. Gregory’s eldest son and heir, Prince Spencer, apparently died (In truth, he hated his father for forcing his sister into an arranged marriage and faked his death to go live in northern Illéa). Afterwards, Gregory’s wife Bethany also died.
Morale in the country was low, so to distract and appease the country of Illéa, the Selection was born. This was not just to give the country some form of entertainment and lift the spirits by watching an ordinary girl win the chance of her and her family being lifted to the top of the Caste, but a political move to show that Gregory’s 19-year-old son, Damon, was mature enough to settle down and prepare for life as the future King of Illéa.
Process of the Selection
During the Selection, unmarried girls between the ages of 16 to 20 are encouraged to submit an application form and a photo of themselves. Participation isn’t mandatory, but given that it’s a huge chance to marry into the Royal Family, you can bet that millions of girls will be vying for that chance.
After the application process, 35 girls are “randomly” picked (but given how politically cunning everything is late, you can bet that the first few Selections are NOT random). Their caste is then raised to Three (unless they’re already a natural Two or Three), they’re given a makeover, and then taken to live in the palace. There, they’re subjected to strict rules about their lifestyle and behavior around the Royal Family. While the girls’ families are paid, there is no timeline for how long a Selection lasts, so it’s possible the Selection can last for years.
Once the Selection starts, the Selected cannot leave until they are dismissed by the Prince. Once the number of Selected drops to 10 girls, they become the Elites and area required to learn about the obligations of being a Princess of Illéa. From there, the prince will select the one girl who he will marry.
Early rules stated that only Princes can have their own Selection. Princesses born into the Royal Family are married off to other Royal Families to secure alliances.
Not much is known about Damon’s Selection. In the books, it’s mentioned that he slept with half the girls before sending them home (thus starting the unofficial rule that girls must be willing to do whatever the prince wants them to do). He ended up selecting Grave Lowell, a Two. She was his father’s pick, though this didn’t do much to raise the country’s morale since she was already high up in the caste.
Justin’s Selection and Shift to the Schreave Family
Damon and Grace eventually married and had a son named Justin. Justin grew up with his cousin, Porter Schreave, living in the palace. The Schreaves are Queen Bethany’s family, thus were also Ones and part of the Royal Family.
During Justin’s Selection, he selects Abby Tamblin (her original caste is never mentioned, though it’s likely a Two or Three) as his future wife. While Abby did like Justin enough, she was more attracted to his cousin. Three years after their marriage, Abby poisoned him. With no heir in the Illéa Family, Porter became next in line for the throne.
Porter married Abby and they had a son named Clarkson. Their initial passion for each other eventually faded because Porter became wary of Abby because of how easily she conspired with him to murder his cousin. Their relationship became full of mistrust.
Clarkson’s selection is mentioned in the original novels but featured in the novella The Queen, though from his future wife Amberly’s point-of view. He was instantly drawn to Amberly because of her beauty and calming nature – the latter was something he rarely experienced given his parents’ failed marriage.
It also helped that Amberly was a Four from the south. During his Selection, there was an uprising from the Southern Rebels, and he believed that marrying a southern girl from a lower caste would appease them. Together, Clarkson and Amberly eventually became King and Queen of Illéa and had a son named Maxon.
OK, I get that that’s a lot of history to digest, but bear with me. It’s a lot easier to talk about the important points of The Selection if you understand the history. With that, let’s talk about the first book.
The main character of the original Selection trilogy is America Singer. She and her family are Fives, so they scrape by because of their few wealthy patrons. But she doesn’t seem to care because she loves the life of a performer, especially with her violin.
The Royal Family announces that King Clarkson’s son and heir, Prince Maxon, will be holding his own Selection. America’s mother (who was too young to join Clarkson’s Selection) pressures her to send an application, but America refuses. Her next-door neighbor and childhood best friend, Aspen, is secretly her boyfriend of two years. She can’t tell anyone about her relationship with Aspen (especially her mom) because he’s Six, struggling to provide for his own mother and siblings.
America learns from Aspen’s mother that he’s saving up to marry someone. She tries to throw him a dinner as a gift, but this backfires when Aspen admits that he’s ashamed that she’s always the one providing for him and that, when she marries him, she’ll become a Six and won’t be allowed to perform for money, since that’s a Five’s job. Not wanting to force America into that future, he breaks up with her. America’s heartbreak, plus a bribe form her mother, leads her to apply for the Selection.
Surprisingly, America becomes one of the Selected. Later in the series, we find out that America’s entrance into the Selection (along with the other two Fives) was merely for diversity’s sake. In reality, King Clarkson had a hand at selecting the 35 girls, choosing girls with wealth, connections, and other political advantages. He refused to let girls Six and below get picked, but instead chose three Fives to make it look like girls of all castes were considered.
America meets the other 34 girls and makes friends and enemies with most of them. Her unique personality and look capture the attention of the public, making her one of the fan favorites. However, she does not want to marry Maxon because she still loves Aspen. During a chance meeting in the garden, she and Maxon meet and become friends, with her telling Maxon she doesn’t want to marry him but only stays because Selected girls’ families get paid while she’s there. He allows her to stay until the final girl is selected.
Later on, however, America begins to feel jealous when Maxon goes out with other girls. Maxon gives America his first kiss and she wonders if she could marry Maxon and forget about Aspen. She falls in love with him, getting more jealous when other girls (especially Kriss, Elise, Natalie, and Celeste, who are her toughest competition). Meanwhile, more girls ask to leave when they realize that the palace suffers many attacks from the Northern and Southern rebels, which Maxon allows.
America later sees Aspen in the palace. Ever since America left, Aspen realized he could make more money as a member of the royal guard. This now makes him a Two who can provide for both his family and America, and he offers her the chance to get back together. America is torn and is confused about choosing either. She and Aspen have secret liaisons in her room since a Selected having a romantic relationship with someone other than Maxon is considered treason punishable by death.
Eventually, the rebels launch a particularly bad attack that breaches the palace and leads to three girls choosing to leave out of fear. While traditionally, Maxon should choose 10 girls to stay on as the Elites, he figured he shouldn’t be putting so many girls in danger and sent all but 6 home. He chooses Marlee, Natalie, Celeste, Elise, Kriss, and America to stay as Elites.
Now that the Selected are down to 6 girls, they must now focus less on winning Maxon’s heart but also learning about the duties that come with being a princess. America and Maxon have fallen in love with each other, and Maxon takes her to a secret room in the palace filled with banned books. There, America learns of Halloween. She convinces Maxon to host a Halloween ball and invite the Elite’s families.
During the party, Maxon professes his love for America and tells her that he will propose to her when the time is right. America is certain about her feelings for Maxon, but feels a hint of jealousy when she sees Celeste flirting with Aspen.
In the morning, America and the other Elite (except Marlee) awaken, dressed in dark clothes, and taken outdoors. There, they find out that Marlee was caught having an affair with a palace guard during the ball. The sentence is death, but Maxon spares their lives and has them caned, reduced to Eights, and banished. America begins to reconsider her love for Maxon having witnessed this.
The Elites are tasked with planning a reception dinner for the visiting German Federation and Italian parties. Celeste, Natalie, and Elise make major mistakes while handling the German Federation party, while America and Kriss successfully welcome the Italians. Out of jealousy, Celeste shows America the latest polls showing that America is the least favorite of the public because it looks like she isn’t taking the role of princess seriously.
Maxon takes America to the Princess’s room, where she finds Marlee, now a Six working as a maid in the kitchen. She reveals that Maxon would have let her leave unscathed, but it was the media covering the ball that caught them, so he couldn’t be seen letter her go unpunished. She tells America to forgive Maxon, as his position couldn’t allow her to leave unpunished.
America returns to the secret library and borrows one of Gregory Illéa’s diaries. She eventually discovers the truth about how Gregory invented the caste system and why. In the next rebel attack, America hides outside the palace and witnesses one of the rebels running away with stolen books. America realizes the rebels are looking for the diaries.
Meanwhile, despite Maxon’s declaration of his love for her, he continues to see the other Elites. This comes to head when she sees Maxon making out with a half-naked Celeste. Maxon tries to talk to her, but she runs away from him, realizing Aspen was there for her all along. She asks permission to leave the palace, but he refuses.
It’s announced that the Elites will have to work on a presentation they will debate on live television. Each of the girls come up with topics that highlighted their political advantages (e.g. Kriss talked about education and Elise her connections with New Asia), America still did not have a topic. However, after reading Gregory’s diary and being disgusted by the history of how Illéa came to be, she comes up with a presentation arguing why the castes should be removed. She tries to show the diary to the public, but Clarkson takes back the diary and demands she leaves the palace. Maxon, however, insists that she stay.
Shortly after, the Southern Rebels attack the palace. America, running into Maxon leaving the hospital wing, hide in a safe room with him. It’s revealed that Maxon was just whipped by his father for America’s actions, something Clarkson does for things Maxon says or does. They reconcile, and America decides that she loves Maxon and will continue to compete with the other girls and even fight his father for one more chance.
In the previous book, Maxon and America deduce that there are two types of rebels: the Northern Rebels are more interested in attacking palace operations and trying to steal books; the Southern Rebels are more lethal. While Clarkson is abroad in France, two Northern rebel leaders demand to speak to Maxon and America. They’re revealed to be August Illéa, a descendant of Gregory Illéa’s runaway son Spencer, and his fiancée Georgia Whitaker.
August claims to support Maxon and does not want to challenge his birthright for the crown. While the Northern rebels want the end of the caste system, the Southern rebels want to kill the royal family and take over Illéa while maintaining the status quo. August tells them that he will pull back the Northern rebels during Maxon’s reign if he promises to marry America, who the rebels have come to admire. While they support the Northern rebels, Maxon and America refuse to be manipulated like that.
America finds Celeste crying in private after a Report session makes America more popular. Celeste reveals that she’s jealous of America’s success, and she only wanted to be a part of the Selection because, as a model, her career will end when she gets older and become irrelevant. She apologizes to America and later the rest of the Elites for her actions.
America and Maxon, guarded by Aspen and Officer Avery, go to August’s home, where August reveals that the Southern rebels have killed hundreds of Twos and they need weapons to fight the Southerners. On their way back, the group nearly escapes a group of Southerners, but America is shot in the arm. America uses her good relationship with the Italian Royal Family to connect Princess Nicoletta with Georgia, and Nicoletta agrees to fund the Northern rebels’ weapons to become an ally of Illéa.
The Elites are tasked to undergo The Convicting, where they must publicly condemn a criminal to jail. During America’s turn, she realizes that the thief she’s condemning a man who stole clothes for his children. She realizes that Clarkson planned this: if she refuses, she will look disobedient; if she condemns him, she will look merciless. Instead of condemning him, she instead uses the earrings and bracelet Maxon gave her, as well as her own necklace, to use as payment for his debts.
For her actions, Clarkson forces Maxon to remove America from the Selection. However, Maxon insists America is now to popular to just leave. A few days later, Clarkson gets an invite from the Italian Royal Family inviting the Illéan Royal Family and America to visit. Illéa has tried to win them over as allies for years, but America’s brief meetings with them has managed to do what they couldn’t, so Clarkson decides she can stay.
On Christmas day, America finally admits her love for Maxon. However, their happiness is cut short when America learns about her father’s fatal heart attack. She returns home for the funeral. There, she receives a letter her father left for her, and she realizes he, too, was a Northern rebel.
Upon her return to the palace, America learns that Maxon has narrowed down the Elite to two girls, America and Kriss, and he will announce his decision in the morning. America realizes that Kriss’ necklace is the symbol of the Northern rebels. Kriss admits this, but says she genuinely fell in love with Maxon. Later that night, Maxon tells her that she will be his wife and queen. They spend the night together.
The next morning, Maxon leaves to prepare for his engagement announcement. America talks to Aspen, placing her hands on his chest, and Maxon and Kriss walk in and catch them in an intimate moment. Maxon realizes that Aspen was the man America had once been in love with and says he cannot marry her and leaves with Kriss.
During the engagement ceremony, before Maxon can announce his decision, the Southern rebels disguised as guards launch their attack, killing Celeste, Clarkson, Amberly and many other people in attendance. Maxon is shot trying to save America and orders Aspen to take her to safety before himself. Aspen locks America in a safe room before returning for Maxon.
After being rescued, she heads to the hospital wing where she learns that Maxon is now king with his father dead. Aspen and America receive closure as Aspen realizes that he cares about her, but isn’t in love with her. America then goes to Maxon who decides, as king, to end the caste system. He asks her to marry him, and the book ends with their wedding.
The book starts 20 years after the events of The Selection. Instead of America as the protagonist, it’s Maxon and America’s eldest child, their 18-year-old daughter Eadlyn. Eadlyn explains to the reader that she was born the older twin to her brother Ahren. Old laws dictate that the eldest male son would inherit the throne, but King Maxon and Queen America changed the laws to make Eadlyn the heir. Aside from Eadlyn and Ahren, America also had Kaden (14) and Osten (10).
At the beginning of the novel, the caste system had also been eliminated for years. However, Eadlyn explains that even after the caste was totally eliminated, people who lived through the castes still believed in it. This clashed with those who were born at a time it was dissolved, since they never got to experience why they had to be discriminated for their caste.
To distract the public until they can find a solution, Maxon and America suggest Eadlyn host her own Selection, something she opposes because she doesn’t feel ready. However, she agrees to do a three-month Selection if they agree she can choose to send everyone home in the end.
Eadlyn gets a hand at choosing the 35 Selected men. One of these Selected, Kile Woodwork, is the son of Marlee Woodwork, her parents’ friend. They both grew up in the palace and despise each other, and Kile is confused because he didn’t apply for the Selection. However, because his name was already announced, he is forced to participate. Eadlyn deliberately comes off as intimidating and aloof during her initial interview with the Selected. One of the Selected, Henri Jaakopi, moved from Swendway to Illéa a year before the Selection, so to make up for his limited English, he is accompanied by an Illéa-born Swendish Eikko “Erik” Koskinen.
During a parade featuring Eadlyn and the Selected, Eadlyn sees how many Illéans dislike her. Ahren points out that she appears distant and scowling, and isn’t very relatable and personable with the people. In an attempt to get people interested, she harshly eliminates 11 of the Selected, humiliating some of them in the process. This only worsens her public image as she comes off as cold, smug, and uninterested in a Selection.
In an attempt to give the public the romance they want, she asks Kile to pretend to kiss her in front of a hidden photographer. She asserts that she doesn’t like him and only needs his help, but enjoys his kiss. She then goes on several dates: she refuses to open up to Hale, plays music with Baden, and goes on a movie date with Jack, who she kicks out of the Selection when he touches her inappropriately. During a horse-riding date with Ean, Ean suggests that if she doesn’t like anyone, she choose him, marry him, and rule as queen while he lives a comfortable life as prince consort. During a group date in the palace kitchen, Burke punches Fox and accidentally pushes Eadlyn. Erik takes Eadlyn away from the brawl, and Eadlyn later sends him home.
Eadlyn learns that the poorer provinces are calling for the end of the monarchy since they don’t feel the benefit of the end of the caste system. She shares a romantic moment with Henri, but is afraid of falling in love. Baden leaves the Selection, calling her pushy and selfish.
Eadlyn invites Princess Camille, daughter of the French Queen and Ahren’s girlfriend, to the palace. She’s jealous of Camille’s effortless ability to make everyone love her and the fact that she and her brother are so romantically involved with each other. Eadlyn advises Ahren to break up with Camille, but the next morning, the Royal Family learns that Ahren and Camille eloped in France with Queen Daphne’s approval. Eadlyn finds a letter from Ahren explaining that she disliked Camille simply because Eadlyn thought she would “steal” Ahren from him. Ahren felt like Eadlyn asked so much from him that she might even ask him to take the throne instead.
He points out that while Camille is humble and open, Eadlyn is distant and uses her royal position as a weapon. This is why people are rioting: because they don’t want someone like her to be the future ruler. Eadlyn is angry, but when she goes to her parents’ room, she find photos of them that make her understand why Ahren chose love over family.
America suffers a heart attack after learning of Ahren’s elopement. Eadlyn, finally understanding the importance of love, decides to take the Selection seriously, promising that, by the end of the Selection, she will find the one.
The book starts a day after the end of The Heir. Given the situation and Eadlyn’s desire to find her true love, she has narrowed down the Selected into six Elites: Gunner, Kile, Ean, Hale, Fox, and Henri (together with Henri’s translator, Erik). And because Maxon wants to be near America at all times during recovery, he has named her regent of Illéa until he can return to his duties.
Marid Illéa, son of August Illéa and also Eadlyn’s distant cousin, visits the Royal Family to offer his best wishes. It’s revealed that August was working with Maxon while he was transitioning out the caste system. They fought when August thought they weren’t transitioning fast enough, and the Illéa family left the palace. Marid has returned hoping for both families to reconcile. He offers his services as a beloved member of the family.
Meanwhile, Eadlyn continues with the Selection. She and Kile admit their feelings for one another. She grows closer to both Henri and Erik, and she and all the other Elite take Finnish lessons. Gunner asks if he can kiss her to see if they have chemistry; they kiss, but they don’t feel anything, and he leaves in good terms. Hale admits that he and Ean have fallen in love with each other. Because same-sex couples still have some stigma, she agrees to make them leave separately in a week so that they can form a discreet relationship after the Selection so they won’t be charged with treason.
Marid proposes Eadlyn hold a town hall where people of all backgrounds can personally talk to her. It goes badly, but Marid successfully intervenes and the town hall ends successfully. Eadlyn proposes to Maxon that she finally become queen so that he can be free of his responsibilities and spend more time with America. He is reluctant, but finally accepts and gives her his ring. He announces it publicly, and Eadlyn sees that she can be a capable and beloved ruler.
A few days before her coronation, Eadlyn tries to convince Erik to wear a suit to the ceremony. She almost kisses him, and she realizes that she has feelings for Erik, too. On her coronation day, Ahren returns with Camille to witness Eadlyn become queen, and the two reconcile.
Marid proposes that she marry him so that they can unite the Illéa and Schreave family once more, making her look powerful. If she doesn’t, he will spread rumors about her; as a beloved figure, people will easily believe him. To stop his plans, she decides to end the Selection in two weeks, her final two being Kile and Henri. However, Marid lets the media catch him buying engagement rings, so she decides to announce her engagement the following day.
Eadlyn goes to Kile’s room to propose, but finds Kile proposing to her instead to protect her from Marid. She realizes she cannot force him to stay in the palace for her despite his insistence, so she banishes him from the palace to create housing for the homeless to pursue his architect dreams. Eadlyn gives Erik her signet ring, sadly declaring they cannot be together, before going off to propose to Henri.
Before the engagement announcement, however, Henri realizes Eadlyn loves Erik. He breaks off their engagement so she can marry Erik instead. Eadlyn asks Maxon for advice. He reveals that the first time his father caned him, it was because he found out that his father had an affair that resulted in an illegitimate daughter. The law decreed that all illegitimate royal children must be killed, but he broke the rules and kept her within the palace to keep her identity a secret. It’s revealed that his sister is Lady Brice, Eadlyn’s own adviser. He tells Eadlyn to follow her heart above the rules.
Eadlyn returns to publicly propose to Erik. She also announces that Illéa will transition into a constitutional monarchy so everyone will have a say in their future.
Themes from The Selection Series
Sure, a lot of The Selection’s plot is eerily similar to The Bachelor’s whole premise. But if you look closely, you’ll see that this isn’t just a love story. It also has very strong socio-economic and socio-political themes that are seen in the books.
The biggest theme in the series is the social and economic discrimination, as seen in the caste system. If you look at it, it’s a system that can’t win. While the caste was invented by Gregory Illéa to arrange a society for his friends and enemies, for the rest of Illéa, it was based on how much a family can donate to the government. So, if your family wasn’t wealthy at the time, you and your future generations are basically doomed to be in the lower castes.
The Selection’s caste system may be a little confusing and leaves a lot of questions, but it shows the discrimination between those who are loaded and those that aren’t. It’s seen in simple ways like when Celeste looks down on America and others who are Fours and below. But we also see it in ways that affect the plot. America was one of the three Fives present in the Selected. There were no Sixes or Sevens because Clarkson refused to have them in his palace and thought Five was the lowest he could go just for the appearance of diversity. He only added three of them because he expected Maxon would immediately send them away.
We also see the effects of this discrimination in The Heir and The Crown. Even with the caste system removed, people are still unequal because those who have the money continue to look down on those who don’t. While Maxon and Eadlyn mean well, it’s hard for them to understand what this discrimination feels like because they’ve been Ones their whole lives. And even with the caste system dismantled, they’re still a Royal Family.
We can assume that Illéa is a patriarchal society. When women marry, they take their husband’s caste. This means if a female Two marries a male Six, that woman is forced into a life of servitude because she must never be more powerful than her husband or be the one to lift her husband up to a Two. This system also puts men at a disadvantage because the only way they can rise in the caste system is to join the police force or take on any public servant jobs. Otherwise, they’re forced into a bracket and find a way to survive from the given jobs.
Women are generally seen as inferior to men. Princes have the choice of choosing between 35 women to marry; princesses are forced into arranged marriages to strengthen international alliances. No matter the order of the King and Queen’s children, old Illéa laws dictate that the throne goes to the first-born son.
From The Heir, it’s clear that Eadlyn was not born with the gift of gab like her father was. However, I doubt that she was the only Illéan monarch that lacked charisma. And yet, one thing I noticed was how there’s a double standard between how people judged her for her Selection compared with the last four Selections.
Damon was allowed to sleep with and send home almost half the girls in his Selection. In fact, that was the entire reason the unofficial “do what they tell you” rule existed. Clarkson was allowed to be calculating with his Selection, rejecting some girls because they refused to cut their hair for him for more than an inch.
Meanwhile, you have Eadlyn, the first future female monarch of Illéa. Sure, the political landscape was different during her Selection and she may come off as a little self-centered, but look at how she was treated by some of the Selected. One kept staring at her breasts, while another was clearly paying more attention to getting paid than the actual princess. If a girl entered the Selection and kept rudely staring at Clarkson’s crotch, do you think that girl would have lasted more than five minutes? And the fact that Eadlyn was expected to be lady-like about kicking out a guy who objectified her in the safety of her own home.
This is why Ahren’s letter bugged me a little. I understand what he meant when he compared what Camille was doing right and what Eadlyn was doing wrong as princesses. According to him, Camille used her position as a princess as a way to be closer to her people by giving them what they need. Eadlyn, on the other hand, wields her position like a sword and has an attitude where she gives people what they think they want so they can leave her alone.
What I don’t think is right is Ahren telling his sister to be a certain way. Sure, she can tone down her self-centeredness, but for her to be more feminine to do it is really unnecessary. A female monarch is simply a monarch. No one told Clarkson or Maxon to be more delicate or polite – but now Eadlyn has to be told to be more womanly?
Censorship & Historical Revisionism
A huge part of The Elite and The Crown show the importance of holding on to history for the sake of not letting it repeat. In The Selection, we as the reader learn the history of Illéa as it is taught to the citizens. From the Selected’s lessons, we think of Gregory Illéa as this noble hero who established a country free from New Asia’s grasp. But when America gets hold of his diary, it’s a completely different thing.
This isn’t a post of me arguing that The Selection series is the next Harry Potter. Is it the best book series to ever hit the bookshelf, many would argue it’s not. But for many to dismiss it as a young adult novel that plays with teen girl readers’ fantasies of becoming a princess is doing the book a huge disservice and the social themes it talks about.