Oh, the torture!
We all know that girl. And that guy. They’re just friends, or she’s not yet interested in him, so she’s relaxed, funny, authentic, confident, and endearing. What happens then? The guy falls head over heels for her.
At first she might not like him back, or maybe she’s just surprised. Eventually, though, she realizes she has feelings for him. And that’s when s*it hits the fan. The confident, sassy, relaxed, and overall fun-to-be-around girl turns into messy heaps of insecurity. She’s now tense, sometimes aggressive, cold, sad, and overall nothing like the girl the dude fell in love with. What happens then? The guy starts to flake.
See, guys—and girls, too—get a bad rep that they chase someone but then stop being interested in them the moment their feelings are returned. Sure, there are some people who only want the chase, but in the majority of cases what happens is that their object of affections suddenly changes. Their dynamic changes. And what was once fun, exciting, relaxing, becomes tense, problematic, draining. Do you know someone like that? Do you, by any chance happen to ever have been that girl who saw that guy slip through her fingers? Well, you’ll see that girl in the first three books of The Selection. It can be quite an emotional roller coaster that hits at a personal level.
I think what I liked most about The Selection, The Elite, and The One was how realistic the romantic relationships dynamics were. I felt that they reflected real-life, and that was what I liked most about the books. They are also great page turners, with hook after hook after hook, which makes them quite compelling reads, as long as you don't expect to see much action. The books focus more on the romantic and emotional dynamics.
Now, what I’m thinking is how this is going to play out on Netflix. In books we can read a character's inner thoughts, empathize with them, and therefore forgive them acting like morons. A lot of the conflict in the first three books of The Selection is based on America’s inner turmoil, indecision, and insecurity. I wonder if they’ll change the plot a bit to make her act less stupid, or if they’ll find a way to portray those inner feelings in a way that feels realistic.
Matt Bird, writing coach, has a wonderful article on why all behavior looks worse on screen, claiming that “ When you read a book written from a first-person perspective, you’re not looking at the person doing these things, you’re looking out at the world through her eyes.” Check the article at http://www.secretsofstory.com/2012/10/books-vs-movies-addendum-all-behavior.html
Well, I agree with that, and I’m wondering how they’ll solve it for The Selection. I guess we’ll see!
Now let me go in more details about each book. After the review for The Selection there might be spoilers, so you might want to stop reading there if you haven’t read the series. I don't cover the last two books in The Selection because they're a different story. I might read them some time, but so far I stuck with America's arc.
Funny that I almost gave up this book on the first page, reading that the protagonist didn’t want to apply for the Selection. I was thinking “Oh my, tough life, having to live in the castle for some days”. ? I was also rolling my eyes that she would obviously be chosen among thousands of girls in her province. But then I learned the reason she didn’t want to go and I was totally onboard with her feelings. America is so in love and her interactions are so sweet! But of course that is only the beginning of the book, so things are not going to stay that way.
As to why America was chosen. OMG, the solution is brilliant! We get why she was picked, and it’s totally logical. Later, when she interacts with the prince, again, it’s super logical why he would be interested in her. Any guy in that situation would be interested. And this was the main reason I liked this book so much. I bought the feelings.
I’ve read too many books recently where a hot powerful guy likes the female protagonist just because she’s the protagonist. And don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with that. Fiction is fantasy, and there is something of a wish-fulfillment fantasy about a girl being loved for no reason whatsoever (because nowadays heroines aren’t even super pretty). The Red Queen is such a case. I read that novel and enjoyed it, but for the life of me I never understood why the protagonist was loved by the prince. It’s fine, and it’s even a trope. To be fair, I think in my own writing some of the couples fall into that mold: dude falls for the girl just because the plot says so. Again, it’s fine.
But then, seeing compelling, realistic interactions and understanding exactly what is happening in terms of dynamics is super cool. It eases the suspension of disbelief and makes the characters and the plot more realistic. This is what I enjoyed the most in The Selection, and what I thought was super refreshing.
If you haven’t read the selection, avoid this review because it contains some spoilers.
So as I wrote above, it’s normal for a guy to feel attracted by a girl, and then, once she realizes she loves him back, for her to change her behavior in a way that she loses the guy.
And I think that’s exactly what happens to America in this book. To be fair, her indecision is not that normal and it can be a bit annoying.
This book was torture to read because I wanted to slap some sense into America. Girl, make up your mind, stop whining, and stop shutting him out. But then, it was torture that felt too real. The insecurity of feeling you might lose a guy, and the ensuing behavior that certainly guarantees that you’ll lose him is something that has happened to most women at some point. I've seen friends acting exactly like America and ending up broken hearted.
America is serving Maxon on a plate for her competition, while at the same time getting worried that the competition is taking up the offer. I’ll be blunt here: had this book been a bit more realistic, she would have ended up single.
Of course, the protagonist also has endearing qualities, mainly her sense of justice and her moral compass.
Still, the book is torture. America is in love with a guy while pushing him away. But it's realistic in terms of feelings and dynamics. And fiction can be healing. I wanted to continue reading to know that it would end up well.
More torture in seeing America still not getting her sh*t together. And yet, again, it's kind of realistic.
One thing that I really liked in this book is how it champions the idea of sisterhood and that women tend to bond. I really believe in that and it baffles me when I read books where women and girls are always fighting and being mean to each other. I loved the female friendships in this series.
That said, I think female camaraderie went a bit too far. When romantic feelings and jealousy are concerned, it’s hard to be that nice to other girls. Still, I enjoyed seeing these characters support each other even when knowing that they were competing for the same guy (literally). It wasn’t super realistic, but I guess fiction doesn’t always need to be realistic. If we can have wish fulfillment about super hot guys in love with plain heroines, why not have a fantasy where women are supportive and friendly even when they're jealous? I'm all for it.
It also closes America's arc well. I really enjoyed the ending.