Thursday, May 7, 2015

Book Talk: The Selection

I've never really done a "book talk," so to speak, before. But as soon as I started reading The Selection, I knew it was what I wanted to talk about this week. Now with this being a book talk, I'm going to be spoiling a hell of a lot from this book. I'll be doing a spoiler free review on my own blog which you can see here, but if you haven't read this book this is your finial warning before I spoil some of its greatness! 

1. 2. 3... Ready? Okay. 

The reason I wanted to talk about The Selection today is because it actually deals with some pretty heavy feminist themed issues that both are unconscious and hugely prevalent through the novel.

Firstly, meet America Singer. Our main character has just turned of age and can apply for the "selection": a reality TV show that allows the public to watch their beloved royal date 35 women simultaneously, and then finally pick his queen. Back story aside, America Singer is self-aware. When it comes to YA protagonists, I love this trait! And I don't just mean a "this society is awful and all wrong" kind of self awareness, but an awareness that makes dystopian feel real and relatable. And as I'm sure you've guessed, I'm talking about female oppression. Sexism, misogyny and (let's be honest) fear of our safety is a huge concern in our world (by this I'm referring to the UK as oppression varies across the world, and I can only comment on the society I live in.) But Kiera Cass doesn't just ignore this, she confronts it head on and creates a main character who is sick of the bullshit and tired of playing games that do not suit her. 

To highlight why I'm saying The Selection is great for painting an hyperbolic image of Western sexism and fear, I'm going to talk about a few scenes from the book and how they link to the negativity that feminism is trying to eradicate with a close look on two main ideas: beauty and consent. 

1. Beauty is what exactly? 

When the girls are applying for a chance to be selected, they have to get their photographs taken. Which only means one thing: this is not random. The fact that the girls are being judged on their appearances (although I do laugh at the detailed application form) reflects beauty standards of today's world. And not only are these girls  in competition on bases of facial looks, it also comes down to clothing and manners; the fact that America has to enter a bet with the Prince for the possibility she may get the luxury of wearing pants is damn right irritating! The entire build up of the girls acting like 'women' is enforcing standards upon them which are both stereotypical and constricting. But mostly, The Selection leaves me with an eerie feeling that  most dystopians don't: it's too close for comfort. Although we don't have people attacking our royals, we do have an immense amount of female oppression, and a lot of that is linked to outdated stereotypes or unrealistic expectations. 

2. I'm sorry, did you say No?

Consent, choice and permission are one of this books main issues. America's first choice at the beginning of the book: whether or not to enter the selection. And now meet , America's first love interest who begs her to enter the competition for him.
Secondly, it's time for the selection and signing some paperwork. And in those papers? America signs away her right to say 'no.' This was what made me want to write about feminist issues in this book. America has just been quizzed on her virginity (a life or death situation for a unmarried girl) and is then told she must give up her "purity" if the Prince wish it so (aka a man of authority.) This hit a nerve for me because virginity is still viewed as some  kind of holiness and there is always a grey cloud when it comes to books about women having the right to say no to authoritative men (yes, I'm talking about Mr. Grey.) Which, in a way, is a way of mirroring sexual harassment in the work place or in the street that some women have to endure. 

But, if you remember, above I talked about how I loved America Singer because she was aware. Boy, she is. And because I want to leave this book talk with the upbeat attitude of why The Selection is a great book for looking at inequality and female oppression, but also showing a young girl stand up to it. So, without anymore from me, here are my favourite three scenes of America kicking sexism in the groin (I hope you appreciated that, Selection fans.) 
1.  The First Meeting...

"Are you alright, my dear?" He asked me. 
"I am not your dear." I looked up to glare at him. There would be no mistaking the disgust in my tone or eyes.
"Don't call me that! I am no more your dear than the 34 other strangers you have here in your cage."

2.  The First Date...

"I think you know from now I'm not the type of man to beat around the bush. I'll tell you exactly what I want from you." 
Maxon took a step closer. 
My breath caught in my throat. I'd just walked into the very situation I feared. No guards, no cameras, no one to stop him from doing whatever he wanted. 
Knee-jerk reaction. Literally. I kneed His Majesty in the thigh. Hard. 
Maxon let out a yell and reached down, clutching himself as I backed away from him.
"What was that for?"
"If you lay a single finger on me, I'll do worse." I promised. 

3. Safety in Numbers

"Thank you for delivering this girl. You can leave," a guard said to my maids. 
"No, they're with me. They're staying." I said with authority. 
"Miss, they have their own places to be," he  countered. 
"Fine. They don't go in, I don't go in. I'm sure Prince Maxon will appreciate knowing my absence is your doing. Let's go, ladies." I pulled on Mary's and Lucy's hands. Anne was shocked into stillness. 
"Wait! Wait! Fine, go inside. But if anybody has an issue with it, it's on your hands."
"Not a problem," I said. I turned the girls and walked into the safe room with my head held high.
Perhaps it was all my years as a big sister, but I just had to keep these girls safe.  

Comment below and let me know if you've read The Selection and what you think! 

No comments:

Post a Comment

Leave a comment below and let us know what you think!