If the name didn't tip you off, America Singer is one unique sixteen-year-old. That's cool and all, but who would have guessed that America's unconventional nature would make her the front-runner to win the heart of her country's crown prince?
If there's one thing The Selection makes abundantly clear, it's that America is an exceptional girl, even if she doesn't realize it. This is most prominent where her looks are concerned—she constantly downplays her beauty while everyone around her is swooning—but it doesn't end there. She's super smart. She's a stellar musician. She's kind and compassionate. All in all, she's a real keeper. Given this, she should jump at the chance to take part in the Selection, right?
But there were things—important things—in this world that I loved. And that piece of paper seemed like a brick wall keeping me away from what I wanted. (1.27)
Here, America is referring to Aspen, her hunky eighteen-year-old boyfriend. He's a stud: like if eighteen-year-old Leo and eighteen-year-old Brad Pitt got into the machine from The Fly. The only problem is that Aspen is from a lower caste than America, and that's a big no-no. Still, although "it was atypical for a woman to marry down," the couple is already discussing marriage plans (2.13). What could go wrong?
Okay, so let's just say what we're all thinking—America is a bit naive. How many of us have fallen in love at sixteen only to get over it, like, two weeks later? Now, we're not saying that's what's happening here, but the point remains: America is too young to fully understand how her life will be affected by marrying Aspen. To his credit, Aspen realizes this, which is why he prods America to apply to the Selection and ultimately ends their relationship.
Because of this, America brings a lot of baggage with her to the Selection. Even though she thinks that her relationship with Aspen is done for good, however, she's still not interested in trying things out with Maxon. With all that weighing down on her, America pretty much feels imprisoned within the palace. Here's her mindset on night one:
There was no freedom in this. The bars of my balcony caged me in. And I could still see the walls around the palace, high with guards atop the points. (10.67)
America's discomfort is amplified due to the fact this is the first time she has been away from her family. Yeah, that's not fun. The first time it happened to us, we cried so hard we puked out a week's worth of Twizzlers. Er, anyway. Traumatic asides aside, America is incredibly tight with her little sister May and father, and even though her mom drives her mad sometimes, she loves her, too. Now that she's separated from them, though, America is forced to grow up—and fast.
America ends up finding comfort in an unlikely source: Prince Maxon himself. Though he seems stiff and snobby at first, he proves himself to be kind, compassionate, and sincere, even if he's a bit nervous. He and America spark a "friendship" (those telling quotation marks), and America is able to be more "open about everything [she'd] been feeling" with Maxon than she's ever been with anyone ever (16.1). That's a big deal.
What's more, Maxon gives America all the space she needs, even allowing her to stay at the palace once she reveals that her heart is elsewhere.
Of course, we as readers know the truth—America's heart is heading Maxon's way. The thing that seals the deal is Maxon's announcement that he's opening a food assistance program for the lower classes, which is directly inspired by a conversation he had with America. This is huge, politically speaking; but more importantly, it shows America that Maxon is the kind of guy she could spend her life with, even if she still has her doubts.
Unfortunately for America, this decision gets way harder with the sudden reappearance of Aspen, who has joined the army and been given an assignment as a palace guard. America and Aspen's relationship re-sparks immediately. So what's she going to do?
That's a tough, spot, girl—we don't envy having to make that decision.
But maybe America doesn't have to make that decision. Just look at what she says to Aspen in the novel's closing moments:
No, I'm not choosing him or you. I'm choosing me.
That was the truth at the core of everything. I didn't know what I wanted yet, and I couldn't let myself be swayed by what was easy or what someone else thought was right. I had to give myself time to decide what was best for me. (25.33-34)
After all of the crazy experiences she's endured over the course of the Selection, America has gained the confidence to focus on herself rather than on the men in her life, which is something she's struggled with throughout the novel. That's a big step for her.
Still, we can't help but think that our girl is being a bit selfish here—it's basically the romantic version of having your cake and eating it too. She's got to make a choice sometime, so why not now? Even if you dispute that statement, though, we can all agree that this represents a bold, new world for the still-young America Singer.