Study Guide

The Selection

The Selection Summary

America Singer is an average sixteen-year-old girl—or as average as you can be in the country of Illéa, which was formed out of the remnants of the United States following World War III.

Yep, you read that right: World War III. NBD.

Illéa has a numeric caste system that ranges from One to Eight: America and her family are Fives, which means that (a) they're pretty poor, and (b) they're required by law to be artists or musicians, even if they're no good at it or want to be something else. Unsurprisingly, not everyone loves this system, and there are several rebel groups trying to overthrow the government.

America has just received a letter inviting her to take part in the Selection, a reality show competition in which 35 young women are brought to the palace to fight for Illéa's prince's heart. America's mom really wants her to apply, but America refuses for some reason…some sweet, hunky, sensitive reason...

That reason? Aspen, America's secret boyfriend. This hormone-addled pair frequently meet in America's tree house at night, and things are so hot and heavy that they're even talking marriage. Cue swooning. There's just one problem, however: Aspen is a Six. If America marries him, she'll be even more broke than she is now. That's no good. Realizing this, Aspen asks America to apply to the Selection, assuming she won't be chosen.

He's wrong—America is totally Selected. Like any good teenage boyfriend, Aspen has an irrational and overly emotional response—despite the fact that it was his suggestion—and breaks things off with America. And with that, America is swept up into crazy world of Illéan royalty with her broken heart still stinging.

Although America gets along well with a few girls, she feels so trapped in the palace that she has a panic attack on her first night. She tries to run outside to get some air, but she's blocked—that's against the rules, kiddo.

To her surprise, Prince Maxon appears and lets her outside. To her even greater surprise, he's nothing like her assumptions: he's kind and compassionate toward her even after she yells at him. He's also pretty handsome, too—not that she noticed or anything.

They "officially" meet the next morning, and America tells Maxon about Aspen, though she doesn't name him. In yet another surprising move (dude's on a roll), Maxon tells America that he will keep her around as long as she wants to stay, saying that she will be his friend and advisor throughout the competition.

Over the next few weeks, Maxon and America start spending a lot of time together, even creating a secret signal (tugging an ear) and calling each other their closest friends. Because we totally make up cute, flirtatious hand gestures with our closest friends. All the time.

During a rebel attack on the palace, America learns there are two kinds of rebels attacking the monarchy: Northern and Southern. The Southern rebels kill people, and the Northern rebels don't, but nobody's really sure what they're after. Clearly there's something weird going on in Illéa.

One night, America talks to Maxon about the awful reality of being in the lower castes, and it moves him—so much so, in fact, that he decides to start a food assistance program based on their conversation. After this, America realizes that she has feelings for Maxon, and although she's still hesitant, she's finally open to his love.

They kiss.

We faint.

Soon after, America is shocked when she sees a new guard arrive. It's Aspen—he has been drafted into the army and assigned to the palace. He and America have a brief, passionate encounter in America's bedroom, which leaves her more confused than ever regarding her feelings. During another rebel attack, however, America realizes that running back to Aspen is wrong.

So she tells him that. He left her, she says, so why does he expect her to jump back into his arms simply because he says so? She's not saying that she's choosing Maxon over Aspen; she's saying that she's choosing herself, whatever that actually means. Aspen is understandably upset, but he resolves to continue fighting.

And that's how we close things out. Abrupt, huh? Guess you're going to have to read The Elite to find out what happens next for America Singer and her two hunky baes.

  • Chapter 1

    • The narrator's mother has just received a letter that's making her very excited. We don't know what it says, but it seems like it has something to do with becoming royalty. Whoa.
    • The narrator isn't interested, though, so she hides in her room. She's the oldest child in the house, so she's tired of having so many responsibilities foisted upon her.
    • One of those responsibilities happens to be cooking, so she gets to work at dinner. Mom pops in and starts talking about the letter.
    • Mom mentions something called "the Selection," which we know is a big deal because it's the title of the book we're holding (1.10).
    • Our characters live in a country called Illéa; their local province is called Carolina. From what they're saying, it seems like the country is currently being attacked by rebels.
    • They also keep referring to people in terms of numbers—so-and-so is a "Six" and so-and-so is a "Three." As this goes on, we realize that they're talking about a numerical caste system.
    • These characters are Fives, as we learn. That's the third lowest caste, so it isn't great, but there are people who are a lot worse off. Fives are also legally bound to work as artists and musicians.
    • The narrator and her mom sing; her dad and her little sister, May, paint. Her little brother, Gerad, is only six, but he hasn't shown much interest in the arts yet.
    • We learn that there used to be Halloween and Christmas, but not anymore. It all seems very mysterious, but this definitely seems like some dystopian future-America.
    • The narrator wants to help her mom by taking part in the Selection (apparently the family will get paid for her participation), but something's holding her back, though she won't say what it is.
    • The narrator has two older siblings: Kenna, who's married, and Kota, who doesn't live at home anymore, for reasons undisclosed.
    • At dinner, the narrator's mom whips the letter out and reads it to the family, much to the narrator's chagrin.
    • Basically, the Selection is the process in which the next Queen of Illéa is chosen: 35 women are selected from the country's population who then compete to marry the current prince.
    • Right now, that's Prince Maxon Schreave. So, basically, the narrator is being invited to take part in The Bachelorette: Royal Edition. Also, we finally learn her name: America Singer. Yes, really.
    • America's family tries to convince her to apply, but she doesn't think she's good enough. Her mom is being especially pushy.
    • Oddly, America doesn't eat her dinner. Once everyone's done, she takes her leftovers, covers them with a napkin, tosses them in the fridge, and heads to bed.
    • At midnight, America sneaks out of her room, grabs the leftovers, and creeps outside. Hmm…
    • America crawls into her tree house, which is lit by a small candle. Someone's there already, and he's armed with the best chapter-closing bit of dialogue ever:
    • "Hey there, gorgeous" (1.80).
  • Chapter 2

    • Meet Aspen. It seems like he's America's secret boyfriend—which is confirmed when they start making out like their lives depend on it.
    • Aspen has to be kept a secret because he's a lower caste than America: he's a Six. By law, Sixes are servants that "were better educated and trained for indoor work" (2.13).
    • Aspen and America have been dating for two years, and things are so serious that they're even considering an inter-caste marriage, which is highly frowned upon by society at large.
    • Aspen's sisters (they're twins) are sixteen, which means they've been invited to join the Selection as well. Aspen quietly inquires about America's feelings regarding the competition.
    • America gives Aspen her meal, and he eats it happily. Aspen works a bunch of different jobs to support his family, so he could really use the nutrients.
    • Suddenly, Aspen demands that America apply to the Selection: he would feel guilty if she passed up this opportunity because of him, especially because she'll be mega poor once they do get married.
    • After some kiss-centric convincing, America agrees. Aspen then asks America to sing, which he pays her a penny for (this seems to be a little ritual for them).
    • After she returns to her room, America throws the new penny into a jar she's been using to store these coins from her broke beau.
  • Chapter 3

    • America is woken up at seven in the morning by good old Mama Singer. Not fun. To make things worse, America had just been dreaming of Aspen.
    • Mama Singer has a proposition: if America applies for the Selection, she can keep half of the money from her gigs rather than giving it all to the family. That's a big deal.
    • Knowing that this will help her and Aspen save enough money to get hitched, America happily agrees.
    • Today's the day to drop off applications at the Services Office, however, so America pretties herself up quickly. She also fills out the paperwork, which asks a lot of detailed questions.
    • Before she leaves, she stops by Gerad's room. Gerad is bummed because he isn't interested in art and music, even though he is legally bound to enter the creative fields because of their caste.
    • America and her mom arrive at the Services Office. It's "packed with women" desperate to score the Prince's hand in marriage, many of whom are done up to the nines (3.73). This makes America a little insecure, but she reminds herself that she doesn't actually care about winning.
    • America and her mom see Aspen's mom and her twin daughters, Celia and Kamber. Mrs. Leger and Mrs. Singer seem to know each other well.
    • As they talk, Mrs. Leger offhandedly mentions that Aspen seems to be "putting money away" so he can get married, though she doesn't know the name of the lucky girl (3.108).
    • America is ecstatic. She feels like she's floating on a cloud as she waits in line and gets a few pictures snapped for the application.
  • Chapter 4

    • The Illéa Capital Report is on every Friday night, but the show always feels special during Selection season.
    • The broadcast opens with the royal family. There's King Clarkson, the Queen, and Prince Maxon. Maxon is pretty cute, America notes, but he seems so stiff.
    • The Queen had actually been chosen through the Selection. She had been a Four, which was considered pretty shocking at the time.
    • King Clarkson presents the latest news: the war in New Asia is rolling on; the rebels are still being their typically rebellious selves; etc., etc.
    • Once he's done, the master of events Gavril takes over and starts talking up the Selection. Prince Maxon looks super awkward.
    • To make things even more awkward, Gavril interviews our nebbish prince. It actually goes better than you might imagine.
    • That night, America is woken by an insistent tapping on her window. It's Aspen. She hurriedly lets him in and they make out like fiends. Things don't get any further than that, though—premarital sex is apparently a ticket to jail in this country.
  • Chapter 5

    • The lovers reunite in the tree house a week later. America excitedly tells Aspen about her Selection deal with her mom and gives him a plate of food. For some reason, he acts offended when she does this. He complains that it's wrong for her to give him stuff like this because he's "supposed to be a provider" (5.23)
    • Then Aspen drops the bombshell—he can't marry her. He can't stand the idea that she'll be brought down to his level should they get married. America, naturally, is in shock.
    • Several nights later, it's time for a very special episode of the Capital Report: the announcement of the Selected.
    • Gavril begins reading off names. La dee da. Wake us up when something exciting happens.
    • Oh, there it is—America has been Selected. The entire family freaks out.
  • Chapter 6

    • The next week is a blur. The Singer home is practically under assault by state officials who are preparing America for the Selection.
    • The boss lady is Silvia, though America finds herself dealing with a cadre of men who ask her an exhausting amount of questions.
    • The last guy asks America for some deeply personal info, like whether she's a virgin. Yikes. He also tells her about the competition. There's no official timeframe for the Selection, but her family will be compensated as long as she stays at the palace. If she lasts until the top ten, she will join a special class known as the "Elite."
    • America's also being immediately bumped up to Caste Three, though her family must remain Fives for now.
    • Later, this same guy creepily tells America that she should "not refuse" Prince Maxon, no matter what he asks for (6.63). You can do the math on that one…
    • There's a ring at the door. Big shocker—it's Aspen. He's holding flowers, which he claims are a gift from his sisters.
    • America makes up some excuse, and they go inside her bedroom. Aspen, understandably, is in shock after the events of recent days.
    • Aspen explains that he wanted to wait to ask her to get married until after he went through the draft, which requires a minimum of four years of military service.
    • Aspen and America argue. America tries to pay Aspen for his "services," but he angrily refuses.
    • America is even angrier, however, so she grabs her jar of pennies and pours them into Aspen's hand, though one straggler remains stuck to the side of the jar.
    • Aspen leaves, and America feels more confused than ever.
  • Chapter 7

    • It's the day when America will depart for the palace. Given that she's the official representative of the province of Carolina, there's going to be a big ceremony later today.
    • When she's called up to the stage during the ceremony, America peers into the crowd and spots Aspen canoodling with Breanna Butler. The nerve.
    • America is giving her family an emotional goodbye when Aspen suddenly starts bounding toward her. Still upset about the Breanna thing, however, America ignores him and departs.
  • Chapter 8

    • America is the first of the Selected to arrive at the airport, which only makes her more nervous. There's one thing she knows for certain, however: she's done with Aspen.
    • Two girls arrive 30 minutes later. One of them is Marlee Tames, a Four, and the other is Ashley Brouillette, a Three.
    • Marlee and America get along splendidly and chat their little hearts out. Ashley is nice, too, but she's quieter.
    • Some time later, the conversation is interrupted by a "brunette with sunglasses" who's the very picture of glamor (8.22). Her name Celeste Newsome, and she's a Two. Celeste is not so nice.
    • Marlee and America become closer friends on the flight while the other girls nap.
    • The girls arrive at the terminal to a shocking sight: scores of fans and well-wishers, many holding signs with the girls' faces plastered on them.
    • Everyone spends time going through the crowd and meeting people, but America spends by far the most time shaking hands and kissing babies.
  • Chapter 9

    • The foursome is in a car headed for the palace. After meeting their fans, the girls have a good idea of their relative popularity. In descending order: Marlee, Celeste, Ashley, and America.
    • They arrive at the palace. Inside they find a crazy scene: the rest of the Selected are in the midst of a serious makeup sesh, while camera-people are scurrying all around. Yikes.
    • Silvia hustles over and tells the girls that they're about to get photographed.
    • America is brought over to a stylist who asks her what look she wants. She says she just wants to stick with what she's got. Good for you, girl.
    • A team of makeup artists, hairdressers, and stylists get to work on her. She looks fine by the end of it, but she still looks like herself (which is more than you could say about the other gals).
    • Afterward, America gives a quick interview. Once the rest of the girls have done theirs, they're all given a tour of the palace by Silvia.
    • The girls also get some ground rules, the most notable being that they are "not to go outside under any circumstances" (9.86). Sounds like a fun time.
    • Once the tour is done, the girls go to their rooms. To America's surprise, she sees three women hard at work when she opens the door.
    • These ladies are Lucy, Anne, and Mary—the last one is America's new maid. She politely asks them to leave so she can take a nap.
    • Sleep doesn't come, however, and before America knows it, it's time for dinner.
    • Before they sit down to eat, the girls settle down to watch tonight's episode of the Illéa Capital Report. After all, they're its star attraction.
    • The report shows brief clips of each girl. America is portrayed very positively in her clip, and she can instantly feel the room turn hostile toward her as soon as it finishes.
  • Chapter 10

    • America can feel the other girls' hostility during dinner. Luckily, the food is amazing, so that helps make the shade sting less. Plus, dessert is even better.
    • The girls will be meeting Prince Maxon tomorrow morning, so Silvia sends everyone off to bed as soon as they finish eating.
    • America returns to her room and is helped into her pajamas by her maids. Although they're supposed to stay with her throughout the night in case she needs anything, America convinces them to go back to their own room and chill.
    • After they leave, America unpacks her stuff and puts family photos on her walls.
    • As she empties the bag, America comes across the jar with Aspen's penny. She doesn't know why she brought it, but she knows that it's making her feel awful to see it right now.
    • America feels her anxiety build as she ruminates over Aspen. She goes out on her balcony to get some air, but it's not enough.
    • Desperate, America rushes out of her room and heads toward the front door. She's stopped by two guards.
    • As she begs them to let her pass, America hears a loud voice behind her telling the guards to let her go. And who is it? None other than the hunky Prince Maxon.
    • Maxon tells the guards to open the door, and they do it. America sprints outside without a second thought but collapses before she reaches the edge of the garden.
    • Prince Maxon approaches and tries to comfort her. He even calls her "my dear," which she loudly and violently protests (10.86).
    • Maxon's trying to help, but America is frazzled. She yells at him, calling him "shallow" and putting the whole Selection into question (10.101). Sick burns.
    • To America's surprise, Maxon responds with a great deal of kindness and sympathy. Guess she pegged this dude wrong, huh?
    • Perhaps bolstered by this kindness, America says that she's only in the Selection by mistake. Shockingly, Maxon is unperturbed by this and tells her that he will give her permission to go into the garden whenever she wants.
    • With that, Maxon kisses America's hand and says good night.
  • Chapter 11

    • The next morning, as her maids help her get dressed, America realizes that she really likes these ladies. She relates to them a lot more than to the other girls, especially given there's only one other Five in the Selection.
    • Keeping with her natural style, America decides to forego the fancy jewelry and simply wear her typical bling.
    • Nearly everybody else decided to wear something "sparkly" (11.13). You're not trying to win the heart of a kitten, girls. America finds Ashley, and the two start chatting.
    • The conversation is interrupted by Silvia, who announces that the girls are getting etiquette lessons ahead of their first meal with the royal family.
    • Before Silvia finishes, however, Prince Maxon suddenly appears. The girls immediately start tittering. He flashes America a smile.
    • Maxon announces that he wants to meet each of them, one by one, before breakfast. The girls take their turns until finally America gets her turn.
    • Maxon facetiously (and flirtatiously) acts like he doesn't know America, and she thanks him for his kindness the previous night.
    • Then Maxon gets down to brass tacks: does America think she could fall in love with him? America thinks about it for a second before responding to the negative, citing (but not naming) Aspen.
    • Maxon kindly offers to let America go home, but she explains the whole stipend thing—her family really needs the cash. She has a counter offer, though: she will be his "friend" and advisor (11.78). He agrees.
    • After Maxon finishes, he tells everyone to go to lunch, except the girls he told to stay behind. Ashley is one of them.
    • The girls settle down for breakfast. America asks a girl named Kriss what happened to the girls who stayed behind, and Kriss explains that they have been cut. And now there are 27.
  • Chapter 12

    • As America is having an "I'll have what she's having" experience with a strawberry tart, she's called over by Prince Maxon. He seems amused by her obvious ecstasy.
    • America responds by saying that her sister May would "cry if she tasted" this tart (12.10). Maxon suggests a wager: he'll send some tarts to May to see if she'll actually shed a tear.
    • But what does America want if she wins? It's simple: she wants to be able to wear pants. Maxon agrees and sets his own stakes: if he wins, she'll have to go on a walk with him tomorrow.
    • Maxon suggests that the girls write letters home, and breakfast ends.
    • That night, America receives word that May, in fact, did not cry. What a sell-out. To make things a little better, however, she has received letters from her family, which she greedily reads.
    • We fade into the following night, as Maxon and America walk toward the garden. They chat, and America talks about her family.
    • Maxon and America reach the garden, and Maxon shoos away a very disappointed camera crew. Realizing that they're now alone, America asks Maxon what he wants with her.
    • Maxon starts to move closer to America. And closer. And closer. Thinking that the prince is trying to get fresh with her, America nails him with a stiff knee to the thigh.
    • After a moment, Maxon realizes what America assumed and gets disgusted that she thinks he'd stoop to such lows. He sends her back to her room and says that she'll eat dinner there tonight.
    • America returns to her room to find her trio of maids huddled excitedly around a box. It's from Maxon.
    • America opens it and finds three pairs of pants, along with a note telling her to only wear them on Saturdays.
  • Chapter 13

    • The next morning, America is assaulted with questions about her date, but she's saved by a sudden ruckus of shouting.
    • The royal family springs into action, telling the girls to go to the back of the room and pulling large, metal shades down over the windows. Guards start rushing in and lining the door.
    • It quickly becomes clear that the rebels are attacking the palace, which seems to happen a lot. America tries to keep her cool and help out, but the other girls are clearly panicked.
    • Eventually, Maxon comes over and checks up on America. She asks about her maids, and he explains that they have their own hiding spots.
    • America explains her actions yesterday, telling Maxon about the dude who said that she had to do anything the prince wanted. Maxon is horrified.
    • Based on the clanging noises coming from outside, the attack is intensifying. Maxon explains that there are two groups of rebels: Northern and Southern.
    • The main difference is that the Southerners tend to kill people, while the Northerners simply tie them up, which makes it seem like "they're looking for something" (13.111).
    • So what does this all mean? Well, Maxon thinks that their current assailants are Northerners, which means that they shouldn't be too concerned.
    • After an hour or so, the attack ends, and the girls are released to their rooms. Marlee proudly announces that Maxon asked her on a date during the chaos.
    • The maids are already in America's room when she arrives. Anne and Mary are huddled around Lucy, who's hysterically crying. They try to cover it up, but America immediately helps out, even tucking Lucy into her own bed. As she rests, Anne pulls America aside and gives her some context.
    • Anne had been hired at the palace because she was an orphan, and Mary was born there, but Lucy had been sold to the royal family. For real.
    • Lucy's mom had gotten sick, and her family got a loan from a family of Threes. Her mom passed away, and they were unable to pay it back, so she and her father became the family's indentured servants.
    • Lucy had sparked a romance with the family's son, but the mother sold Lucy and her father to the palace as soon as she found out.
    • Lucy's dad works in the stable, which is one reason why the attacks freak her out. Another reason is that she had been nabbed by a rebel a few years back, though a guard saved her before it was too late.
    • Moved by this story, America promises herself that "Lucy wouldn't have to go through that again" (13.178).
  • Chapter 14

    • The girls write letters home telling their families that they're okay, and everything returns to normal.
    • America spends an increasing amount of time in her room with the maids, gossiping and "playing card games" (14.6).
    • After a few days of this, one of these hang sessions is interrupted by Prince Maxon. The maids quickly disperse.
    • Since they're becoming closer friends, Maxon suggests creating some sort of signal he and America can use to communicate. After some debate, they decide on a simple tug of the ear.
    • That Friday, the girls are set to make their live debut on Illéa Capitol Report. America is wearing a beautiful blue dress handmade by her trio of gal-pals.
    • The girls settle into their seats and wait nervously. Like, heads-in-between-their-legs levels of nervousness.
    • America looks up at Maxon and he tugs his ear. Even though she isn't romantically attracted to him (for real, folks—stop asking), America is "excited" for him to stop by her room later (14.77).
    • After the usual news report, Gavril takes the mic and interviews Prince Maxon about the Selection. He says that the girls are all great and even mentions how America yelled at him, though he doesn't reveal her name.
    • What's more, Maxon says that he plans "on keeping her here for quite a while" (14.101).
  • Chapter 15

    • After the Report finishes, America returns to her room and tells her maids to make themselves scarce. They immediately realize that Maxon is coming over tonight.
    • As she thinks about Maxon, America's mind wanders to Aspen. She's as confused about her feelings towards him as ever.
    • Maxon arrives. Seeing that America's maids aren't there (which is against the rules), he says that he's going to post a guard to her door for protection.
    • America and Maxon walk to the garden, passing a group of girls as they do. They talk about the girls' reaction to the attack: several had wanted to leave afterwards, though they've since changed their minds.
    • This sets Maxon off, for some reason—this whole process has been hugely stressful, especially given that he has no experience with romance.
    • America tells Maxon that she's sure he will find his "soul mate" here, and she talks up Marlee (15.45). Maxon doesn't seem all that enthusiastic about her.
    • Finally, Maxon asks America to explain her romantic situation back home. Got a few days, buddy?
    • Basically, the Singers are Aspen's family's patrons: they always hire the Legers when they need odd jobs done. That's how America and Aspen know each other.
    • America's older brother Kota is a sculptor who hit it big a while back. This is actually a sore spot for America: he's since ditched the family and focused his energies on buying his way into the upper castes.
    • America had helped Kota move to his new, swanky apartment back then, which was when she saw Aspen for the first time since they were kids. You can figure the rest out from there.
    • America also tells Maxon about seeing Aspen canoodling with Breanna at her ceremony, which infuriates the prince to no end. He comforts her and they hug.
    • What's more, Maxon promises to keep America at the palace until the very end, or at least until she wants to go. America is surprised how much "genuine comfort" she feels right now (15.133).
  • Chapter 16

    • America feels an immense sense of relief after coming clean to Maxon. Want to know what's even better? It's Saturday—that's pants day.
    • Downstairs, Marlee talks about her date with Maxon (they saw a movie in his personal theater) and about all of the things she finds attractive about him.
    • Although America tries to resist, she can't help but compliment the Prince's muscular arms.
    • Suddenly, America's attention is caught by a crazy scene—Anna Farmer slapping Celeste across the face.
    • It's clear that Celeste did something to provoke Anna, but we know the rules 'round these parts—Anna is heading home.
  • Chapter 17

    • The girls are in a history class with Silvia, which provides us the perfect opportunity to learn more about the state of the world.
    • We learn that World War III occurred between China and the United States over unpaid American debt. China won and created the puppet state "the American State of China" (17.6).
    • Soon after, the ASC was invaded by Russia. Well, that's just great. But the Russians spread themselves too thin by invading China at the same time and ultimately failed.
    • This invasion led the entirety of North America to unite behind someone named Gregory Illéa, a businessman who would become the king of a new nation, Illéa.
    • America wonders why they're not actually given history books. Weird, right? In fact, the only one she has ever seen was a book on U.S. history that her dad kept hidden.
    • Afterwards: photo-shoot time. Each girl lines up to take her turn posing with Maxon. Celeste poses seductively (of course), while America and Maxon end up cracking up during their turn together.
    • During the shoot, Maxon and America learn that the Rebels are continuing their assaults on the countryside.
    • Later that day, the girls are shocked to learn that someone named Janelle went home. To make things weirder, she left immediately after going on her first date with Maxon.
    • Celeste insults America for being a Five, and America considers clocking her in the face. We wouldn't blame her if she did.
    • Luckily, the girls are interrupted by a happy announcement—mail call. America reads her family's letters.
    • Still wondering what happened to Janelle, America writes a note to Maxon. It reads: Tugging my ear. Whenever" (17.126).
    • America looks at paintings in the hallway. Suddenly, Maxon appears, and he looks studly—America feels like she's "seeing him for the first time" (17.141).
    • Maxon's concerned—he assumed something was wrong with America's family. America sheepishly says that she just wanted to see him.
    • Maxon complains about his job. He feels discouraged because he feels like he has good ideas, but his dad refuses to take them seriously. For example, he's been trying and failing to improve education for the lower castes.
    • America says that this isn't enough. Education is good and all, but there are people starving out there. School reform is like putting a Band-Aid on an amputation.
    • Maxon is skeptical, so America tells him to close his eyes and think about what he'd do if his family had no food and no money. Maxon freaks out at the mere thought.
    • Maxon is finally beginning to understand. America drives the point home by telling him how bad things get at the Singer household.
    • Maxon kisses America on the forehead and leaves.
  • Chapter 18

    • The girls are sitting down for dinner when Maxon and the King arrive, deep in conversation.
    • The King sits down, but Maxon remains standing: he has an announcement. From here on out, Twos and Threes will no longer receive compensation; Fours and Fives will see theirs halved.
    • Maxon then claims that he'll explain the deal in further detail tomorrow on the Report. The girls are understandably shocked. Wouldn't you be?
    • Fast-forward to tomorrow night. Mary is quizzing America on possible questions for her first live interview tonight.
    • Anne and Lucy enter and announce that they've made America a new dress for tonight. See, everybody started wearing blue dresses to copy America, so they've made her a red one.
    • After getting dressed, America joins the other girls downstairs.
    • Celeste sees America's swanky dress and demands that she give it to her. For real? After America refuses, Celeste rips off one of the sleeves because she's a bona fide psychopath.
    • Marlee fixes the dress for America, thankfully.
    • Before Gavril begins the ceremonies, Prince Maxon gives a speech. He talks about how the girls have changed his worldview and his perception of his countrymen.
    • To that end, Maxon's decided to open food assistance programs for Castes Five and below. He also explains that he has cut the girls' stipends so he could fund this ambitious program.
    • America notes the king and queen's "mixed" reactions: the queen seems into it, while the king looks bummed out (18.99).
    • Enough with that, though—it's interview time. Celeste goes first and is her typical celestial self. And by "celestial" we mean as empty as the interstellar vacuum.
    • And on and on. Through these interviews, Maxon confirms that he hasn't kissed anyone yet. Each girl also denies being the one to yell at him.
    • Finally, it's America's turn. She reveals the history of her name (her mother thought she was a fighter), and then, finally, she admits that she was the one who yelled at the prince.
    • America explains the situation honestly, by our count, and it's all charming. She responds angrily when Gavril suggests that she's at a disadvantage because she's a Five, however.
    • America does accidentally refer to the prince by his first name, however, which is a serious faux pas.
    • The interview ends with America complimenting Maxon in a really sincere way. Not so bad, right?
    • That night, Maxon comes by America's room. They flirt in their typical we're-totally-not-flirting way.
    • Maxon talks trash about Aspen as he moves closer to America. And then, suddenly, it happens—he kisses her.
    • America pulls away, confused. Maxon seems a little confused, too. He explains that she's been giving off mixed signals, which we definitely agree with. He also explains that it's his "first kiss" (18.194).
    • Suddenly, America realizes that she does dig Maxon. You're like three chapters behind, girl.
    • America rubs her hand on Maxon's forehead, telling him that she's erasing that memory. She thinks they can do better. With that, they share a tender kiss.
    • Once that's taken care of, Maxon asks America again if she could possibly get with him, and this time America says yes.
  • Chapter 19

    • America keeps the kiss a secret, so she's shocked to find out three days later that Maxon smooched Olivia.
    • This makes America feel icky, even though she doesn't want to admit it. Luckily, her thoughts are interrupted by Silvia, who announces that the king and queen of Swendway (so many lulz) are visiting in three days.
    • The staff goes into overdrive preparing the palace for these VIPs. They cover the garden with "giant tented pavilions" and set the scene for a serious shindig (19.35).
    • The day of the event, America finds herself talking to Adele, Queen Amberly's older sister. Adele is a little drunk and a lot brash, which America finds charming.
    • The other girls think that Adele is kind of low-class, which doesn't sit well with America. In fact, it makes her think about how winning the Selection might affect her family.
    • As if on cue, Maxon appears. He tries to flirt, but America isn't having any of it right now.
    • Maxon goes off with Celeste, and America finds Marlee sitting alone. America tries to convince Marlee to take part in the festivities, but Marlee is insanely cranky.
    • America ends up talking to Adele again. Adele reveals that the queen had two miscarriages before having Maxon.
    • America looks up at sees Maxon playing with his cousin. He smiles at her, and she smiles back.
  • Chapter 20

    • After a week of Swendway fever, the palace returns to normal. America has been here for a month, and there are 22 girls left.
    • One day, Marlee reveals something shocking to America—she doesn't have any feelings for Maxon. America tells her to come clean and go home, but Marlee evades her. Hmm....
    • The following day, America sees Maxon and runs into his arms. D'aww. They decide to watch a movie and walk through the palace arm-in-arm.
    • We also learn that America and Maxon had a conversation at the party, during which America told Maxon not to kiss her until she was surer of her feelings. Ground rules, FTW.
    • America and Maxon pass a group of guards who salute as they go past. America looks over and realizes she recognizes one of them.
    • It's Aspen. Gasp. He must have been drafted.
    • America's reaction to Aspen is obvious, so she tells Maxon that he's just a friend from back home. Well, that's great, exclaims Maxon. He can be the guard who's posted at her door.
    • Oh, you dummy. You sweet, princely dummy.
    • America spends the entire movie mulling over what just happened. Just as she has started to right her ship, the darn thing has just moved off course once again.
  • Chapter 21

    • America spends the rest of the day in hiding. Actually, scratch that—she hides out for three days. Girl's scared.
    • Kriss' birthday is on Thursday, so Maxon decides to throw a party. America likes Kriss, so she grabs her violin and decides to play a song as a gift.
    • The girls are all gathered, and they're all done up to the nines. The tens even. Kriss gleefully announces that Prince Maxon himself will be making an appearance.
    • After Celeste humble brags like her life depends on it, Kriss begs America to play a song. So she does.
    • America gets in the zone as soon as she starts playing. It's wonderful. When she finishes, she sees that Maxon has arrived and is looking at her lovingly.
    • This lovely moment is interrupted by a scream: Celeste has "accidentally" spilled her punch all over Kriss's beautiful birthday dress. For real?
  • Chapter 22

    • We return to find America and Maxon in the garden. America is desperately trying to convince Maxon that Celeste is pulling dirty tricks, but he doesn't buy it.
    • America keeps pushing it, and Maxon eventually snaps back at her. She should know her place, he says. Ouch. Then he storms off. Double ouch.
    • Maxon tries to tug his ear twice at dinner that night, but America refuses both tugs.
    • To make things worse, America now has to walk past Aspen as he guards her door. Ugh.
    • America can't sleep that night. Suddenly, the door opens, and Aspen enters wordlessly.
    • Aspen and America are making out hardcore in about three seconds flat. They do that for most of the night until Aspen has to return to his post. America passes out instantly.
  • Chapter 23

    • America feels guilty the next morning, which, you know, is probably justified. She's so caught up in her emotions that she decides to skip out on breakfast.
    • As America is hanging with her maids, there's a knock on the door—it's Aspen. He convinces the maids to leave.
    • Now alone, Aspen apologizes for the fight in the tree house. He also explains that he was just helping Breanna after she tripped, which is one of the most ridiculous explanations ever.
    • Still, it's working—America is melting. Aspen puts his hand on her face and…
    • The maids burst in. Aspen pretends that he was just checking her temperature and scuttles out soon after.
    • That night, America is woken up by Anne, who's frantic. They're being attacked again.
    • Anne explains that America should go into a secret passageway that leads her to the royal family's safe room. America is all like, Okay, let's go right now, but the maids refuse—they have their own hiding spot.
    • America scoffs and drags the maids with her, anyway. It's a long, dark hallway, but it eventually leads them to the safe room.
    • A guard tries to send the maids away, but America gives him a piece of her mind. He relents. Afterwards, Silvia tries to get the maids to do work, but America shoots that down, too.
    • After a while, Maxon checks up on America. He seems to admire her for getting her maids down to safety.
    • America pulls Maxon aside and asks whether the attackers are Northerners or Southerners. It quickly becomes clear that they're Southerners—they're "killers" (23.111).
    • Several hours later, a guard returns and gives the all clear. The girls are to go to their rooms and remain there until further notice.
    • America returns and finds her room in shambles. Silvia drops by and reveals that three girls have asked to be sent home following the attack.
    • Silvia also gives America a phone so she can let her family know that she's okay.
  • Chapter 24

    • Things have pretty much returned to normal by Monday. America actually feels a lot closer with the other girls after such a traumatic event.
    • Maxon arrives at breakfast that morning with an announcement—given the recent dangerous events, he doesn't want to keep anyone here he doesn't have feelings for. In other words, all but six girls are heading home.
    • Maxon starts listing their names: Marlee, Kriss, Natalie, Celeste, Elise, and...America. Phew.
    • Later that day, Maxon drops by America's room. She tells him she was surprised he kept her.
    • Maxon scoffs at this. If it were up to him, he would have "eliminated everyone else by now" (24.46). His feelings for them don't compare to his feelings for America.
    • This just makes America feel guiltier about her little meeting with Aspen. She clings to Maxon.
    • Then, without words, Maxon asks America if he's allowed to kiss her again.
    • Kissing happens.
  • Chapter 25

    • America is awoken that night by Aspen. Busy girl.
    • Aspen sees the penny America kept, and it warms his heart. He tells her that he still loves her and assumes he's got the game in the bag.
    • Not so fast, says America. She tells Aspen that he "took away [her] dreams" and now expects her to run back to him as soon as he says so (25.29). It's not going to be that easy.
    • Aspen thinks that America has chosen Maxon over him, but she explains that it's not so simple. She's not choosing either of them—she's choosing herself.
    • Aspen doesn't give up, however—he says that this will only make him fight harder. He leaves the room.
    • And then Maxon comes in, and he and America start making out? And then Aspen declares his love for America in front of the royal family? And then America picks up an electric guitar and starts shredding over the closing credits?
    • Nah—the book's just finished, unfortunately. We'll be picking up the action right where we left off in the next entry in the series: The Elite.